Turn Wet Bar (Room) Into Pantry?

pricklypearcactusAugust 19, 2010

What do you think about turning a wet bar room into a walk in pantry? How would this impact resale to the modern family?

While a remodel is still a ways out for me, I am trying to work on possible layouts for when I am able to do a kitchen remodel. My kitchen is on the small-medium side and while I hope to maximize storage, I seem to struggle for an appropriate place to store pantry items, specifically non-perishable foods and dog food. My home (built in the 1970s) has a wet bar room off of the family room with a pass through and bar counter into the family room and an entry door off of the laundry room (which has a door off of the family room). The family room is directly off of the kitchen: down a few stairs but open to the kitchen.

Right now we find the wet bar to be not very functional as its intended purpose. The entry into the wet bar requires passage through the laundry room and then through a door which must be closed except when entering due to doorway/passage conflict. The laundry room is also the entry into the house from the garage and acts as a mud room of sorts. The wet bar has a single small sink and shallow base cabinets. We store liquor, wine, glasses, and bar tools (cocktail shaker, stirrers, etc) in the cabinets. However, we do not drink much and when we do, we're more often hosting a party where the guests are drinking beer from our beer fridge in the garage. Mainly we use the room for storing dog food (a big tupperware box sits on the floor in the way of the never used sink) and we use the countertop for our family dropping ground (keys, back packs, hats, anything-else-you-could-possibly-bring home). It's a mess.

What do you think about closing off the pass through and turning the room into a walk in pantry? I would then probably want to route the plumbing into the family room and have a small wet bar area where the countertop is currently located with enough cabinets (lower and upper) for storing glasses and liquor. I would also consider putting in a small wine fridge, which I would certainly enjoy. The benefits would be gaining a large pantry and making a more usable bar. The drawbacks would be any resale issue, the loss of bar seating (which we don't even have/use right now) and the loss of a drop zone. I suspect the bar countertop could end up being a drop zone, or better yet, I could possibly put a cabinet or table a little further into the room for that purpose (with drawers to hide cell phones and purses and such). I should also clarify that I live in Utah, where a large percentage of home buyers would not have any need for liquor, wine, or beer storage or usage.

Here are a few inspiration images of the type of small wet bar area I would want instead of the current room setup.

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To a modern family I would think a walk in pantry would have much more value versus a dedicatd wet bar room. People in my experience dont drink as much as they used to. I think a walk in pantry + small wet bar area would be

    Bookmark   August 19, 2010 at 1:56PM
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I agree with mike, I would think a pantry would be a much better current asset to a house then a wet bar, which as you describe sounds a bit outdated and not terribly functional. It's not to say that all wetbars are useless, just what you have sounds like it has little value to you or perspective buyers.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2010 at 2:56PM
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Wet bars have mostly been superseded by disposable drinkware. Unless you have huge parties, with guests using far more glasses than you have, so you need the bartender to be washing glasses as he pours, what you you need a wetbar for?

People just don't drink as much as they did when this kind of wet bar was the thing.

Was it always a wet bar? Or did a previous owner carve it out of a pantry?

Get the pantry.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2010 at 5:31PM
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Thank you so much for the advice. It's so helpful to have a wide array of cooks and homeowners with different life circumstances and experiences to provide feedback. I also really appreciate the expertise from those who have completed (or are in the middle of) remodeling or do kitchen designs for a living.

I believe it was always a wet bar. As far as I can tell, no previous homeowners did renovations (besides sticking awful vinyl tiles down over equally awful 1970s sheet vinyl and painting walls).

So is the sink in the wet bar for washing dishes? I never knew. With the plumbing available, I hate to get rid of the sink, but I honestly am not clear on its purpose. It seems like a "feature" to include on a sales sheet to boost the value (price) of the home. I think I would mostly use it in a built in wet bar (like the pictures) for washing utensils and fruit while I'm making cocktails. Not that I do that very frequently. We sometimes (ok often) eat in front of the television in the family room, so it might be nice to have a handy place for washing hands. I do like the idea of having a small fridge for wine and a more accessible place for glasses for when we do have guests. And I especially like the idea of having an actual pantry!

Is it ok that the pantry is a little way outside of the kitchen rather than in the kitchen itself? Anything has to be better than the top corner cabinet I'm using now where I just recently knocked down a large glass jar of pasta sauce and almost gave myself a concussion. But I would hate to do a larger pantry farther away and find out it would have been better to do a small (maybe 20"?) cabinet in the kitchen to use instead.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2010 at 6:12PM
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Ha, this post made me laugh because it reminded me that once upon a time, a house I lived in as a young child had a separate room wet bar---I had totally forgotten that! (Classic Texas suburbia, built in the early 70s, so every house in the development probably had one, since they were otherwise identical.) My parents *did* throw parties and such with real glassware, but they still never, ever used the wet bar space for that. Glassware was stored in the dining room or the kitchen depending on how delicate it was, and it went to the kitchen for washing---I don't think we used the wet bar sink for anything other than watering plants. (However, ours was also in between the master bedroom and the living room, on the opposite side of the house from the kitchen/garage/etc. Go figure.) From what I can recall, it was useful as 1) an extra countertop in the pass-through to the living room, and 2) a Wild West fort because it had swinging saloon-style doors.

So I would say get rid of it---figure out the uses you do need and design them into the new space. I can't imagine that a pantry vs. a wet bar would reduce value (especially if you're adding another one)---if anything, seems like it might *increase* value.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2010 at 6:46PM
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Further on the sink: People used to buy cases of restaurant service quality bar glasses. My folks had a couple hundred. Other people rented them along with the bartender, from a catering company. If you're having a charity function, or open house (party, not sales event), and have 120 people drinking all evening (think Mad Men--"normal" was at least 3 drinks), there aren't enough glasses. Sometimes people would bring them back for refills, but more often the servers would pick them up and bring them back to the bartender for reuse. The kitchen would be occupied by the food service, and definitely off limits to the bar. Hence the wet bar.

Sometime in the middle '60's disposable plastic arrived and people, even very fancy snooty people, stopped using glass. No more worrying about breakage as they're carried around, no more washing for reuse. Depending on how scarce water is where you are, returning to wet and glass could easily not be the green choice. Compostable veggie plastic is more the wave of the future.

The wet bar counter in the living room without a serving counter (many had them that folded up to the wall) was an evolution during that time. It was to retain the "feature" of a "wet bar", even though it wasn't necessarily as useful as it was in the past.

If you think you'll have use for the sink where you're proposing to put it, then go for it! Especially if you're sure you want people to wash their hands in the family room. Is there no bathroom nearby? Will it turn into a place for the kids to wash paintbrushes? If so, is that a good thing or a bad thing? A small sink could be useful if you're using the new bar area for wine and other beverage service. For drips, ice, etc. But it's not necessary. You can do everything you would at a wet bar if you have a properly tricked out dry bar. But for Utah? You were talking about a wine fridge. Swap it out for a beverage fridge when it comes time to sell, and you have where to keep the cold 7ups. Call it a snack center rather than a bar.

Are you planning to sell soon? If not I wouldn't worry so much about features. Do what works best for your family. Do you think you'd have use for the sink in the pantry?

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 2:30AM
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Resale depends some on the rest of the house, and what demographics it would appeal to. If it has bedrooms and a yard for a family, then a pantry makes sense. Or maybe it wants another window to be a garden room with a lovely sink for watering plants. Or maybe it wants to be a workshop. Assuming there is a half bath downstairs, you might want to put the half bath in the current wet bar, and put the new pantry where the half bath was.

Post the floor plan, if you can, to get ideas about where to squeeze in a pantry, or whether half walls with cabinets would be better.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 6:39AM
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Thank you all for the additional insight. I do not have a floor plan yet, but I can try to draw one out and see what I can do about finding somewhere to host the images. Any suggestions on free software that I could use to draw out a layout? Otherwise maybe I can use graph paper and take a digital picture.

The wet bar room is literally just across the small laundry room from a powder room (which is a much larger space than this teeny tiny room). So you're probably right that a hand washing sink really won't add much of anything. I could see the sink being useful when we do remodel the kitchen (as a temporary kitchen), though it would require that area to be finished prior to the kitchen remodel. I think I'd want the cabinetry to match, so I'll have to plan accordingly. I've also been considering having a plumber look at adding a sink off of this same plumbing stack in the garage (for working on cars, gardening, painting, etc). The little room and sink back directly onto a bump out section of the garage. Maybe it would make sense to get rid of the inside sink and just have the sink in the garage. (I need to find out if this is possible since we do have to worry about pipes freezing in Utah.)

If I do close off the space, I'm not certain whether I can fit a sink and a pantry in the enclosed space. It's fairly narrow, so it might be difficult. I'll have to post a layout for your review to get some help with that. I'm actually not even certain if I can comfortably fit cabinetry across what's now the bar (if I go standard 24" deep cabinets to fit a wine or beverage fridge) without visually negatively impacting our family room.

I think all in all I like the idea of somewhere to keep barware, wine, maybe some beer (so it's not all outside in our garage). I have quite a few beer, champagne, and shot glasses that I really love, though we rarely use them. It might be nice to have some glass display cabinets to show them off. And I think the practicality of an actual pantry (yay!) would be very high on my list.

In terms of resale, I think you're absolutely right plllog. It's a house with 3 bedrooms (maybe 4 depending on how we finish the basement) and a nice yard. Considering the region (Utah) and the neighborhood (suburban, fairly upscale with great schools) I suspect swapping out the wine fridge for a beverage fridge will be a must. The cabinetry probably would still be desired since it could easily be a place for kids to grab drinks and such. For us, we do not have children or any intention of having children. I'm honestly not certain when we might sell. This is our first house (we've lived here for 5 years) and I really hope to some day move somewhere with a bigger yard that's hopefully at the base of our spectacular mountains. (We live about a 5 minute drive away, but want to be closer.) I would hope we might be able to upgrade within 5-10 years. However, life happens and my significant other is changing his profession so that impacts our financial plans for the near future.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 10:50AM
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