From bread rack to bar cart

Apparently if I see an old, rusty metal shelf on casters in an antique mall, I will pay all the money for it.

Ok, that’s not totally true. But I will rack my brain trying to figure out how to use it in our house, remove the tag (so no one can claim it while I walk) and visit the front desk to inquire about a discount (Hello easy 10% off!), and then somehow convince my husband that said rack can be a belated birthday gift for me (my birthday was in January and we bought this in March.) Long story long, we bought a bread rack.

When we found it, it looked like this:


But in my head, it looked more like this:002industrial_bar_cart

After a year of collecting, our decanter collection outgrew our petite bar. We’ve been casually looking for a different bar set-up. This cart totally clicked for me. The only problem (and the reason it was stored in the captain’s bedroom for many months – you can see it hiding in the corner in this post) is that the grated metal shelves offered an unstable surface. Great for bread, not for bottles.

House Hunters 2.0 gave us the boost to get this bar built. First that required a trip to a hardwood lumber place Aaron has been stalking on Craigslist. It’s a small shop filled with lots of wood, including some exotic options. While we have a serious soft spot for zebra wood, we thought it would be too loud and too pricey for this application. We mulled over the selection and almost settled on some basic poplar before noticing a pile of ambrosia maple. We learned that the discoloration and holes are caused by ambrosia beetles that burrow in and bring fungus. Those splotches definitely stole our heart. We dug through the pile looking for the perfect pieces and chose some of the “buggiest” (according to the wood shop employee.) We left with 4 boards (30.5 board feet) for a total of $91.50.

003industrial_bar_cart 004industrial_bar_cart

The boards weren’t wide enough to span a shelf, so we needed to join them. The boards were rough cut and only square on 3 sides so Aaron started by trimming the rough edge off 2 pieces.005industrial_bar_cart

Then he used the biscuit cutter to create some grooves.006industrial_bar_cart 007industrial_bar_cart 008industrial_bar_cart

Biscuits + glue + clamps 009industrial_bar_cart 010industrial_bar_cart 011industrial_bar_cart 012industrial_bar_cart 013industrial_bar_cart 014industrial_bar_cart 015industrial_bar_cart

Once the glue dried, he made the final cuts to make each shelf the right length and width. 017industrial_bar_cart 018industrial_bar_cart 019industrial_bar_cart

He also removed the excess glue drops and gave everything a light sanding.020industrial_bar_cart 021industrial_bar_cart

While the boards dried, Aaron tested some oil options on a scrap piece of wood. 022industrial_bar_cart

Black walnut023industrial_bar_cart

Tung oil024industrial_bar_cart

Light walnut025industrial_bar_cart


Originally we thought we would want a darker tone, like the dark walnut. But after we chose such a pretty, defined wood, we were torn. We popped the test piece of wood onto the cart with a few bar accessories to help make the decision. But we were still torn. We worried that the light walnut would make the wood stand out too much. And we worried that the dark walnut would hide it too much.


In the end, we decided that we loved the wood too much to tone it down. Both sides got a coat of light walnut danish oil.  027industrial_bar_cart

This involves 2 coats of flooding the board with oil and spreading it around with a brush. The second coat is applied within 30 minutes of the first so that it is still wet.

030industrial_bar_cart 028industrial_bar_cart 029industrial_bar_cartOnce the boards were prepped, we turned our attention to the cart. I gave it a good wipe down with soapy water to remove any loose dirt while keeping the rusty patina.

031industrial_bar_cart 032industrial_bar_cart 033industrial_bar_cart

Then Aaron made some vital repairs to the shelves, tightening the bolts and replacing a few lost ones.034industrial_bar_cart 035industrial_bar_cart 036industrial_bar_cart

We laid the wood in place and it really started to come together.037industrial_bar_cart

The wood adds so much warmth to this piece. 038industrial_bar_cart

039industrial_bar_cart 040industrial_bar_cart

We pulled out all of our full decanters, all of our empty decanters and all of our bottles of booze. Then I uttered words I never thought I’d say: “We need more alcohol.”


The overall effect is nice, but it’s a touch barren. I guess that’s what happens when you install 24 square feet of bar…041industrial_bar_cart

We opted to keep the styling really simple, focusing on the decanters and mixing in some bottles for interest. 043industrial_bar_cart 044industrial_bar_cart

We pulled out a wine infograph poster to add even more height to this corner of the room.045industrial_bar_cart

And we kept a little space for actually mixing a drink.047industrial_bar_cart

042industrial_bar_cart 048industrial_bar_cart 049industrial_bar_cart 050industrial_bar_cart

So, I guess we’re just down to the super hard task of collecting more bottles of alcohol. Woe is us.

  1. OMG, I love this. Like, really love. Some flowers would be a nice addition to your styling. Or a wee weeping maiden hair fern. Since you’ll be keeping bar frequently, I doubt you’ll forget to water it. Looks great as-is, though. Happy birthday to you!

    1. Thanks, friend! Yeah, some plant life in that corner would go a long way. I would love to put in a small ficus tree, but I don’t think it gets enough light.

  2. Nice contrast with the rusty metal and the warm wood! I like the boards you chose – so cool that beetles made that pattern, it’s a nice backstory to this project. The idea to add plants/flowers is a good one – it would continue adding an organic element to the metal structure. P.S. I have those same Apollo juice glasses! I found a couple in a thrift store many years ago, then starting buying more on eBay. I use them daily (sometimes even for wine) – I had the matching decanter at one point too, but sold it (wasn’t using it and couldn’t justify keeping it just for show). If you can find one, it would be a great addition to your collection!

    1. Awesome! We’ve been slowly collecting from antique malls. We love the Americana factor and they have cute designs. We always have our eye out for the carafe. I’m a little jealous that you had one! We haven’t resorted to searching online. I think we’re still convinced we’ll run across one in our hunt 🙂

    1. Thanks, Kim!

  3. This is fantastic! I know everyone needs more booze, but what about designating a shelf to interesting booze glasses for easy-access? (wine glasses, tumblers, etc). I know whenever I go to a thrift store or antique shop I can’t help but marvel at all the old school boozeware, and knowing you guys and your tendency to finding really interesting things like this bread cart, I’m sure you could find some great pieces no problem.

    1. We actually bought ANOTHER set of glasses and a holder this weekend! We’re ridiculous 🙂 I’m sure we’ll find a way to fill it up. Adding some more glassware would definitely help make it feel full without being too visually overstimulating.

  4. Looks fantastic! Sounds like you need to make a trip to Randall’s. My favorite!

    1. I know, right?

  5. It looks amazing! How about a few sparkling water bottles? They’re so colourful.

    1. That’s a cute idea. We actually bought a soda stream a few months ago, but it’s living in the guest bedroom. It’s just not pretty enough for the bar. Plus it’s ginormous!

  6. Well this is just BEAUTIFUL! And I’m sending this to B because I don’t think he knows about glue and biscuits. You should see some of the ways he’s glued two pieces of wood together. Oy.

  7. I love this, Heather! Such a cool repurposing of a great item for an equally great collection. (I’m trying to see what Scotch you have on those shelves…)
    I’ve missed reading a bunch here…looking forward to catching up!

    1. Thanks! I’m not sure we have much Scotch as Aaron is much more into that genre of alcohol. 😉

  8. This is AMAZING. What a bar cart! The only flaw I see is that there’s too much open space! Time to stock up! (With alcohol OR pretty glassware! Or both. Because.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.