The Color Bar. Imagination on Tap…and Open Daily.

If this piece could talk, oh the stories it could tell. Including many of my own. From time to time I’m asked if I have a favorite piece in my home, which is the challenge the innovative team at Havenly recently presented to me. A tough question, but one I was eager to explore! After all, it’s akin to asking me which one of my kids is my favorite. My answer is usually the same. I love them all completely, but often times for different reasons. As an artist and design professional it can be difficult to pin point one item that stands out in my personal design. I believe really loving your home starts and ends with surrounding yourself with your passions. I guess I just like my furniture and my finds to be like my family…strong, comfortable and interesting.  However, one piece in particular does seem to draw and inordinate amount of attention to itself…very much like the middle child that brought it back to life. That piece is one of my original retail front counters, that I reclaimed, reinvented and re-purposed from an old Central Illinois General Store.

When I moved into our current location in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin I inherited another store counter that fit perfectly. So my current front counter found itself without a home in the new shop. Having recently refinished our basement around the same time, I decided it was time for this special and sentimental piece to grace us with it’s presence in MY home. The only question was…where in the world was I going to put it?! It was at this point that I realized I needed to take some coaching of my own. I’m always advising clients that if they find a piece that speaks to them…that they should try to find a place for it. And this was the piece that was going to most certainly test that advice.


I’ll be honest, from a design perspective…it had its challenges. Let’s start with the fact that it’s almost 12 feet in length. It’s also painted in a distressed bright orange and lime green. Not a combination for those who suffer from today’s low color tolerance levels. But true to my artistic roots, I focused on the assets of the piece rather than it’s subjective design liabilities. Truth be told, I loved the color it brought into the space. But the size and a predetermined design wish of my own we’re getting in the way. You see, like a lot of people…when I refinished our basement I wanted a bar. Over the years, my design company has built some amazing residential pub environments. And like Veruca Salt, I wanted one of my very own. AND I WANTED IT NOW!


So, in my mind only one question remained. Could THIS Willy Wonka make this General Store counter work as the centerpiece of my personal pub? Then my imagination and design mind began to take over. I started asking myself the very same questions I ask my clients. What did we really need right now as a family to make this Lower Level more functional and fun? The answer was three-fold and quite simple. More storage, more surface area…and more style. This is where the AH-HA moment occurred. And the idea that was born was the Color Bar. Equal parts craft/school project counter, game table, and entertaining surface. Now all that was left was the big reveal for my wife and kids.

I started by exploiting the limitless available storage behind the counter to house board games, crafting and school supplies. Something we desperately needed. A functional home-run. I then introduced industrial pendants to add task lighting and pull-off a rustic, loft feel that worked well with the exposed mechanicals and ceiling joists. This helped visually ground the element in the room so it didn’t appear to be floating in the middle of the basement. And finally, I used vintage game boards and other found object finds…in coordinating colors of course…to create a color scheme that tied it all together. The creative result was a multi-purpose work and play surface that the entire family could enjoy…and add to it’s beautiful patina over time.


This piece is now the cornerstone of activity, function and fun in our Lower Level. From the ultimate serving piece for entertaining family and friends…to a massive project counter for the ultimate school or craft project…it may just be the most valuable piece in our home. And not because of its price tag…but because of the functional and stylistic value it brings to our home.


After almost 20 years in the design and remodeling business, my own home is still taking me to school, and teaching me some very valuable lessons. So welcome to the Color Bar. Where we’re serving up moments and memories on a daily basis. I’ll leave you with this. Achieving good design isn’t always easy. Sometimes it takes effort, compromise and a little planning. But when it comes from the heart, and works well, it is so rewarding. And after this exercise, this designing Dad is going need a drink. At my game table meets craft counter meets Color Bar.