Posted Sep 29, 2015

8 Design Ideas Inspired By Your Favorite Dive Bars

You go there on weekends to drink your favorite craft beers, hang out with cool people, eat pub food and maybe even see live music. I’m talking about the local dive bar. The food and the alcohol keep you coming back, but these locations have another feature that makes them so darn welcoming: the decor.

8 Design Ideas Inspired By Your Favorite Dive Bars

If you spend a lot of time at your neighborhood watering hole in part because of the look and feel of the place, why not bring that atmosphere home? A lot of the decor ideas in dive bars are easy to replicate in an apartment setting. Here’s how:

1. Add Rustic Features

Many dive bars are so dubbed because they have that lived-in feel. From vintage bar stools to weathered tables, these popular haunts aren’t shiny and it’s awesome! Take a hint and infuse rustic elements into your apartment– shabby chic design is totally in right now, anyway. 

8 Design Ideas Inspired By Your Favorite Dive Bars - Add Rustic Features

Look for furniture with worn-looking surfaces, whether it’s an imitation or the real McCoy. On the bright side, this design element can be affordable. You get to shop in thrift stores and use reclaimed furniture and materials.

You can even repurpose things like pallets and DIY your way to a rustic space.

2. Make Alcohol an Art Piece

Dive bars are bars, after all, which means their selection is always visible. You probably have alcohol at your apartment if you’re mimicking the decor ideas of a bar, so display it proudly! Bar carts, wall shelves and the tops of your cabinets are all perfectly acceptable places to show off your collections.

8 Design Ideas Inspired By Your Favorite Dive Bars - Make Alcohol an Art Piece

You can take it a step further and recycle your bottles. Turn beer bottles into cups, frame your favorite wine labels or use rustic whiskey bottles as vases.

3. Hang Chalkboards

Not only are chalkboards a trending item right now, but they’re also a significant feature in many dive bars.

8 Design Ideas Inspired By Your Favorite Dive Bars - Hang Chalkboards

After all, you have to be able to list the specials! Whether you use your chalkboards to jot down what beers you have in the fridge or as a place to pen motivating quotes, they’ll upgrade your apartment from “cute” to “dive bar” status!

4. Set the Mood With Lights

Most of the time, the ambiance you love in dive bars is set by great lighting. Dim, warm light cast by unique decorative fixtures helps tables feel intimate even when inside an open space. Incorporate mood and decorative lighting into your apartment to get that same cozy feel you love. 

8 Design Ideas Inspired By Your Favorite Dive Bars - Set the Mood with Lights

You can install new fixtures over your dining table (just save the original for when you move out), place plenty of table lamps and use warmly colored compact fluorescent light bulbs.

5. Get a Variety of Glasses

Do you know what kind of glass a pilsner should be served in versus a stout? Your favorite dive bars likely serve alcohol in its intended glass, and you can too. Many home and kitchen stores sell sets of glasses that include one of every type of beer or wine glass you need. Of course, if you’re having friends over, you’ll need more than the one.

8 Design Ideas Inspired By Your Favorite Dive Bars - Get a Variety of Glasses

If you really want to channel the dive bar vibe, display your glass collection on a rack or shelf.

6. Embrace the Signs

While the local haunt may have signs that display various beers on tap, your apartment can be a little more diverse. From motivational signs (not unlike the classic “hang in there”) to obvious, yet charming ones that spell things like “eat” or “drink,” you have plenty of sign-art options. To be true to your inspiration, pick up paintings that include the names of all the beers or wines you like. 

8 Design Ideas Inspired By Your Favorite Dive Bars - Embrace the Signs

What’s more, signs come in various looks, including giant wood letters, printed canvas and lit– that’s right, “eat” comes in big letters filled with light bulbs.

7. Have Adequate Seating

Buying a dining table complete with bench and short bar stools certainly sets the dive-bar mood, but purchasing the exact seating you want isn’t always within your budget (sadly).

8 Design Ideas Inspired By Your Favorite Dive Bars - Have Adequate Seating

So if quintessential bar sets are out of your price range, just make sure you have enough seating. After all, what’s a bar without space for all of your friends?

8. Invite People Over

Speaking of friends, once your apartment dive bar is complete, have them over! The whole point of going out is to spend time with the people you like, and now you have a killer spot in your apartment. Besides, drinking at your place is significantly cheaper than doing so at a bar.

8 Design Ideas Inspired By Your Favorite Dive Bars - Invite People Over

That’s not to say your local dives will be forever deprived of your presence. Now you’ll just have more options. These dive bar design ideas are sure to make your apartment a great place to hang out and a cozy environment even when you’re alone. So grab a beer and have fun (responsibly, of course).

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Jen Jackowski


Jen Jackowski is a graduate of Illinois State University, where she studied theater and English. Her experiences in the theatrical arts left her with a love for storytelling that she breathes into her writing. She’s also passionate about art, gaming, sustainability and fashion. Her work has been published in the literary magazine, Euphemism.

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