Hello! Last week I showed you my vintage bar cart before and after, and today I spent some time styling the cart, which resides now in our living room. This cart is just one part of a transformation to our entire living room and part of the adjoining dining room, and I hope to do a big reveal when it’s all complete! It was really fun taking it from the empty shelves of last week to the opulence of this week–quite a transformation!
My husband and I love the 1920s through the 40s because of the wonderful classic music and design that came out of Broadway, Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley during this time period. We do a cabaret act (and I have another blog called McElrath Cabaret where we write about all things cabaret if you’d like to learn more), and have performed at traditional jazz festivals throughout the West Coast and Canada. These are such fun, with everyone dressing in period-appropriate clothing and taking to the dance floors to dance the Charleston or just enjoying all the great music!
I wanted to bring that feeling of swanky little nightclubs and cabarets of yesteryear to our home, which is a Craftsman-style bungalow built in 1920, and so we’ve been thrifting and working on several projects to bring this vision to fruition!
You might be wondering what exactly was a cabaret. (PS–The cabaret shown in the movie Cabaret with Liza Minnelli (which is a great stage play as well as film that I love) was the German take on cabaret during the Weimar Era–it was quite despondent though compared with the happier New York cabaret, due to the politics of the day in Germany.) Cabarets were most often located in New York City, because of its proximity to Broadway and Tin Pan Alley where all the popular music was created.
A cabaret was a small room seating only a hundred people and often many fewer where you could have a bite to eat, something to drink, and there would be entertainment, which often focused on the popular music of the day. At its simplest, it would consist of a piano player, who might also sing, or it might be a duo of a piano player and a singer. People dressed up to go out back then, so you’d see men in suits and women in lovely dresses.
The music, while beautiful on its own, takes second place to the lyrics of the songs, and the singers act the songs directly to the audience members. The entertainer will tell stories in between songs or groups of songs, talking to the audience members directly to not only get you to laugh or sometimes cry but also to help introduce a song in a way that makes it meaningful in the context of the cabaret show. Cabaret requires that the audience be willing to go along for the ride that the entertainer takes them on through the songs–it’s both cerebral and emotional audience participation, and once you’ve experienced it, if it appeals to you, you will be hungry for more of it. Cabaret entertainers often had loyal followings, and as an audience member, you could be changed and touched by a cabaret show.
Happily, there are still a few cabaret rooms, which are sometimes called superclubs, in the United States today, with a majority of them located in New York City, but also found in Los Angeles, Chicago, and even other smaller cities.
This little bar cart is something that in my mind’s eye I could imagine seeing in a fancy hotel in New York City in the 1920s. It would be sitting in a drawing room of a wonderful penthouse suite, and it would be the center of attention when everyone gets in after a night out at the theatre and then the cabarets. The guests would sit and talk about their reactions to the play they just saw and the cabaret entertainer who held court, and eventually as their friendships deepened over the evening, they would share their own stories and dreams. It would be a night to remember.
Styling Tip #1: Stock your cart with what you enjoy eating and drinking.
On the cart you will find a variety of nibbles and beverages. Both of us like wine and flavored waters, and so that is what I’ve used to stock my bar cart.
Styling Tip #2: Use different textures.
On this cart you’ll see a mix of silver, glass both smooth and faceted, as well as a basket, corks and citrus. All of this makes for a more interesting composition than if you focused on just one type of texture. Glass is really a key feature on a bar cart, so look for bottles, decanters, and glasses that really sparkle and speak to you.
Styling Tip #3: Use different levels when you place items on your cart.
I like to use a little glass cakestand to elevate the food up. Even though today I’ve offered a simple mix of almonds and carrots, by placing them up on a fancy cakestand it gives them more prominence and importance. It’s like when you’re an actor and you “take the stage”–your body actually kind of swells, and you ultimately become more than the external sum of your parts :)! The ordinary food will become special due to the presentation. I’ve also stacked the wine bottles in the basket for additional weight and height on the bottom shelf.
Styling Tip #4: Offer coasters on your cart and a tea towel over the handle.
A pressed white tea towel gives you a place to wipe off fingertips. Mine came from Dollar Tree! If you’re offering beverages, then be sure to provide coasters to not only protect your wood surfaces but also to add to the period charm. I’ve added to the vintage ambiance with these neat coasters that I picked up at the Salvation Army Thrift Store a couple of weeks ago.
This gal is very cosmopolitan!
Styling Tip #5: Use different shaped objects on your cart.
The cart itself has lots of linear shape, so I softened some of that with the curves in the water decanter, the round white plates and coasters, the round cake stand, and the little round flower arrangement on the bottom shelf. The pressed glass bowl that holds the limes offers some interesting length with the limes providing the colorful circles. The stems of the wine glasses and the water glasses all provide some verticality to break up the long horizontal lines of the cart shelves, as does the flower arrangement of roses and ferns on the top shelf.
I’m so excited to share more of our living room’s transformation as we complete each component, so stay tuned!
Do you have a cart in your home that you use for serving food or drink? Have you ever been to a cabaret show, or do you think you might enjoy it if you haven’t been? I’d love to hear from you in the comments, so stop by for a visit!
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Till next time,
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