Vintage Bar Cart Style Tips


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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Thank you so much for your friendship and support–I appreciate it!

Till next time, 

I’m participating at:

Metamorphosis Monday at Between Naps On The Porch

Mod Mix Monday at Mod Vintage Life

Nifty Thrifty Tuesday at Coastal Charm

Newbie Party at Debbiedoo’s

Wow Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style

Home and Garden Thursday at A Delightsome Life

Tutorials, Tips and Tidbits at Stone Gable

Let’s Dish at Cuisine Kathleen

Tablescape Thursday at Between Naps On The Porch

Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage

Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home

Vintage Inspiration Friday at Common Ground

Potpourri Friday at 2805

Inspiration Friday at The Picket Fence

Saturday Night Special at Funky Junk Interiors

Seasonal Sundays at The Tablescaper

 The Sunday Showcase at Under The Table and Dreaming

Home Stories A2Z



My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia

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About AthenaMG

Athena McElrath is a Master Gardener with a love for gardening, decorating and cooking inexpensively. She enjoys working out in her urban garden in Southwest Washington State, watching the hummingbirds and other birds and insects, eating the wonderful vegetables, fruits and herbs that she produces from her garden, and just having a great time hanging out under the pergola with her family and friends (that is, whenever it stops raining long enough).
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39 Responses to Vintage Bar Cart Style Tips

  1. There’s nothing better than a vintage bar cart – expect one that’s stocked with fabulous elixirs! My girls can be your band as you Charleston the night away!

  2. Mindy says:

    Looks great! Is that a rose in the tall vase?

  3. Donna Heber says:

    Love your vintage bar cart Athena! A perfect place to store those special bottles of wine. Enjoy your repurposed treasure.

  4. Lovely cart! I can see the maid pushing it everytime you feel like eating or drinking something!

  5. FABBY says:

    I love that bar cart, dear Athena! I have one in wood with wheels though, and I do take drinks and some food to guests, they’re great. The tall vase, like a green wine bottle, with flowers is gorgeous! Thanks for your sweet visit.

  6. Jan Hennings says:


  7. Pat@BPM says:

    Your bar cart is wonderful. You’ve styled it beautifully.

  8. Marigene says:

    Fabulous vintage cocktail cart…the cucumber water looks so refreshing in that lovely decanter.

  9. Linda says:

    COOL. Making me want to leave work and have a drink.

  10. How fun! Looks like the perfect addition for entertaining. I would love one…but I don’t have an extra inch of space in my house! Looks like I’ll just have to enjoy your pictures.

  11. Delightful post. Love your cart and how you’ve styled it. Very chic!
    Mary Alice

  12. Very clever and well done post! So fun!

  13. Lulu says:

    Great tips you’ve given for a variety of displays. I have a similar cart and it gets painted a new color every year.

  14. I love the cart and REALLY LOVE the way you have it arranged and decorated! I really enjoyed reading your post as well!

  15. Hi, Athena! I’m visiting from Cuisine Kathleen’s “Let’s Dish!”. First of all, I really like your name! How cool!!! Second, you are a part of a cabaret act?!??!!! This is a first!!! How wonderful!!! That must be so much fun performing with your husband…especially since it is a shared love of it. I can’t say that I could get up in front of strangers and sing & dance. Heck…I can’t sing or dance in the privacy of my own home! I’m awful!!!! :-) I have an affinity for the decor of the 1920 – 1940s, too, even though our home does not reflect it. When I was a single gal, I fashioned my home after those from movies like “Mr. & Mrs. Bridge”, “Lady Sings the Blues”, “Mommy Dearest” and such. I would often put on music from the 40s and make myself a hefty martini and just relaaaaaaaxx! It was a wonderful experience! I lived in the city then. Now that I am in the ‘burbs in a traditional Colonial home with all kinds of responsibilities, it is seldom that I let myself get taken away like that. Not sure why. I still have a bar in several rooms of the house like they did back in the day, and my liquors are in crystal decanters. We use real “highball” glasses, and I enjoy putting ice in ice buckets. Do people do that anymore? I think they just get it from the fridge door. I have a dressing room that would be the perfect spot for me to decorate so that I can go back in time with a fainting couch and chandelier. Hmmmmm….I just got an idea! Thanks!!! Anyhoooooo….I love the bar cart! It reminds me of those I see in old movies when the bellhop (do they even have those anymore?) would bring champagne to the room! Yours is beautifully styled, and I REALLY like those coasters!!! I love how you called it a “tea towel” like we did back in the day!!! You don’t hear people refer to them as such very much these days. The cart you created is stylish, and the flowers and various levels make all the difference! What a fun post! You really got my brain workin’ this evening! Have a great weekend!!!

  16. Suzan says:

    What a great post!!! And love your ” stylin ” you go girl!!!

  17. Pingback: Victrola Cabinet Before and After Painting Tips |

  18. Debbie says:

    Your bar cart is beautiful, love the way you’ve displayed it. I’m in the process of painting ours, I’ll be keeping your tips in mind. Thank you!
    Saw you linking at Funky Junk’s SNS and I’m now following you.
    Debbie :)

  19. Jill says:

    I LUV it! Very good tips, even for normal shelf styling. And that bar cart is to die for – so lovely.

  20. Kathy says:

    I did not know this about Cabarets! Great post, lovely pictures – well done – I appreciate you sharing with Home and Garden Thursday,

  21. Pat says:

    I got so much good out of your tips, and your ideas of things to put on your bar cart are so interesting to the eye. I have bookmarked this post, in case I finally find a bar cart.
    P.S. Thanks so much for your kind comments on my post last week.

  22. Cabaret act??!!! I’m impressed! How fun! A very old and dear friend of mine is a voice teacher in Atlanta. When we were in high school, she would put on little cabaret type shows in her house. I can’t sing, but I can dance and she would drag me kickin’ and screaming to do both. She would pick ‘easy’ songs like ‘whatever lola wants’ for me :). My daughter’s boyfriend’s mother is a cabaret singer, and recently we went to one of her shows in Manhattan. I really like the feel of these types of shows. I enjoy the intimacy most especially.
    Your cart is awesome. Love the coasters, the towels…I love it all. Thanks for visiting my blog a few weeks ago! I appreciate it!

    • AthenaMG says:

      How nice to hear from you, Doreen. Cool that you are a dancer, and great that you know other cabaret entertainers! The shows are quite intimate–the audience really gets to know the singer and the singer gets to share a great deal. Thank you so much for you comments today–they are most appreciated!