How To Build A Hidden Cocktail Bar
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IntroductionWith its inlaid lighting, this countertop made the perfect setting for a truly luxurious touch — a hidden cocktail bar. I took a simple cabinet box, stirred in a motorized TV lift and added a splash of creative wiring to give this garage an entertaining twist.
- Basic carpentry tools
- Orbital sander
- Oscillating multi-tool
- Pocket hole jig
- Table saw
- 1-1/4” trim screws (8)
- 1" pocket hole screws (box)
- 1/2-in. oak quarter-round
- 1/4" tempered glass (1)
- 18 gauge wire
- 1x10 x 4' oak boards (2)
- 27" TV lift (1)
- Limit switch (1)
- Momentary switch (1)
Meet the Builder: An editor for Family Handyman, Jay Cork loves tinkering in his garage as much as he likes relaxing after.
Project step-by-step (14)
Make the base
- I fashioned a base for my cocktail bar by tracing the section of countertop editor Mike Berner made in his “Workbench to Bar Top” article.
- I used the same butcher block material and cut out the shape with a jigsaw.
Assemble the cabinet box
- Using one-inch pocket hole screws, attach the top and bottom parts to the sides.
- The back slips into the box instead of resting on it.
- Pro tip: I used pocket hole joinery just in case I needed to disassemble the whole thing, and I’m glad I did. There was a miscalculation and I had to remove the box and cut it down by a few inches. If I had used a different joinery method, that would have been far more difficult.
Install the LED lights
- The next step is to feed the power cable through a small notch in the back of the cabinet.
- Stick the LED light strip to the inside top of the cabinet, snug to the back.
- Hide the LED strip with a piece of oak quarter-round, directing light down, not out.
Prepare the cabinet
- To retrofit a TV lift into the cabinet, cut away the cabinet’s top stretcher.
- A jigsaw didn’t let me get close enough, so I finished with an oscillating multi-tool.
Level the lift
- With the lift fully extended, use a scrap piece of countertop to position the lift level with the rest of the work surface.
Attach the lift to the cabinet
- Secure the lift to the back of the cabinet with one-inch screws.
- Pro tip: A magnetic torpedo level helped me keep everything plumb.
Install a hidden switch
- The lift came with a remote, but here’s an alternative way to operate it: Wire a round momentary switch ($12 online) to the control box, concealing it under the lip of the countertop.
- Rout a small channel on the underside of the countertop for the wires and drill a hole for the switch.
- Now the switch is perfectly concealed yet always within reach.
Mount the power supply
- Mount the power supply near the front of the cabinet so the cables won’t impede the travel of the cocktail bar.
- Bundling the cables with hook-and-loop wire wraps keeps them clear of moving parts.
Wire the light switch
- For a little extra pop, I installed a limit switch ($7 online) to automatically turn on the LED lights as the cocktail bar rises and turn them off again as it descends.
- The power runs to the LED strip through the black wire, so I spliced that wire to the switch. When the bar goes up, the circuit closes and power flows to the lights.
- Pro tip: Before you install the limit switch, test the setup with a scrap piece of LED light and the switch hooked up to the power supply to make sure everything is wired properly.
Position the base
- With the lift fully extended, set the base onto the lift cradle and attach it using one-inch screws.
- Pro tip: I used playing cards to help maintain an even gap.
Attach the box to the base
- To prevent the oak from splitting, drill 1/8-in. pilot holes in the top and bottom.
- Attach the box to the base with 1-1/4-in. trim screws.
Position the “lid”
- With the lift in the lowered position, use double-sided tape to help position the lid.
- Set the countertop lid onto the box and attach it with trim screws.
- The TV lift I used is available for $560 at tvliftcabinet.com. There were lots of sizes to choose from, and the staff was really helpful. If you can use a screwdriver, you can install one of these.
- The final installation was a little difficult because the cocktail bar was heavier and deeper than a skinny flat screen TV, exerting more leverage on this lift than it was designed for.
- But with a little shimming and trimming, I was able to get the base and the lid to sit perfectly flush with the countertop.