How to Design Bar Tops & Trim


A bar top is a counter top that is higher than standard cabinets and designed to allow bar stools to be drawn up to the bar top so that a person can eat or drink at the counter. There is a wide variety of options to consider when designing your bar top, including edge trims, supports, materials, finishes, colors and more. These questions are solved by determining the function of the bar top, the style of the surrounding area and the budget for the installation.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • 1/2-inch graph paper
  • Pencil
  • Triangle
  • Construction template
  • Tracing paper
  • Tape
  • Designer magazine
  • Measure the area where the bar top will be installed. Often bar tops are installed over or adjacent to cabinets and the design of the shape of the bar is determined by the placement of those cabinets. Transfer the measurements to 1/2-inch graph paper. Note the location of nearby doors, walls, windows and cabinets that might impact the design of the bar top.

  • Tape down the plan on a table. Tape tracing paper over the plan. Sketch out possible shapes such as a circular bar top on the end of a straight peninsula. A feature like a curved top will make a counter larger, more usable and dynamic to look at. You can include this kind of feature if there is sufficient space.

  • Determine if your new bar top will be adjacent to an existing counter and cabinet, rise above the existing work and project out into the adjacent room. This type of installation is common. The new bar top is supported through construction along the back four inches of the existing counter and cabinets. It is attached to a wall on one side with support brackets under the counter for extra support.

  • Collect various samples of potential bar top surfaces. An elevated new bar doesn't have to match existing counters. This is a good place to use a new tile, stone, metal, wood or other material. Look for finishes already being used in the space such as nickel light fixtures or stainless steel appliances. The new counter can be wrapped stainless steel no matter what the lower counter material might be.

  • Look at the potential edge treatments of the material you want to use for the counter. Laminate counters are made with molded edges, wood edges that are routered, flush edges and more. Tile is self-faced or edge type. Stone can be pre-cut. Wood can have brass bars installed protruding from the side like a railing. There are many more choices. Try to locate all the choices for your product to help you decide from all available options.

  • Choose a decorative corbel instead of shelving brackets to support a projecting bar top in an architectural way. Corbels are more expensive than brackets, but they are also much more visually appealing and will add value to the area. Look through designer magazines for cool ideas that you might not have considered. Check your budget to rein in ideas that are too expensive.

Tips & Warnings

  • Bar tops are usually a good investment. Adding counter space and seating makes a space feel larger and more useful.


  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
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