How a Designer Created a Jungle-Themed Barscape for Under $4,000

An awkward, unused space is transformed into something functional and beautiful with just a portion of what a full bar would cost.
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At a Glance

Experience

  • If you have a vision, you can do this.

Budget

  • The sky is your limit! But feel free to keep it o the cheaper side.

Time

  • One weekend if you're really dedicated, but this can also be done over time.
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When architect and interior designer Rushika Gill laid eyes on her Vancouver home, she knew she’d come across something special. The art moderne style set it apart from every other house on the block, with a sea of natural light and interior arches more reminiscent of a California bungalow than your typical craftsman (or Vancouver Special). It wasn’t without its problems: Every wall was painted pink and the stained ceilings had certainly seen better days. When she and her husband moved in, Gill got to work immediately, slowly breathing new life into every room. And while it’s still very much a work in progress, she managed to finish one special spot already: a jungle themed bar space that feels both fresh and timeless, complete with bold wallpaper and gilded accents.

"It's hard to not be tempted by the trends that are going around," Gill told Dwell. "But I was like, ‘I don't want this to be trendy and then be out of style in five years.’ Or conform to any particular style."

With those guiding principles in mind, here's how she did it. 

Make use of odd spaces

Between Gill’s living room and study lies a transitional space, little more than a wide hallway with a skylight. She could have easily thrown a few framed pictures on the walls and placed a sun-loving plant directly under the skylight, and kept it moving. Instead, she decided to go big. She took advantage of the awkward stretch of wall and decided to turn it into an eye-catching bar area.

She also saw an opportunity to use the space as an anchor between two extremes. 

"The formal living room is full of light, and we’ve gone with a creamy white color," Gill explained. "In the study, we went with a really dark color, almost like a charcoal gray…[so] I wanted to do something that helped merge or blend these two together, but also pops out on its own and makes a statement."  

Take a healthy risk 

The star of the bar is easily the accent wall of tropical themed wallpaper, depicting a rainforest full of lush plants, dark waters, soaring parrots, and a prowling jaguar, all doused in a muted greenish gloom, which helps offset what could otherwise be an overwhelmingly busy spectacle.

"I wanted something where you could stand there and study it for a while because you can't take it all in at once," Gill said. "And then you discover things as you're like looking at it, hidden things."

While wallpaper is making a comeback, there are plenty of reasons why one might hesitate: It requires time and precision that can’t compete with a drop cloth and a couple of gallons of paint, and even with all the time in the world and the steadiest of hands, it’s a commitment to go with the real deal as opposed to removable alternatives.

For a happy medium, go Gill’s route: opting for an accent wall.

Gill sourced the tropical landscape wallpaper, inspired by the work of British artist Deirdre Hyde, from KEK Amsterdam, a Dutch wallpaper company with a heavy emphasis on larger than life landscapes and bold florals. KEK Amsterdam’s website has a handy tool that allows you to customize the size of your wallpaper based on the dimensions of your wall. (Remember, always order a little more than you think you’ll need; nobody’s perfect.)

Consider light and texture 

Once the space was properly delineated, the next step was choosing the right credenza to house her barware and accessories.

"I knew that white wouldn't work, and black would create a dark hole in the wallpaper, and I didn't want that," Gill explained. "So I thought a metallic would be nice, especially when the light bounces off of it."

Gill opted for a brassy CB2 media console with mesh cabinets for added texture. And the textured accents didn’t stop there: She also incorporated ribbed glassware, a lush plant, and various keepsakes, including a tin box with birds painted on it, keeping with the tropical theme. But next to the wallpaper, nothing in Gill’s space is as bold as the sconces that flank her bar setup.

The unique light fixtures are by Bocci, a Vancouver based design company, and are made of molten glass hand blown into a heat-resistant ceramic fabric mold. This gives the lamps the rippled texture and shape. Gill went with a golden color that compliments the credenza nicely. "It almost looks like a glowing flower in the dark canopy of the jungle," Gill noted. "I like that they aren't exactly the same. Each one had a different shape to it, so it’s very organic." 

Know when to call it quits

Gill debated incorporating wooden Amazonian masks or hanging art to the space, but once the core elements were settled—the wallpaper, the console, the sconces—she declared the space complete. The alcohol may be switched out, as will the tabletop elements, but the space itself is settled, and she expects it to stand the tests of time— not to mention, flash in the pan home decor trends. (Foam mirrors, anyone?)

"If I had to describe the style for the bar base, I wouldn't really know what to call it," Gill said. "It’s its own thing, a combination of elements, components that I think really worked well together and won’t age or go out of date, for any reason."


$350
Paint
$295
Wallpaper
$1240
Lights
$104
Console
$215
Alcohol
$630
Barware and Accessories
Grand Total:$3,770


For more at-home bar inspiration, read on:

6 Home Wet Bars That Will Inspire You to Up Your Entertaining Game

5 Hidden Home Bars