You don’t have to go out to treat yourself to a cafe experience — learn some simple home coffee bar ideas so you can turn your dining room or eat-in kitchen into your own personal coffee shop retreat!
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One of my husband’s and my favorite weekly traditions is to visit one of our local coffee shops on Saturday mornings, or a cute cafe for lunch on Sundays. We’d linger over a mocha and a breakfast sandwich or panini, and maybe split a chocolate croissant or have a macaron for dessert.
But in the last year or so since our daughter’s birth, we haven’t been going out nearly as much, and we miss it. Hardcore.
Inspired by someone who took my sister’s decluttering course, I decided to turn our eat-in kitchen into our very own cafe and DIY coffee bar, so we could enjoy that bright, peaceful, and indulgent experience from the comfort of our own home. I went all out, wasted no time in making it happen, and have zero regrets. Almost immediately, we’re spending 1000% more time hanging out in the dining room and loving every minute of it.
You don’t need an excuse to make your dining room or eat-in kitchen into a cafe-like retreat, and honestly I wish we had done it years ago!
We went all out, but you don’t have to go to quite the same lengths to make a difference in your house! Here are some DIY coffee bar ideas you can implement to bring the cafe atmosphere and experience home.
1. Designate a spot to set up your DIY coffee bar at home
Whether it’s a whole sideboard, a simple bar cart, or a designated spot on your counter, it’s helpful to have a spot that’s functioning exclusively as your home coffee station. This is where you can put coffee- and tea-making equipment, cafe snacks like pastries, granola bars, and biscotti, and add-ins for your drinks like sugar cubes and honey.
I decided to put one station “behind the counter” (in the kitchen) so to speak, for making the drinks, and a second one in the eat-in dining area for the stuff you’d find on or in front of the counter at a coffee shop — snacks, sweeteners for your drink, straws, and a menu board.
While coffee bar ideas with mugs set up next to a coffee pod machine are plentiful, I encourage you to think about more than just the beverages.
2. Become your own barista
Whether you go all out with an espresso machine or just have something like an electric kettle and a pourover coffee stand or loose tea brewer, having the right equipment and knowhow to make a good cup of your preferred beverage is a must!
If you don’t want to get any special espresso equipment, you can make these drinks with any strong-brewed coffee, like French press, pourover, or drip coffee. Plus, a fancy tea frappe!
- Amaretto latte
- Peppermint Mocha
- French Press Spiced Vanilla Latte
- Lavender Earl Grey Frappuccinos with Honey
3. Keep your favorite drinks on hand
LaCroix or Spindrift? Kombucha? Pre-made iced coffee? (Here’s my favorite brand — I have some in the fridge at all times!) Whatever that special drink is that makes you smile, keep it chilled and ready to go in the fridge.
4. Consider your seating
What makes you feel most cafe-cozy? A small pedestal table with industrial metal chairs? Banquette seating with bench cushions? Or a plush chair or loveseat with a coffee table, a la “Central Perk” in Friends?
Swapping furniture may be more than you want to do, but when we changed out our traditional four-top dining table for a little two-top by the window with adorable mid-century chairs, it immediately felt more intimate and casual. We started actually hanging out at the table instead of always defaulting to the living room.
This is even easier if you have a an eat-in kitchen area separate from a formal dining room. You can keep a larger table in your dining room and turn your eat-in area into your casual cafe!
5. Feast your eyes on some artwork
Many cafes display paintings or photos from local artists. You could take this as an opportunity to support some artists in your town, whether you buy an original or a print. Alternately, find a couple prints you love on Etsy or create some of your own artwork! The funkier the better.
I’ve displayed a couple of my mom’s paintings along with a print from a local artist, and I have plans to add a few smaller pieces to the mix too.
6. Bus your table
Is your table a dumping spot for mail? Are your dining chairs makeshift coat racks? Move it somewhere else. The table is sacred space and should always feel inviting for a cup of coffee or tea and a nice sit-down. Clear it off after every meal and wipe it down with a kitchen towel.
7. Add flowers
Whether it’s a small arrangement, a single flower in a bud vase, or even a fake flower from the craft store, greenery adds so much to the atmosphere.
A small arrangement or one type of fresh flower only costs $4-6 at the grocery store and will last for a couple weeks!
Cats knocking over your fresh flowers? Get some of this museum putty to secure the vase to your table.
8. Decant and display your snacks, coffee, and tea
Sure, having a box of biscotti in the pantry is fine. But having them displayed in a decorative canister lets you peruse your selection in a visually appealing way like a guest in your very own cafe.
I decided to decant and display biscotti, Kind bars, and my coffee beans in canisters. I also got matching empty tea tins — more than I’d like to admit — and am in the process of transferring all my boxed and loose teas into them and labeling them with chalk markers. I plan to rotate out a selection of teas on my display shelf every month or so to keep my options interesting and so I don’t forget about any in the back of my cabinet.
Rather than getting out my big container of sugar every time I wanted to sweeten my tea, I got raw sugar cubes to put in a small Weck jar with a wooden lid. And fresh fruit is washed and ready to grab in a large bowl (yes, my husband really eats all those apples).
I also got a small wooden dish with a glass cloche for displaying sweet treats like chocolate truffles, croissants, cookies, or muffins. I can buy some muffins and display them there instead of in the plastic shell they came in, treat myself to a couple chocolate croissants for the week, or put some freshly baked scones or raspberry Nutella turnovers under the glass. I also have a larger cloche that is perfect for displaying locally-made bagels.
Take note of the items at the counter next time you’re at your favorite cafe for more coffee bar ideas to bring home!
9. Have a chalkboard or menu board
I decided to get a large chalkboard to decorate as semi-permanent art. I hand lettered a cafe name and write up our beverage selection. Our dining room coffee shop is named “Caroline Street Cafe” after the fake restaurant I had as a kid where I’d make my sister lunch for a nickel.
I also hung a smaller chalkboard where I can write out our weekly dinner menu.
Chalk markers are SO MUCH EASIER to write with than regular chalk, especially when you’re trying to make it decorative. It’s not permanent so you can still wipe it off to change up your board!
10. Pay attention to lighting
We put our cafe table next to the window so we have nice light while we eat. A unique overhead pendant helps create a restaurant atmosphere as well! You don’t even need something hard-wired — ours is a pendant light from World Market and a hanging lantern cord.
11. Give yourself a room with a view
We’ll be getting a bird feeder to put outside our window so we have some wildlife to look at while we eat! Nice landscaping, especially flowering plants, is another great idea.
12. Be fancy-sandwich ready
Step up your sandwich game! Think about the kind of sandwich you might order from a cafe and be prepared to treat yourself at any given time. And if you prep some ingredients ahead of time, like sauces or spreads, a restaurant-quality sandwich will hardly take more time than slapping some lunch meat on a piece of bread.
Here are a few fancy-sandwich ingredients you can make ahead to keep on hand.
- Easy Cheater’s Garlic Aioli
- Simple Black and Green Olive Tapenade
- Southern Pimento Cheese
- Balsamic Marinated Chicken (make a big batch to use in paninis!)
And a few cafe sandwich recipes you can make:
- Hot roast beef and brie sandwich
- Pesto chicken panini with oven-roasted tomatoes
- Prosciutto and brie sandwich with fig orange spread
- Smoked turkey sandwich with brie, bacon, and green apples
13. Think beyond the potato chips
While you’re fancy-sandwich ready, don’t forget to be side-dish ready too! Make a bowl of pasta salad to have with sandwiches for the week, or a bottle of creamy vinaigrette to drizzle over a small handful of mixed greens. Top with a couple grape tomatoes and you’re all set!
Here are a couple of my favorite pasta salads to have on hand.
14. Set up a jug of infused water
Here’s something on the “extra” end of the spectrum of DIY coffee bar ideas: fill up a drink dispenser with ice water and throw in some fresh fruit slices or muddled herbs to flavor it. You can set it up on a sideboard or kitchen counter. Then enjoy a little glass every time you walk by! Alternately, you can make some to keep in a pitcher or bottle in the fridge.
Here are a few flavor ideas to get you started.
- Lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit or any combination of the above
- Strawberry and basil
- Cucumber and mint
15. Have mugs that make you smile
I had been coveting these letterpress mugs from World Market for YEARS and finally took the plunge and got the complete set of four. They make me smile every time I use them!
Get something that makes you happy, whether it’s a drippy stoneware mug from a local ceramist or a sleek and modern latte mug.
16. Last but not least, turn on the tunes
This is often overlooked among DIY coffee bar ideas, but music is such an important part of a cafe atmosphere! I have a few Pandora stations I like to cycle between for my home cafe. Here are a few of my favorite curated stations you can listen to!