Art, fashion and furniture merged last week at a charity auction of celebrity home bars. Forget discreet drinks cabinets, the renowned designers let their imagination run wild. God forbid the credit crunch ruin our revelry.
Celebrated host David Furnish, partner of Sir Elton John, is the brains behind the cocktail bar extravaganza. Four months ago, Patrick Cox, Theo Fennell, Giles Deacon, Gavin Turk and Eva Herzigova gathered at a Buckinghamshire stately home to each design a bar. Their creations were auctioned off by Edward Rising from Sotheby’s during the Grey Goose Characters and Cocktails gala dinner. Guests, including Lily Allen, Gareth Pugh and David Walliams, sipped Grey Goose vodka mixes while Jefferson Hack took to the DJ booth. The evening raised in excess of £350,000 for the Elton John Aids Foundation at the Grey Goose Characters and Cocktails gala dinner.
I’m partial to throwing a mean drinks party myself; last summer, I invited ten friends to my flat and booked a mixologist who came armed with potent cocktails. It was wild, wonderful and felt fabulously indulgent - the barman built a super slick chrome bar in my sitting room. Since then, my soirées have been somewhat more subdued but friends still raid my drinks cupboard frequently. Instead of classic titles; tempting liquors and whiskies gleam behind the glass panels of my antique writing bureau bookcase. If I was to buy a new drinks cabinet tomorrow, I would be torn between OKA’s Manchu cabinet which features attractive painted Chinese scenes and a frightfully chic white cow-skin bar which sits on crossed stainless steel legs from Graham and Green. Both are available at mydeco.
So how does Furnish plan his raucous yet stunning cocktail parties? “Details, details, details. Beautiful flowers, simple, delicious food and great music. And never underestimate the importance of perfect lighting.”
I caught up with shoe designer Patrick Cox earlier this week: “There is nothing worse than bright lighting - it isn’t flattering and makes the glamorous women want to leave.” For the auction, Cox designed a bar which resembles a DJ booth with coloured lighting. “It’s kind of Vegas, kind of Studio 54. It is chrome with white frosted lights meaning it doesn’t dominate a room when it’s not lit.” But for us hoi polloi, the Gatsby mirrored drinks cabinet from Laura Ashley is decadent on a more realistic level.
Designing furniture is a novel venture for Cox who is more akin to creating shoes for his friends Madonna and Cate Blanchett. “I appreciate the world is going down the toilet at the moment but I really want to get involved in interiors,” says Cox. “I’ve stayed in enough hotels so I really know what works and what doesn’t design-wise.”
The auctioned home bars were all cosmopolitan in their design. Inspired by a recent trip to India, Furnish customised a tuk tuk with burr walnut cocktail bar; it’s fully MOT’d, taxed and UK legal. Fashion designer Giles Deacon restored an old Yorkshire pub bar and covered the surfaces with 253,872 topaz and peach crystals - each applied by hand, taking more than 1,500 hours. Supermodel Eva Herzigova designed a Moroccan-inspired bar installation complete with palm trees and ornamental brass lanterns.
As we all know well, many a romance is born from a cocktail-fuelled evening. Jeweller Theo Fennell played around with the traditional loveseat adding discreet compartments and drawers for the sliding of notes. He rescued antique wall lights from the Savoy Grill refurbishment and re-modelled the bar in black lacquer. Fennell swoons, “It’s a bar where two people fall in love and where the barman plays Cupid. The barman serves the lovers a cocktail and then withdraws to leave the cocktails to do their work and allow the lovers to play with the secrets of the bar.”
Artist Gavin Turk’s paradisiacal "shipwrecked" bar is fabricated out of 800 aluminium cans, sun-bleached beach debris and street rubbish. “This bar is designed to question the idea of value associated with art,” explained Turk. “From far away, it looks beautifully designed but close up, it is clear that it is a washed-up bar made from things that have been thrown away.” His is a lucid message that will resonate well with hosts (like myself) hit by the credit crunch: a home bar needn’t be glam or glitzy.
Stats show that we are drinking more as a result of the financial gloom. As nightclubs charge a premium, home cocktail parties are back in fashion. I’ll drink to that.