Turn An Old Potting Table Into A Simple Backyard Bar

As the weather warms and many turn their eye toward sun-quenched outdoor living and recreation, a good setup in exterior spaces is a must. This can mean cozy and attractively laid out seating areas, firepits, al fresco dining sets, and more. An outdoor bar is especially crucial if you are entertaining, and can be used for everything from raucous evening cocktail gatherings to an enjoyable and organized spot for making your morning coffee. And what better way to create a bar that elevates your patio than by repurposing a piece you already have? With an eye equally toward style and sustainability, internet DIYers are showing off how they used old or thrifted potting benches to create a stylish and compact bar by refinishing the piece and adding a few great accessories.

While outdoor bar carts and similar furniture can be expensive, this DIY is a great low-cost alternative you may already have languishing in your garage. This hack also works for other sorts of workbenches, desks, and vanities that, like a potting bench, have lots of storage and counter space perfect for mixing cocktails and serving. While you can do this with a charming old piece with a lot of original character, you can also create a bar with a newer potting bench by adding additional details that make it perfect for your design scheme.

Creating a bar from an old potting bench

Potting benches come in a variety of sizes, and often sport the rustic outdoor look and treated wood construction that make them perfect for use as an outdoor bar. Some have stainless steel or stone worktops and most have small drawers and enclosed cabinets that make storing alcohol bottles, glassware, and accessories out of sight very easy when not in use. 

To repurpose an old outdoor potting bench to make your bar, begin by thoroughly cleaning the exterior free of dirt and debris. Since older pieces may be covered many layers of paint, begin with scraping, removal, and sanding before adding new paint or stain to the wood. For vintage or antique benches that may lead to lead paint exposure or other hazards, you may want a mask and open-air workspace to tackle this portion of the job. Once you have prepared the surface, add your new paint or stain. After cleaning the interior, you can also add vinyl liners to shelves and drawers to make them easy to clean.

Customizing your bar

The fun part of this DIY is making it into the customized bar of your dreams by adding elements that maximize your storage and use of the piece. Potting benches often have an upper shelf that is perfect for a second level to store and display glassware or bottles. You can maximize the back area by adding additional attached wood (like upcycled crates, old fencing, or garden lattice). This allows you to add more small shelves, hooks, or bins that are great for storing cocktail essentials.

You can also add additional racks and hooks to the side, which may be great for holding larger bottles and towels. If your potting bench features a larger shelf or rack underneath, this is a perfect spot to add a galvanized bin to serve as a cooler filled with ice and bottled or canned drinks. To offer additional adaptability, you can add casters to your bench that allow you to move it around the house or into the garage for rainy-day gatherings.