By Mary Jo Bowling

PALO ALTO ( Houzz) — You may have just finished draining your champagne glass on New Year's Eve, but it's not too soon to resolve to make your next home gathering more stylish, more sophisticated and easier by adding a home bar in 2014. Here's what to know if you'd like to get it done.

Project: Building a home bar into a nook or wall.

Why: "Home bars create a special place to store and serve drinks closer to the living space," says New York architect James Wagman. "If the bar is near the action, the host can create wonderful drinks while socializing with guests and family."

Built-in bars don't need to be limited to homes blessed with abundant square footage. A built-in bar can be the width of a single cabinet. Wagman installed this diminutive but mighty bar at the entrance to an apartment's living room. Pocket doors come out of the wall to hide the unit when it's not in use.

Who to hire: More bells and whistles require more pros. A well-stocked bar, such as this crisp blue entertaining space by South Park Design Build in Toronto, would require an architect or interior designer to design the space and a contractor to build it. The building crew might include a carpenter to construct custom cabinetry, a plumber for a sink and an ice maker, an electrician to add outlets for a refrigerator and other appliances, a tile setter to install a backsplash and a painter to provide the finishing touches after the hammering is done.

Project length: Most professionals interviewed for this article — including the creator of this bar, San Francisco interior designer Tineke Triggs of Artistic Designs for Living — say you should allow a little more than a month to add a built-in bar. However, David Miller of David Michael Miller and Associates in Scottsdale, Arizona, cautions that the more customized the project is, the longer it will take. "There's a wide range," he says, "but if you are building it from scratch, it may take six to eight months due to custom millwork."

Cost: As with every home improvement project, the cost will depend on the scope of your project, your choice of materials and finishes, and the price of labor where you live. Luly Melarti, a designer and architect at TerraCotta Properties in Decatur, Georgia, estimates that adding a bar similar to this one she did for entertaining-loving clients could cost around $9,200 — and that's if there's an existing niche where it could be placed and walls don't need to be moved. She breaks it down this way:

  • Design fees and labor: $4,000
  • Cabinets: $3,000
  • Refrigerator: $1,200
  • Countertop: $600
  • Mirror backsplash: $400

"Obviously, there's a wide range in costs, depending on how much work needs to be done," she says. "If you don't move walls and you don't add plumbing, you are going to save money."