darci hether new york interior design firm nyc manhattan westchester

as a craft cocktail connoisseur, i know a quality drink when i see it… and taste it. the presentation, the garnish, the ingredients, the glass, that first impression as it touches your lips. each component of consequence comes together to create a symphony that is the perfect cocktail.

we could even go so far as to say that a perfect cocktail is the architect of an unforgettable encounter. a moment of pause that makes us survey everything we taste in order to appreciate all of the subtle nuances and brilliant decisions that went into it.

where am i going with this, you ask? (other than my at-home bar, of course) well, my point is this… 

the goal in creating an exemplary cocktail is no different than that of designing a stunningly sophisticated and perfectly unique space: to curate singularly delightful elements with an artful eye that results in an elevated and unforgettable experience.

below, i’m sharing 6 ways interior design is like a craft cocktail, along with my favorite bar cart essentials…

darci hether new york martini olive gin vodka marble counter vase interior design

how interior design is like a well-crafted cocktail

1. high-quality ingredients make a difference

any expert in craft cocktails will tell you that the ingredients used in a drink make all the difference. the best mixologists understand that every ingredient used must be of top quality. it’s noticeable. with top-shelf liquor, high-end tinctures, and artisan-level garnishes, the creative cocktail possibilities are endless.

the same goes for luxury interior design…sub-par finishes lead to mediocre spaces, but quality custom furniture, designer draperies, and opulent accessories result in exquisite rooms tailored to our high-end lifestyles. even if we don’t know the exact level of quality, our eyes can certainly distinguish the difference.

2. every flavor note plays a role

we all know that a classic old fashioned is made with bourbon, sugar, and bitters, then garnished with an orange peel. obviously no cocktail would be complete without the liquor, and the sugar adds a hint of sweetness, but why the bitters when it is well known that they don’t contribute much in the way of taste? 

well, because they add a level of complexity to a cocktail…accentuating the sweet notes of the drink. they add a depth of flavor that wouldn’t be present without them. 

the same can be said for interior design.

alongside the larger items, like furniture, floor coverings, and window treatments, every piece we choose has a role. we incorporate lighting that adds depth and variety to the room. decor that affixes a touch of the unexpected. finishing touches (like accent pillows and throws) that garnish the space with elegant comfort.

3. the order of mixology matters

a bartender would never dream of straining the bourbon or whiskey, sweet vermouth, and angostura bitters before shaking them into a cohesive cocktail. the ingredients must be carefully combined, then strained, in order to produce the delicious manhattan that we all know and love.

whether starting with a single inspiration piece and designing from there, or beginning with a blank slate and bringing elements in piece by piece, the order of the interior design process matters as well. 

it would be irresponsible to select window treatments prior to determining a client’s design style or knowing the fixed elements (like flooring or a stone fireplace surround) first. it would be inconceivable to go furniture shopping without a determined color scheme in mind. process and order are what allow for creativity to flow into a remarkably complex, yet innovative and coordinated space.

orange bitters cocktail marble counter vase ice tongs interior design

4. we sip with our eyes first

when a delectable dinner that was thoughtfully ordered at a high-end restaurant is placed in front of us, we feast with our eyes first. whether consciously or not, we do the same with any cocktail we are handed…we take in the temperature of the glassware, the color of the beverage, and quality, shape, and appearance of the garnish. 

if any of these components seem askew, our perception is shaken (and not in a good way). when they’re done right, we slow down and savor the beverage.

when entering any well-designed space, presentation is just as key. at dhny, we seek to craft interiors that bring the visual wow-factor. yes, we seamlessly infuse plush comfort and elevated living (every space we design is a dream to experience) but each luxuriously livable home is designed to make jaws drop at first glance… and inspire daily savoring.

5. a well-crafted cocktail takes time

whether ordering a vesper martini that demands careful shaking or a smoked whiskey cocktail that requires time for infusion, the best drinks come to those who wait. cocktails are a craft that take time to execute and patience to perfect. 

no surprises here, interior design is a process that takes time as well. from initial consultations with our clients to preliminary drawings, from product management to installation and photography, the design process is not one to be rushed. it takes time to manifest a one-of-a-kind, grandiose design that exceeds our clients’ wildest dreams. trust me, chic and sophisticated homes are well worth waiting for. (and our full-service design means you can literally sit back with cocktails in the meantime!)

6. infusing something unexpected makes the cocktail sing

the new york sour, an updated twist on the whiskey sour, incorporates red wine (in addition, not in place of, the whiskey). this unexpected infusion adds strength and richness to a well-loved cocktail that is both surprising and delicious. you don’t have to take my word for it…seriously, give it a try! (i’m sure you have some wine lying around…)

as we move through the design process, i always try to integrate something unexpected in the finished space of any project…whether it is an eclectic piece of art from a client’s collection, a youthful element of decor that brings levity to the room, or a pop of color that is unexpected but awe-inspiring. 

an unexpected element makes you take notice and is distinctly memorable. 

marble counter tapas granite whiskey orange peel garnish gold accents

directions for crafting the perfect cocktail (and room)

1. start with the main ingredients 

gather the gin, vodka, tequila, brandy, bourbon, and whiskey – the stars of any quality craft cocktail.

interior design counterpart: these are the big ticket items… the imported area rugs and large, bespoke furniture pieces. the items that make up the essence of the room.

2. add in some mixers 

blend in your favorite mixer, whether that might be herb-infused campari bitters, sweet and dry vermouth, or even a fruit-forward grand marnier liqueur.

interior design counterpart: think designer accent chairs, artfully structured side tables, layers of decorative lighting, sumptuous textiles, and more. the elements that give the room flavor and texture.

3. finish it off with a beautiful garnish!

delicately place a lemon, lime, or orange twist on top. or situate classic bourbon cherries on a stunning skewer to adorn the top of the glass (please no sickly sweet, bright red maraschino cherries, though…)

interior design counterpart: hand-selected decor, exotic art from your travels abroad, and thoughtful accessories finish off any room, taking a space from well-designed to extraordinary.

top bar cart essentials

in addition to a selection of high-quality, varied glassware (perfect for any cocktail and every occasion), a fabulous at-home bar cart setup includes a great cocktail shaker, strainer, jigger, ice bucket and tongs. 

don’t forget some top-notch garnishing tools, like my favorite peeler and zester/channel knife, and some gorgeous conversation-starting skewers.

keep your pantry well-stocked with multiple varieties of indulgent bourbon cocktail cherries and also these luxe maraschino cherries (the good kind, promise).

and lastly, no bar cart worth its salt is complete without gorgeous cocktail recipe books. here are a few of my favorite go-tos:

maybe you need more than a simple bar cart upgrade and are looking to install or renovate your at-home bar…if so, this guide to styling a contemporary bar might be just what you’re searching for. 

or heck, if you’re feeling really inspired to add a cocktail lounge to your space, let’s chat. you can be confident that at-home bars are in my zone of genius… whether it’s 5 o’clock or not. 😉



all photography by the amazing emily gilbert photography