A Jungle-Inspired Bar Nook

When we moved into our Algiers home, I did what we always do and set to rid the place of the clunky and fancy government-provided furniture. I did, however, decide to keep a wood desk that was in the house. It wasn’t bad, especially after I switched out its shiny chrome knobs for matte black ones, and it would be a placeholder until I found an antique desk in one of Algier’s many antique stores. There was a hutch atop the desk and I sat that on the floor until someone could come and pick it up. One morning, I walked by the hutch and thought “Hey, this is the exact height of a bar and this dead zone here would be a really cool home bar.” (The area is opposite our long, narrow living room. It’s a bit basement feeling, but does have a nice door and windows that let some morning light in). I realized if I flipped the hutch around so the shelves were facing the back wall and then plastered some very cool wallpaper on the plywood backside, I’d have something neat (and I could return the hutch unscathed at the end of our three-year tour in Algiers).

The back of the bar/frontside of the hutch.

I knew just what wallpaper to get. Ever since I’d seen Justina Blakeney’s Phoenix wallpaper I’d been thinking about what I could do with it. It is luscious and lively, playful, but sort of sexy and makes me think of hiking through a sweaty jungle to earn my mai tai which I greedily gulp whilst swinging in a handwoven hammock. (If you don’t know of Justina Blakeney, she’s an artist and designer and founder of the Jungalow, an online shop that sells beautiful boho, colorful, nature-inspired home goods. Her designs and her style are an inspiration).

So first I ordered one roll of the Phoenix wallpaper in the vino color, not cheap by the way. To paper the “bar,” I removed the plywood backing of the hutch, wrapped it with the wallpaper like a present (not activating the paste on the wallpaper), and then screwed the now-wrapped piece of plywood back to the hutch. It looked good. Especially with three barstools that we had in our modern Jerusalem apartment, but hadn’t used since. I had three of these rustic floating wall shelves installed (which I ordered from Amazon).

But the whiteness of the wall bothered me and I could hear Justina Blakeney telling me “It’s okay to be a little extra.” I wasn’t positive that I wanted to spend the money or do the work so I turned to Instagram and did a little poll, which came back evenly split for leaving the white wall or being a little extra and adding the paper. I decided to be a little extra. It was always going to be this way.

I ordered another roll of the wallpaper and a few weeks later, I took off the shelves (the workmen had drilled anchors into the wall, so those holes were easy enough to locate after the paper went up to re-screw the shelving hardware back in). This was my first time installing wallpaper and it was not easy. Getting the patterns to match up was no joke, and the job I did was far from perfect. Luckily, there is so much going on visually that it’s not easy to see a tiny gap in the paper, or where a floral pattern doesn’t quite match up. Six hours after I had started, it was done and I knew I had made the right decision. Now, when I walk by this space, I can’t help but smile, it’s so stylish and happy.

A few weeks ago we had a dinner party and our guests moved downstairs to the bar area after the meal. I mixed up some boulevardiers backdropped by a lush plummy jungle oasis and felt fairly certain that I had created one of the more inviting places in which to imbibe in the city of Algiers.

This isn’t too much of a brag; I have not found a single bar in Algiers (although some restaurants serve wine and beer) and when “cocktail” is listed on the menu, what they actually mean is a fruit smoothie. Womp womp. Adam and I had our big annual holiday party this past weekend and this area of our (rather strangely laid out) house was one of the most popular. It’s a good feeling to create a cool and inviting space and it’s even better to see others enjoying it.

This is a new rug Adam brought home on a recent trip in Algeria. The set up is not what it normally is, as I had to make room for the Christmas tree. Still playing around with this sitting area.

Sánte to the home bar!


Update from July 2020: We’re still enjoying the heck out of this bar area, maybe even more so now that it’s Coronatimes. We’ve had many, many evening happy hours at the bar, sitting on the barstools or on the cushions in the lounge area next to it.

I am looking to get a low daybed custom made for the area for some more seating for lounging. After I ordered this super cushy rug pad for under the red and pink Algerian rug, it became my preferred workout spot. The rug is so comfy for abs workouts and for yoga (I just put my mat on top). Maybe not everyone would want to work out looking at their bar, but I find it to be not only visually nice, but also motivating. Finish this torturous 25 minutes legs workout, get a gin fizz.

Another upgrade: My husband is a really good gift-giver, and he didn’t disappoint for my birthday in May. He commissioned a watercolor painting by local artist Mounia Lazali of us (and the Diplocats) behind the bar. It’s so vibrant and colorful and I love it very much. It’s also kind meta to hang a work of art in the very room that is depicted in the artwork.

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