If you love European bistros, the drinks and warm elegance, create your own inviting area to enjoy morning coffee or a casual lunch.

Maybe you visited some classic French or Italian bistros on a trip to Europe. If so, it’s easy to conjure up the look and feel. Unlike many American diners, when you wander into a French café, you usually feel a sense of calm. If you’re overwhelmed at all, it’s only by the pastry choices. And that’s not a bad thing. Since so many people love coffee and wine, especially as a way to start or end a hectic day or relax with family and friends, why not make your own bistro space?

Create the feel

If you’re redesigning your kitchen, you can go all out, with tile floors, steel or marble countertops, and a large, steel range hood. Include plenty of open shelving for some coffee cups and a place to hang wine glasses. Use some Italian, Parisian or Provence-themed dish, fabric and artwork selections, depending on your preference. Dimmable lighting in a kitchen, or a combination of soft and task lighting will help you set mood s well as see to prep and cook.

Need inspiration? Go online and search for some of the favorite places you visited, or check out the décor at classy European or American bistros in major cities. And pull out your photos and souvenirs from the European vacation. Framed postcards, posters, ads or calendar pages make great artwork. You’ll also find charming prints and inexpensive bistro-themed wall art at discount hobby stores.

Indoor or outside

A seating area is a must for any bistro. If all you have is a kitchen bar area, that will do. Just add bar stools with a café or bistro vibe, depending on your theme and style. If you already have a bench or nook, try new upholstery, lighting or décor. Or create a bistro effect in your dining room, complete with elegant linens and accessories. To really achieve the effect, place a small bistro table and chairs in a nook near your kitchen. Most are built for two, but metal tables with matching chairs often come in sets of four. Add a themed vase and a few fresh flowers and voila!

If you don’t want to spring for a full table and chair set, check out this clever repurpose project. If you locate your bistro table outside, add a few painted shutters and a window box planter full of red geraniums. You’ll feel like you’re wandering an old European street. Or put up a small striped awning.

Add a coffee or wine bar

You can really let your imagination soar by adding a themed coffee bar. Use chalkboard paint for a “menu” of drink choices. Have a great time collecting coffee cups to match your color scheme and bistro theme. And invest in a high-quality coffee machine, single-cup if you must. If you want to play barista, nothing beats a quality espresso/cappuccino maker. You’ll also have to invest in a high-quality burr grinder, however, or ask your local coffee shop to grind beans for you. Place your condiments in a coffee cup or themed serving bowl that can move from coffee bar to bistro table.

If it’s wine you love, add a small wine cellar under your new bistro kitchen counter. Or combine the best of both worlds – have a small refrigerator for your milk and drinks, and an eight-bottle wine cellar in your coffee bar. Add some Italian chef décor, maybe a few rustic touches, and hang your welcome sign.

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