Updating Your Breakfast Bar

Do you have a breakfast bar in your home that’s just kind of blah? Maybe you were really excited to have one, but when you moved in, it quickly became the place the junk mail lived and you left your keys every day, and you never actually used it for its real purpose? If so, let me share with you some great tips and tips to transform your breakfast bar into a place you’ll be excited to use every day! And, I promise they’ll be easy, even for beginners–I did these all while 5 months pregnant (with just a little help)!

Our Blah Breakfast Bar

before picture of breakfast bar

When we moved into our duplex in Virginia, we were very excited about our new breakfast bar. It seemed like the perfect place for me to have a glass of wine after work while Steve was cooking. Or, a great spot for seating when we entertained.

What we didn’t realize at the time was the breakfast bar was unusually tall, so no standard bar stools fit it. And, the butcher block wasn’t sealed, so it stained easily. It quickly fell out of use and became just another catch-all place for junk for over two years.

I finally decided to stop ignoring the breakfast bar and give it a little makeover to make it not only usable, but a standout part of our living room. These are the projects I took on to transform our breakfast bar: adding shiplap, sealing the butcher block, updating the hardware, and ordering new barstools. The majority of the work could be done in a day–you’ll need a few extra days for sealing the butcher block to allow for dry times. Let’s dive in!

Disclosure: The links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you, I earn a small commission if you click the link and purchase the item. The links are products I’ve used and loved in the past (or something very similar). 

Breakfast Bar Updates

Adding Shiplap

added shiplap to the breakfast bar

Our breakfast bar was made out of this awkward half wall between the living room and the kitchen on one side, and cabinets on the other. I had originally painted the half wall the same color as the living room, but it just made the breakfast bar blend into the space even more (sometimes blending in is good; it wasn’t in this case). The breakfast bar needed some design love to help it standout.

So, when I was dying to complete a shiplap project, the breakfast bar seemed like a great place to try shiplap for the first time. Shiplap is such a great accent for walls because it gives the space character, but still allows you to keep the colors neutral.

I wrote all about How to Install Shiplap for Beginner DIYers in my post here, so check it out if you want to add shiplap to your breakfast bar (or any space in your home!). It’ll take you a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, and you’ll need a partner and some power tools to complete the project.

I’m in love with how much character just the shiplap added to the breakfast bar! This may be the only step you need to add that punch that you’re looking for to your space!

Sealing the Butcher Block

sealing the butcher block on the breakfast bar

The next step I took to update my breakfast bar was seal the butcher block counter. The previous owner added this butcher block breakfast bar when he opened the wall between the kitchen and the living room, but he never sealed the butcher block when he installed it. While butcher block is relatively hardy, it needs sealant to protect it from staining and scratches over time.

If you don’t like the natural color of your butcher block, you can stain it prior to sealing. I would buy a few options and try the stain on a corner of the butcher block to see which you like best (don’t worry about staining the top–you can always sand it off when you choose the right color). I really like the natural wood, so I skipped the staining and decided just to apply a sealant.

I wrote all about How to Seal Butcher Block in this post, so check it out for step-by-step instructions!

It’s hard to tell in the pictures that we sealed the bar, as the color only changes slightly. But, preventing scratches and water rings and stains from wine is a huge transformation from where we started!

Updating the Hardware

installing new hardware in the breakfast bar

The original breakfast bar hardware was just added to the blah feeling of the whole space. These white wooden brackets didn’t add any good character to the space; they really just made the space feel more outdated. So, I started scouring the internet for new hardware options, and I found the perfect option on Etsy–not where I expected at all! I bought these amazing 1.5″ Black Iron Brackets from Industrial Farm Co, and I think the really added to the update! It adds a new material (iron) to the space, which makes it more interesting to the eye, yet remains neutral enough that the brackets don’t become the focal point of the space.

To install the hardware simply use wood screws and screw the brackets into the studs in the wall and into the breakfast bar above. Use longer screws for the wall–we used 2.5″ wood screws for the wall, as you will only be able to use shorter screws for the bar itself–we used 3/4″ wood screws for the bar.

new hardware on the breakfast bar

New Barstools

updated breakfast bar

Lastly, we really needed to buy barstools to make our breakfast bar functional (I know, I know–it should have been our first step). Because our breakfast bar was an unusual height, I searched for hours to find barstools that I liked the appearance of, as well as fit under the butcher block correctly.

Finally, I found these Finley Home Palazzo Extra Tall Bar Stools on Hayneedle, and they really are the perfect fit for the space (they don’t seem to be available anymore, but Hayneedle has a great selection of extra tall bar stools!). Just like the rails, the bar stools are neutral that they don’t overwhelm the space but add a new material in the fabric that helps the space become even more visually interesting.

Finished Product!

Voila! I just love how the breakfast bar update turned out. As a reminder, here’s the before:

before picture of the breakfast bar

And, here’s the after!

updated breakfast bar

What do you think? Anything you would change? Any challenges you face with updating your breakfast bar? Let me know!


  1. […] out our posts on How to Install Shiplap and Updating Your Breakfast Bar for other great tips for transforming your breakfast […]

  2. The ship lap really updates the look nicely

    1. Thank you so much! And, thanks for all your help getting it installed!

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