Photo by Chris Casella

Raising the (Home) Bar

Brian Riegel wanted to have a drink 20,000 leagues under the sea, and he wasn’t going to take no for an answer. “I needed someone else who could tell me what’s possible and what’s not possible, but I also chose not to believe certain people until I heard what I wanted,” he said.

Ten months later, the result of his vision and stubbornness is a gleaming steampunk, nautical-themed bar in his basement, one you could see Jules Verne bellying up to.

The biggest part of Riegel’s dream – and the part several carpenters told him wasn’t possible – is the spiraling wooden bar itself. It’s made out of thousands of little pieces of wood bonded together to give the tactile feeling and visual impression of a seashell.

Beyond the woodwork, the rest of the decor fits right in Riegel’s comfort zone. He’s an artist who specializes in found objects (as a child, he was often drawn to “junk” on his father’s family farm), and his travels have nurtured his love of all things ancient.

He did some nautical-themed work before that inspired him to fill the space in his basement with more of the same. To get the materials, he bought some copper piping, asked for things from music stores, recovered pieces from his grandma’s barn, and found the rest.

“I’d never tried anything that big in a standalone form,” he said. “I figured since I’m the client and I’m not making anything else, I could do whatever I wanted.”

For now, he’s ready to crack open a craft beer and enjoy the bar.

“It wasn’t as much about functionality as much as a decoration,” he said “If you have a dream of doing it a certain way, eventually, there’s hopefully someone out there who will help you do it.”