Irish-American Interior Design: Make Your House Look Like an Irish Pub: Pub Signs

I can’t be the only one who has wondered what it might be like to live here.

There is an entire series I could do about the Irish pub in America, and I am sure one day I will do it. But for now I will simply say that it has been one of the primary locations for the creation of the Irish-American identity. And this is hardly surprising — we Yanks have a longstanding habit of this sort of thing. The American Revolution was dreamed up in Colonial watering holes. The Marine Corps was planned in a bar called the Tun Tavern. The flashpoint for gay rights in America is named after the bar where it started, the Stonewall Inn, which isn’t surprising. After all, bars were also one of the primary locations for the creation of American LGBT culture. Perhaps only the gay community and the Irish community in America have such a profound cultural relationship with drinking establishments, and its why you’ll still find gay bars and Irish pubs in almost every city in America (sometimes they are the same venue), but won’t find, say, Jewish bars or Polish bars.

There are, of course, all sorts of Irish pubs in America, some of them just dank dives with Irish names, some of them elaborate theme parks dedicated to Irish nostalgia, with gorgeous wooden bars made by the Irish Pub Company and display cases filled with nicknacks from the Emerald Isles. Irish pubs can be embarrassingly naff, or highly idiosyncratic, or overstuffed and homey, but there are more than a few drinkers who , after tossing back a few, have looked around and thought: I wish my home looked like this. Some of them go further: There are a surprising number of people who build Irish pubs in their basement.

Yes, you can build this in your basement.

You needn’t go that far, however. There are many elements of Irish pub design that will serve nicely as interior design inspiration for your house or apartment, and let me start with the most obvious element: The pub sign.

Imagine this hanging in your house at this very moment!

There are all sorts of services that will add your name to a preexisting pub sign template, and some of them are quite nice, (this one from Etsy, as an example is superb) but for the truly serious I recommend two courses of action: Haunt auction sites for an actual Irish-American pub sign, or have your own made. This is a good opportunity to ask yourself, if you ever had a pub, what would you name it. If you’re like me, this is a question you have already thought about quite often. Because my interest is Irish-American history, all my pub names reference Irish-American history, and, me being me, all the references are a bit untoward:

  1. Texas Guinan’s
  2. The Dynamite Skunk
  3. Pistol Local
  4. Boss Dennison’s
  5. Egan’s Rats

This being the age of bespoke, artisan, hand-crafted items, it’s actually quite easy to track down somebody to paint a sign for you — there’s a local pub, just blocks from me, called Sullivan’s, and they have a great old-timey painting of boxer John L. Sullivan on their wall. It was painted by a tattoo artist from the tattoo shop across the street. There are an awful lot of sign painters offering their services online, and here are a few with portfolios that have impressed me:

Of course, the pub sign is only one of dozens of signs that go up in a pub, any of which you can use in your own apartment. There are, for examples, signs for the bathrooom, and Irish Shops offers a solid brass version of this in Irish that I am partial to for $69.

It makes it both easier and harder to find the rest room!

There are also all sorts of novelty signs that are widely available online. If you want your home pub to have a bullshit corner, as an example, well, you’ll have no problem finding a bright red brass plaque to identify where it is.

Irish pubs love to decorate with posters of their products, and, of course, the products have been accommodating. Guinness beer, as an example, has a large selection of reprints of old advertisements available, and they’re awfully cute. This is an Irish-American blog, however, and so I feel compelled to point out that Irish-styled American booze also has merchandise. There was, an an example, William Jameson, who distilled whiskey in Ireland but blended it in America, and so called his liquor “Irish-American Whiskey.” Get some classic ads from that version of Jameson and you’ll have a proper Irish-American pub.

Elegant, distinctive, and historically interesting.

And anything else you might find in a bar, you can probably find in green, helpfully identified as being ap[appropriate for St. Patrick’s Day, such as this wall-mounted bottle opener.

Because green = Irish.

If you’re looking for more, there’s actually a site called Rare Irish Stuff that sells vintage (and vintage styled) pub decor — their catalog is here.

Must … resist … buying … everything.

One last item: If you actually plan to invite friends over to your home/pub, it might be nice to let them know what you have to offer. You could have another sign painted, but instead I suggest getting yourself some chalkboard menus and putting the drinking on dining options on it, like this:

Replace all the options with whiskeys and ales, though.

I have just addressed the question of signage in Irish pubs with this post, and there are a lot more design motifs that can be borrowed from an Irish pub, so expect me to return to this. But for now …

Well, I need a drink.

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Max Sparber

Max Sparber is a playwright, journalist, and history detective in Omaha, Nebraska.