Coll It Craic: Creating a Speakeasy Irish Pub in our Backyard
Updated: Mar 17, 2022
March 17, 2022
How many people can say they have an Irish Pub in their backyard? Better yet, how many can say they built that pub from the ground up?
When we moved into our first home, our backyard was filled with two large structures. One was a 36-foot garage that would become my husband's music studio. The other was a 20-foot shed that the previous homeowners used for woodworking, storing gardening supplies, and other lawn essentials. While I love to be outdoors (when it’s warm), I knew we didn’t need the entire shed for our bikes and Ryobi tools.
It was back in May 2021 when we were sharing a few beers around the fire-pit that our friend Danielle suggested we turn part of the shed into a bar. She's obsessed with tiny homes and van conversions and said we could easily do it! Little did she know, she was volunteering her free services!
In July 2021 demolition began, and by the end of August, we had a fully-furnished little pub in our backyard.
My great, great grandparents Ellen Murphy and Patrick O'Connell were born in County Cork, Ireland in 1856 and 1847, respectively, and eventually traveled to New London, Connecticut. My parents decided to honor their heritage through their children's names. Not only does my name Colleen mean "Irish Girl" in Gaelic, but I also have a younger sister, whose name is quite literally, Ireland. My other sister, Fallon, is derived from the Gaelic clan name O’Fallanhain, meaning “governor” or “supremacy.” To say our family has always been proud of our Irish heritage would be an understatement. So, when thinking about the theme for our pub, bringing in my Irish heritage was a no-brainer.
But, as we continued to plan out this theme, I was reminded of an item that was sitting in our basement without a proper home. This item was given to us as we celebrated our first married Christmas. We were at my Dad’s house, and after all the presents were opened, he ran outside, bringing us one more gift. I quickly noticed that there was fur underneath the flaps of the box, which revealed itself to be a mounted Staghead. My husband and I are known as StagMates because we both attended Fairfield University and married a fellow stag (due to the Fairfield mascot being a male deer). Of course, my Dad couldn’t resist the opportunity to give us our own Stag! In order to give him a proper home, we decided to blend the two, and The Stag Head: Irish Pub was born!
First, we took out all the existing shelving and started with a clean slate.
Before doing anything else, we called my artistic sister, Fallon, to assist us in creating a to-scale floor plan.
Based on this drawing, and testing out how much space we felt we needed when sitting at a bar stool, sitting on a bench, or walking around the small space, we had our roadmap.
From there, we created a wall to divide the 20-foot shed into two distinct spaces. The shed would continue to be accessible through the door on the south end, while the pub entrance would be through the barn-style doors on the east side.
Installation and drywall came next. None of the walls in the shed had either, so we had to start from scratch. The goal was to use this space all year round and only need to add a small space heater or air conditioning unit, depending on the season.
Prior to completing the drywall, my husband pulled electrical from the shed side of the structure to add a number of new outlets and wiring for lights.
My husband and Danielle then worked together to create the bar structure out of leftover wood from our previous fireplace build, There was a lot of testing out the overhang of the front bar top to ensure we had enough space for a guest's legs to fit underneath, but still be able to comfortably reach their beverage on top.
Eventually, we sanded the top and stained it with a combination of Jacobean and Summer Oak Varathane stain oil with foam brushes and a rag. After it was fully dry, we applied a few coats of Varathane Ultimate Polyurethane (Crystal Clear Satin) with a bristle brush. The sides of the bar were made out of leftover Eased Edge Pine Shiplap Boards (from our fireplace build) and painted the same white as the flag wall: Alabaster (Sherman Williams).
From there we decided to change out the window. My Dad, as I mentioned, is a collector of all things old and new. He firmly believes “why throw it away, when someone might need it.” This worked in our favor (this time around) as he had a window that worked perfectly for us to replace the small window in the shed on the north end. Just making that small change, brought so much more light into the building and made it feel that much bigger. My husband and his good friend, Chris, assisted with the framing of the window and the installation, which they both agreed was much harder than they imagined. But, now they are able to brag every time they're sharing a beer and looking at their handy work!
Painting followed, which was where my expertise started:
First, I painted three walls: Antique White (Sherman Williams)
For our fourth accent wall, I painted an Irish Flag: Lucky Green (Sherman Williams), Alabaster (Sherman Williams), Osage Orange (Sherman Williams)
The floor and inside of the doors were painted last: Black Magic (Sherman Williams)
We ultimately decided to keep the ceiling exposed, as we felt closing it up would make the space feel much smaller and take away the speakeasy atmosphere.
One of my husband's many positions is the Director of Music at a church. Coincidentally during the months of our build, his church was replacing their hundred-year-old pews, which provided us with the perfect seating for a small nook.
When we took our engagement photoshoot, we snapped a few in an Irish Pub in my hometown of Niantic, CT. One of our favorite photos was one with two pints of Guinness, which made for the perfect wall decor.
The rest of the images, I downloaded from Etsy and placed in frames purchased from Michaels.
Definition of Ireland: GrandandLovelyPrints
Map of Ireland: PurePrint
Our friends at AR Workshop (Fairfield) provided us with the perfect bar decal and stencil for our welcome sign.
The floating shelves and brackets were purchased from Home Depot and strategically placed so we could fit taller alcohol bottles on the shelves.
In addition to the shelves, we wanted a way to store wine glasses that also allowed us to save room. We found racks for under cabinets and installed them on the ceiling.
All of the light fixtures were found on Amazon:
The rest of the furniture and some signage were found on Facebook Marketplace or thrift shops in our area, repurposed for this space. This includes all the bar stools, coffee table, wooden cooler, and mirror.
All of the glassware was accumulated from our life together and gifts throughout the years.
For our grand opening, we had a "Fill the Pub" party where friends and family brought us bottles to fill our stash, which are many of the ones you see on the shelves.
In Loving Memory
Unfortunately, our family experienced a devastating loss this past January when my father-in-law, Daniel, passed away unexpectedly. Our friends, and frequent visitors of the Pub, gave us a beautiful plaque to memorialize his favorite seat in the pub and remind us that he's always sharing a drink with us.
(middle blue shirt)
In Loving Memory Daniel J. Horstmann "Such a Lovely Place"
P.S. Based on fire-marshal codes, our pub occupancy is 4 persons, but we've been known to pack in quite a few more when we're entertaining --- Shh, don't tell!