Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Building A Wine Cellar – 3 Simple Ways To ‘WoW’ your space!

So you’ve decided on where to create your space/room/cellar…what next? The room construction must be done of course – but wait – spend a few minutes here and consider your options. Things that differentiate a room from ‘A ROOM’ can be quite frankly the simple things. Apart from the racking itself the biggest visual impact comes from 3 simple factors: 1-Color, 2 – Textures, and 3 – Lighting.  
Color and textures are closely related but are still separate issues (eg. wood can provide a noticeable texture even a theme but stain it light or dark [read color] and the feel of the space changes so we’ll address that in a minute). Walls and ceiling are your largest color canvas assuming of course that you not trying to make an overt statement with your flooring. Don’t be afraid to go big with a strong color like Burgundy or Coffee colors. Rich colors provide a classy backdrop for pretty much all wood and/or black steel racking. A couple gallons of paint and a few hours work will create a dramatic effect, an impressive space and a visually pleasing place to return to when in need of a bottle or two for you or guests or maybe just –a brag tour (aka “…have you seen my new wine cellar?”)
As I mentioned wood provides a fitting backdrop texture that is easily colorized to suit the look and feel of the room you are trying to achieve. Most often applied to walls and or ceilings with a T&G (tongue and groove) format, it looks GREAT! Whether you are going for a modern style or contemporary it can be mixed with other mediums or used a la carte to compliment almost any look. When looking into other texture types keep in mind that very expensive materials for special visual effects will most likely be covered by racking/bottles in a lot of cases and therefore kinda pointless to spend alot on. Make sure you consider how your choice in this matter will contrast with the flooring, your other major color contributor in the room. For walls/ceilngs we have used T&G redwood, fir and cedar in the wood department; reclaimed brick veneer: man-made (looks real) stone in dry-stack style.
If choosing new flooring is realistic then consider 4 beautiful cellar winners: flagstone, slate, wood and tile. Stamped concrete can be colorized and made to look like a natural stone or a paver and should not be discounted as a good alternative if you have the option of raising the floor more than a couple inches. Flagstone, slate, wood and tile floors can be installed with the least rise in height, least preparation and least amount of height transition in contrast with existing adjacent floors. There is something about flagstone that is very ‘old world’ and fitting for a wine cellar floor especially when you are keeping the earthtones palette for the rest of the room. Slate and wood floors have a warmth about them that is inviting. Tile comes in almost endless choices of colors and textures for any design style and taste from large quarry tile to tumbled marble to elongated woodgrain textures. Take your time and choose carefully for a space you’ll never tire of visiting.
The right lighting is important. When your cellar can be viewed from outside by means of a thermopane glass door or partition wall your lighting options become even more important. Being able to see into this ‘inner sanctum’ offers the opportunity to use effective lighting inside the cellar to create a rich ambience in the adjacent room(s) which are usually a den, family room or living room. I try to create a focal point in the floorplan where lighting can have a more dramatic effect. Flush-mount pots in the ceiling at specific intervals in directly front of racking for a down-lit spot effect looks perfect every time and can also be achieved by ceiling hugger type track lighting with multiple adjustable/moveable heads. Continuous lighting strips of L.E.D. or rope lighting along a bank of angled display bottle racking has a tremendous impact and isn’t cost prohibitive at all. Put your lighting on a dimmer for better control. If you are using a cooling unit for the space you may not be as concerned about heat but otherwise consider using light sources that create less/little heat vs. high heat…..CFB (compact florescent bulbs) or better yet H.O (high output) LED’s versus halogen and regular filament bulbs. Remember that heat is not friendly to wine and should be avoided aggressively. UV rays are also a no no, so avoid allowing sunlight into your cellar by using a UV blocking film for glass wall sections and doors where sunlight can reach.

Considering these simple details will make for a functional and beautiful space that won’t break the bank while still looking fabulous.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Build A Wine Cellar - Getting Started

Hello and Welcome,
I hope to give some helpful guidance for those who are thinking about putting in a wine cellar at home in particular. Besides the opportunity to increase their real estate value as well as have their favorite vintages conveniently at hand, creating a space devoted to wine storage is also a personally fulfilling endeavor that some feel brings a similar satisfaction to collecting fine art, evoking a real sense of pride in ownership.

So, where do you start? Well lets keep in mind that there are several factors that need consideration to avoid wasting time and money. Lets take a look at them now:

1. How many bottles will I be storing? - Whether you are going to build a cellar to store the wine you already own or are now going to begin collecting you must get an idea of what capacity you will need ideally. Factor in for growth and unexpected special purchases. For example if you expect to get started with a cellar quantity of 200-300 bottles over the next 2 years, a modest beginning, your cellar should be able to handle 25-30% more capacity. Why? This will give you space to purchase special finds as well as try out investment collecting on a small scale if you feel like it. The cost to put in an additional 50-100 bottles over what you know you’ll need is minor and the benefits are clear. Where possible give some thought to future expansion that won’t mean re-doing the existing space unnecessarily. We’ll discuss this more later.

2. What kind of racking should I use? – This is a decision best balanced between practical storage needs and looks. Fortunately it always looks good to mix racking styles and this usually provides the most flexible storage solutions at the same time. Your choices in racking are commonly as follows: individual bottle, full case bins, diamond bin racking, horizontal display, vertical display, angled display, specialized sized racking ( for 1.5 ltr. Magnum bottles, Champagne,  375 ml bottles like Ice Wines and late harvest wines, Burgundy racking, Bordeaux racking etc. ), inside or outside corner racking. See examples . There are limitless options for arranging and grouping these styles together. I suggest allowing the space/room size and the functionality thereof to be your determining factors. Access and visibility are also important factors. Simple rules of thumb can be used to make the best decisions though so don’t worry about future regrets. Together we can make sure ahead of time that its right. 

3. Will I need to cool the space? – A couple other questions must be answered first: How long will I be keeping bottles before drinking or selling them? How variable is the temperature in the space I will be using? If you are constantly rotating by consuming your collection and the room stays at a fairly constant and comfortable temperature, as most modern houses do thanks to central air systems for heating and cooling, you may not need to invest in a cooling unit as your collection will be in a fairly controlled environment by default.
Cooling your cellar becomes more important when the space/room is prone to higher than 60-70% humidity and fluctuation in temperatures greater than 1-2 degrees daily. Traditionally cooling units maintain temperatures in a cellar in the low 50’s range for best long-term conditions. Labels will form mold and corks will dry out and shrink when highs and lows occur, both of which can adversely affect your collection. Some wines are recommended to be aged for 1-5 years before reaching their peak therefore calling for a reasonably controlled storage environment during that time. You know what you will be collecting and ideal consumption dates so weigh the factors carefully.

4. How will the space function? – For many this will not be a factor as a pleasing storage is all that is desired. For some who have more space to devote to a wine cellar more options can be considered such as creating an inviting place with lighting and design features that say “This is a special place”. If space allows a small tasting/decanting area with a countertop is relatively easy to include in any design. Adding a table and chairs/stools makes entertaining in your cellar an option. 
In many of the installations I’ve done careful attention has been given to what the room looks like from the entrance as it has often been adjacent to and visible from an active living space. This is particularly when you’ll want to think about lighting, color of racking and walls, entry door style and so forth as these will dramatically impact the “feel”. Having made the effort to create a beautiful space, you will be rewarded with the many compliments of those who see it as well as your own inner contentment each time you open that door.

Next post will discuss the advantages of the different styles of racking as well 3 easy ways to make your cellar look “wow” without breaking the bank.
All the best,