Designing a Wine Cellar
by Neil Quinn
This is a really fun space to design. Often you’re dealing with an unusual shape of room (if part of an existing cellar), or starting one from scratch and all the detail goes into the way you store the bottles, how you plan the bins and what you decide to use in terms of material for the shelves.
One of the first considerations you have to bear in mind when designing a wine cellar is how you’re going to use the space. Is it somewhere to store everyday drinking wine that will last five or so years, or is it somewhere to document and house an investment of fine wine which needs careful handling?
It’s not just as straightforward as an underground room filled with dusty wine racks and a low-arched ceiling. At Yiangou we’ve done everything from installing a spiral cellar– essentially a cylindrical hole which is filled with a specially adapted waterproof bag before lowering a spiral stair around which bottles of wine are stored–to all singing and dancing rooms which include tasting and entertaining areas.
The spiral cellar route looks quite dramatic as the entrance to the staircase will usually be made of a retractable round glass door and LED lights set within the shelving and the staircase set off the cellar within the room. They are an excellent option for smaller spaces or lower budgets.
On the other end of the scale, we’ve recently completed a large cellar which we’ve dug out adjacent to a listed farmhouse which has a new stone-vaulted ceiling, stone columns and sleek slate shelves. There is a large dining table within the cellar so that the owners can entertain guests and fellow collectors for wine tasting sessions.
The ideal environment for wine is, of course, a cellar under an old building with an atmosphere that is cool, damp and dark–and most importantly of all–constant but these days the demand for statement cellars means we’re increasingly designing more contemporary spaces using enhanced lighting schemes and clean stone finishes. This means that we need to introduce elements such as humidity controls to ensure that the wine remains in perfect condition, the labels aren’t damaged–vital if you plan to later sell the wine–and the corks don’t get too dry–if they do, they’ll lose their seal.
Direct light will damage wine and so will the heat emitted by incandescent bulbs but LEDs are perfectly suited for environments such as this as they emit little or no heat and you can ensure there’s enough light in the space but still keep the effect subtle. Rather than go for downlighters in the ceiling, often we’ll suggest an effect where the lighting is seen but the source is invisible for example slotting narrow-width LED rope lighting into the underside of the slate shelves and then installing a few small LED uplighters in the floors to create light pools in the bays.
Floors are often stone, brick or terracotta, which is perhaps a more traditional option or￼￼￼ ￼￼polished concrete finish for a more contemporary aesthetic. Then on the walls and ceilings, we’ve used a Moroccan plaster called ‘tadelkadt’ which is a polished lime plaster that comes from the Marrakech area.
With the ceiling you have an option to go for a flat ceiling or a vaulted–this can depend very much on the aesthetic of the house although there are no hard and fast rules: we’ve designed traditional cellars in contemporary houses and vice versa. There’s sufficient separate between the house and the cellar to ensure that, decoratively speaking, there’s no need to link them.
Similarly you can contrast details effectively, for example, by going for a sleek modern centre table as the focus point in a traditionally decorated space or we’ve designed cantilevered stone steps leading down to a cellar with a wrought iron rail with grape detailing for a truly bespoke effect.