"People have finally realized that if they're going to spend all this money on a wine cellar, they want it to look good from the outside looking in," Jim Cash, founder of Revel Custom Wine Cellars, says.
He's referring to one of the biggest trends to hit the wine world in recent years, specifically the move toward glass-encased, well-lit wine rooms and away from more traditional basement storage units with humdrum racking.
The trend started about a decade ago, when folks began asking for cellars that were not only functional for storage but also served as statement pieces that could be incorporated into the overall design of the home. These days, it's not uncommon for a collector to keep a small cellar adjacent to the dining area (oftentimes in addition to a larger storage cellar elsewhere), primarily for visual effect.
Asked where the inspiration came from, designers are quick to point to restaurants.
"There was a moment when just putting the wine storage in the middle of the restaurant as a feature element became a status thing," says Matthew Goodrich, director of design at AvroKO, a design firm responsible for spaces at RN74, Saxon + Parole and Faith & Flower. "These days, wine is still very much part of the visual experience in restaurants, but it's more integrated into the space."
Mario Batali's Hong Kong steakhouse, Carnevino, is another AvroKO design. Its sleek, glass-fronted walnut cabinets in the entryway showcase a selection from the restaurant's wine library. More subtle than a glass-and-metal tower, it's a sophisticated way of highlighting the wine program.
The trend of mixing contemporary and time-honored styles has also spiked in the past three years, according to Curtis Dahl, co-owner of Joseph & Curtis Custom Wine Cellars. While more and more customers are asking for a modern feel, fewer are looking for an all-glass space with stainless steel trimmings. "Designers are calling it transitional," he says. "It's really a mixture between traditional and modern styles, so you'll see wood and metal elements used together with plenty of clean lines."
The glowing wine wall at Justin Smillie's Upland
The use of LED lights has also become increasingly popular, with many collectors mimicking in their home the warm glow of backlit bottles seen in bars and restaurants (like Justin Smillie's Upland). "It creates a kind of jewel box effect," Goodrich says, and adds that simply orienting the bottles so that they're resting at an angle, rather than flat on their sides, can add an interesting visual element. Cash agrees: "We're seeing a very strong trend away from the traditional wine racks that only show the cork end of the bottle," he says. "People want to see the labels." (His company, Revel, actually specializes in custom-made wine wheels and drawers, which not only function better than a traditional rack but also have a modern look.)
There's plenty of inspiration to be drawn from restaurants in terms of glassware displays, too, regardless of whether you're cellaring your wine or not. Something as simple as adding a decanting station can add a bit of glamour to an entertaining space, Goodrich says.
"In restaurants, glassware and decanters diffused throughout the dining room help the service to feel more theatrical," he explains. "Just having a really beautiful sideboard or a wine cart allows you to enjoy that experience at home."
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