On the surface, this might seem like just another custom home with a lot of fancy technology. Ordinary it is not; packed with a high level of custom technology, it sure is. Most of the technology is hidden, as is the case with many custom homes. The owners of this home in London, Ontario, Canada, however, wanted one element to really stand out.
The wine cellar is not in the basement or tucked in a back room. It’s the centerpiece of the home, positioned prominently in the main living space. It’s a glass-enclosed showpiece on display for everyone to enjoy.
Of course, the environment inside the wine cellar needs to be controlled, but its interaction with the environment on the other side of the glass also was considered. In addition, the mechanical equipment needed to be hidden.
Design of the wine cellar was conceptual initially, says Brad Skinner, president, Skinner & Skinner Architects Inc., London, Ontario. “We knew where it would be, and that it would be glass, and how it would interact with the other spaces. I think the TV (over the fireplace) and the wine cellar feed off each other in the space. They are two main interior pieces of functioning technology that play off each other at different parts of the day.”
A specialist was brought in to build the cellar with help from the builder, Aleck Harasym, president and owner, Harasym Homes Inc., London, Ontario. “They brought expertise in building something like this. The mechanical system was expensive just for the wine cellar itself, not to mention the rest of the house. As the builder, I had to take a close look at the structure and reinforce the area for the weight created by all the bottles,” he says.
On the opposite end of the main living area, a flat-screen TV is both prominently displayed and at other times cleverly hidden above the fireplace thanks to a custom motorized panel. As complicated as the wine cellar is, the TV posed the greatest challenge to Rick Ho, owner, London Audio Ltd., London, Ontario. At least six sets of drawings were completed for it, he says, and ultimately a deeper structure was required than originally planned. “The tolerances vertically were zilch. The moving panel would only go up so far because it hit the roofline.
“The entire front panel of that wall retracts and we needed clearances up there. We also needed space to route the ventilation below,” Ho says. “And it had to be deeper to accommodate the ventilation and TV. A concrete floor and footings were used to support the weight of the fireplace.”
Skinner wanted something simple, clean and serene. “It was our intention that things like the TV be hidden when not in use, and would blossom when they were being used. It’s nice to be in a space and not have a blank TV staring at you. And it’s nice to not even know the TV is there.”
TVs in another room also presented challenges. The master bathroom features his and hers TVs behind the mirror. This proved to be a daunting task, Ho says. Finding sheets of glass bigger than 9 ft. in length that are optical grade and a two-way mirror was not easy. “When that’s the principal mirror in the home and you’re hiding a TV behind it, it’s a whole other story,” he says. “We got samples from glass manufacturers; we’d hold them up and they would pass the test. Then when we got the 9-ft. piece with all the idiosyncracies in the finish, they weren’t suitable. And as it turned out, the vendor who solved the problem was only 30 minutes away.”
Significant architectural elements such as a display-grade wine cellar, a TV hidden behind a movable panel and two TVs hidden behind a 9-ft. tall mirror don’t come together overnight. These elements must be discussed in the planning stage, Skinner says. “I went over all of it in the early stages with the client and the entire team,” he adds.