The increasing interest in entertaining has led to changes in the design of key living spaces in the home – most notably the kitchen and living room areas – and the creation of the Great Room. Branching out on the entertainment theme, many homeowners are embracing the idea of having a quieter spot for more intimate gatherings. Enter the wine tasting room and expanded wine cellars.
“Initially, wine cellars were designed to maximize the number of bottles that could be stored,” explains Jim Bilotta, co-owner, Bilotta Kitchens in New York. “However, like restaurant wine cellars, storage has become secondary to ambience and use. Restaurants now serve dinner in their wine cellars (or surrounding them); similarly, our clients like to entertain in their wine cellars/wine rooms as well.”
Bilotta notes that this could mean incorporating a simple tasting area or a full-size antique table to seat eight within the wine room. “Some are even equipped with a separate area for light food preparation and serving, including cabinetry, counters, sink/faucet, dishwasher, microwave, etc.,” he reports. “Clients with the proper space are requiring more than wine storage.”
As a result, he reports that sale prices have increased, since the space is larger and now includes a ‘mini kitchen.’
Refrigeration is clearly the most critical element to the space, as “the most important function of the wine cellar and wine room is to protect the wine,” stresses Bilotta. “Maintaining proper temperature and humidity is paramount.”
“As a designer, it’s one of the first questions you need to ask clients,” offers Janice Stone Thomas, ASID, CKD, principal/designer, Stone Wood Design Inc., in Sacramento, CA. “Is the room just for storage and keeping wine cool, or is it a wine room that requires the right temperature?” She notes that rooms located in the basement or dug out areas are more likely to be the right temperature without extra cooling.
Indeed, Cheryl Hamilton-Gray, CKD, president/owner, Hamilton-Gray Design, in Carlsbad, CA says that while clients love the idea of having a wine room and bringing their friends in for tastings, a refrigerated room precludes comfort. Instead, she often incorporates multiple wine refrigerators into the space to keep the wine cool.
Aesthetically, many wine rooms exude an Old World feel, and that style allows for added decorative touches that inch profits higher.
While Hamilton-Gray notes that she personally follows a more rustic theme for her designs based on the wine rooms of Europe – complete with stone floors and wood or stone walls – that’s not necessarily the overwhelming design for these spaces in the U.S. “Here, many wine rooms have rich cherry furniture [and a more classic, elegant design]. You never have elaborate cabinetry in a European wine room,” she stresses.
“You’re creating a mood,” asserts Vasi Ypsilantis, designer/owner, The Breakfast Room, in Manhasset, NY. “People may have wanted a cherry kitchen, but decided it was too dark. So, they choose to do it in the wine room.”
Influencing wine room designs is the fact that men are heavily involved in the planning. Collecting wine and bringing in friends for tastings is a very big hobby and trend among men, note several designers.
“I haven’t worked with wine connoisseurs as much as I’ve worked with people who just want to have a beverage or bar area,” comments Ypsilantis. “In the past, people wanted a bar. Now they want a wine room. It’s today’s bar. We’ve become more sophisticated.”
“Today’s wine rooms have a much warmer, Northeastern feel to them, maybe incorporating a brick veneer on the walls,” offers Micqui McGowan, CMKBD, partner/designer, Kitchen & Bath Concepts, in Houston, TX. “I see it as recreating that warm look of the cigar bar. It’s a more intimate room. Plus, whenever you want to cool wines, a warmer, darker feel is more consistent with the overall mood than a bright and shiny look.”