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  • Stephen Crafti

Cork & concrete

In days gone by, wine cellars were just holes in the floor where one stacked a few bottles. Today, many are far more sophisticated, offering guests an entirely new pre-dinner experience in your home, writes Stephen Crafti.

Basements have traditionally been the perfect place for a media room. These darkened spaces adjacent to the car park don’t allow the sound of a television to permeate the rest of the house. While such retreats remain on people’s wish lists, those with a penchant for a good drop are finding a better use for the basement these days – as a wine cellar.

Strict climate controls let guests relax in comfort as they soak up the wine-bar aesthetic in the cellar of this North Melbourne home.
Strict climate controls let guests relax in comfort as they soak up the wine-bar aesthetic in the cellar of this North Melbourne home.

Many people have discovered the pleasure of enjoying their favourites in these intimate spaces with friends before a meal. Molecule has designed a number of wine cellars in private homes, from the simple fit-out with a few wine racks and fridges to entire rooms. At one large apartment in South Yarra, Melbourne, what was once a ballroom in a stately manor had already been converted into an open-plan kitchen, dining room and living area before Molecule’s project began.


However, the basement, accessed from the living area by a spiral staircase, was simply for storage. Not anymore. Although a relatively modest (30 square metres), it was augmented by a separate corridor. “There was more than sufficient room for the three glass-fronted wine fridges in the corridor, allowing us to transform the main space into a bar and lounge,” says architect Anja de Spa, co-director of Molecule.


The South Yarra abode’s dark and moody wine cellar features high-gloss two-pack black paint finishes on the walls and joinery. A black-mirrored ceiling and dark tiles on the wall add to the mystique. Complete with four purple velvet swivel chairs and a table, it’s like stepping back into the 1970s glam period. “Guests can have a pre-dinner drink or finish the evening with a cocktail,” de Spa says.


For a new four-level house (including the basement) in Vaucluse, Sydney, MHN Design Union has provided a purpose-built wine cellar. As the property has a steep incline, the cellar appears to be carved out of the site’s massive sandstone rock. “We were able to dedicate a separate room for the wine cellar, with more than enough space for a comfortable lounge,” says architect Kevin Ng, a director of MHN.


As with many of the features in the Vaucluse home, the stainless-steel wine racks were custom made, across two walls. Guests can wander down to the cellar and select a bottle of wine but generally it’s a case of having a pre-dinner drink and moving up to the off-form concrete island bench in the kitchen directly above before being seated for dinner. No two of Ng’s wine cellars are identical, each responds to the specific requirements of the client.


It’s that ‘70s nightclub vibe, complete with black-mirrored ceiling and purple velvet swivel chairs, in this South Yarra cellar. This page: The sandstone rock face provides a dramatic backdrop for lounging in comfort amid stainless-steel wine racks in Vaucluse.
It’s that ‘70s nightclub vibe, complete with black-mirrored ceiling and purple velvet swivel chairs, in this South Yarra cellar. This page: The sandstone rock face provides a dramatic backdrop for lounging in comfort amid stainless-steel wine racks in Vaucluse.

There was room for the three glass-fronted wine fridges in the corridor, allowing us to transform the main space into a bar and lounge.

“It’s not dissimilar to designing built-in dressing rooms, making sure each item of clothing has its own nook,” Ng explains. In this cellar, there is enough room for more than 200 bottles. Other cellars by MHN include kitchenettes. At a converted three-level warehouse in North Melbourne, Ha Architecture found sufficient room adjacent to the double garage for a wine cellar.


“I used the cellar to separate the guest bedroom,” Ha director Nick Harding says. He devised a storage system that would allow each bottle to be placed at an angle and easily accessed. Concealed LED lights ensure each bottle is easily identified and a tiled plinth below these shelves includes areas to stack boxes. In the centre of the cellar is a tiled bench and bar stools with a sink at one end for rinsing glasses.


This room is climate controlled and designed for pre-dinner drinks and wine tasting. “My client is a part-owner in a restaurant and has a penchant for Italian wine,” says Harding, who was mindful of the need for strict climate control. Concrete floors and concrete block work-rendered walls seal the environment. “You could be sitting in a wine bar,” Harding says, “but you’re at home.”

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