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Should I permit my architect or the ID to design my wine cellar?

A White Paper by ChicagoWineCellarExpert.com

Topic: Should I permit my architect or the ID to design my wine cellar?

If the architect or the interior designer (ID) has a wine cellar in their home…possibly. If they don’t own a wine cellar, the answer is always a firm, no. I admire architects. My company brings me into contact with some of the finest and most creative architects in the US. I marvel at their work, but most have never done a wine cellar. And when creativity meets functionality, a collision occurs, sometimes. Check out the picture below. This is the wine cellar in the Terrace 16 restaurant in Trump Tower Chicago and is a great example of creativity run amok.

If you have never been to the 16th floor restaurant, one enters between two, floor-to-ceiling wine displays, as shown. It is a gorgeous cellar. BUT, neither the architect who designed the racking nor the executives at Trump Towers had ever owned a wine cellar. Ask your architect, what’s functionally wrong with this display? Call me and I’ll tell you, or, simply ask the sommelier at the Terrace 16. Warning: if you ask the sommelier, be prepared for a rant. Find a place to sit. He will talk your head-off. He detests what it does to the wine.

Let’s try another. Below, are photos of an architect-designed cellar in Hinsdale, Illinois. As you can see, it is gorgeous. What design flaw caused the client to demand that the builder rip this out and replace it, at a cost to the builder of almost $100,000 in rework? (This was a spec-home.) Again, neither the architect nor the builder had ever owned a wine cellar. Had the builder not sold to a serious collector, the wine cellar might have remained as built. What’s the problem?

This style build material is called sewer-tile. Beautiful but totally impractical.

This next picture shows a collaboration between a builder and a kitchen cabinet maker. The design is quite impressive. The mill-work guy made what he knew how to build, given the width of the space. What’s wrong with the design? Hint: Count the number of bottles in one, fully-stocked diamond bin. (If you are still in the dark don’t try to design wine racking.)

The next one is a favorite of mine. The owner keeps it well-stocked with fake wine. The cellar is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. It is right off the dining room on the main floor, and the entrance is shaped like the door of an old gothic cathedral in Europe. Too bad, the collector has set-up a static display, and never stores his wine for drinking in the cellar. Why not?

The architect who designed the cellar pictured above works in the Western Suburbs is one of the most highly regarded in Illinois.

Full disclosure, I loathe Pinterest. Interior Designers leaf through the pictures and sometimes land upon this monstrosity. It is gorgeous, but is at least impractical by a third. The cellar is in Beverly Hills. The racking will never look as good as it does in this picture. Why, you ask? You tell me.

Last one. Cellars should be practical. What is impractical about the cellar below?

Give up? Read my paper about condensation in all-glass wine cellars. We live in the Midwest. During August and September, the outside air becomes very humid. This racking is screwed to the floor and the ceiling. Condensation occurs on the inside of a glass box wine cellar. Take a look at the picture below. (It was taken while lying on the floor.) Look at the glass on either side. ‘Nuff said?

And, I haven’t even begun writing about wine cellar cooling debacles. In the cellar below, the builder thought that sizing a cellar for cooling was a function of the square footage of the room. He purchased the smallest and least costly cooling system available. The system is too small to correct the condensation problem that the client is experiencing. Now what?

If you are considering placing the design function for your new cellar in the hands of an architect or an interior designer, ask to see pictures of the cellars they have completed. No pictures forthcoming? Run away. On the other hand, if either shows you pictures of racking without wine in it, run.

Take a look at my website. All pictures show wine in the racking. Why? Because I always return to the client a year after install to take photos and ask this question, “Now that you’ve lived with the racking design for a year, what would you do differently in your next cellar?” The discussion that follows (usually over a glass of wine that I couldn’t afford.) turns into a one-day, college course in wine cellar design. When designers and architects fail to ask this question of former clients, they forego an excellent opportunity to update their skills.

If you wish to play some more, check out the pictures below. In terms of racking, what’s wrong?

My best, Rick Grigsby (Owner)
Chicago Wine Cellar Expert Inc.

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  • I vetted seven companies before choosing Rick’s. The job was done beautifully, but what really blew me away was his response to problems after the cellar was installed and paid-for. For three days, Rick lived in my cellar overseeing the fixing of a very finicky cooling unit. That service after the sale is reason enough to recommend him. He truly cares about his work and about people.

    J.P. from Barrington Hills, IL
  • He crawled on his hands and knees though the steam pipes with the building engineer, stood by me during my meeting with the condo association and held my architect’s hand making certain that everything was right. Rick is the best!

    M.L from Lincoln Park, Chicago
  • Rick’s company did an incredible job!

    F.G from Winnetka, Illinois
ampedShould I permit my architect or the ID to design my wine cellar?