Designer expertise helps build a wine cellar


Q: My husband got into collecting wines three years ago and now he wants to build a "cellar." The problem is, we don't have a cellar. Our house is built on a concrete slab. We know there are certain things we need to accomplish such as temperature control and keeping the corks wet by storing bottles on their side, but we don't have a clue what kind of a contractor we'd need for this project. What do you suggest?

A: I suggest that you do a bit of research yourself, so when you go looking for professional design and building help, you will be able to talk the talk. As with any interior design project, you, the client, should be prepared to frame things out, so to speak, by clearly communicating just what you want in the finished product. You should know, for example, how many bottles you plan to store and what's the best way to keep different wines. What kind of climate control will you need? Do you want a lockable door? How about including a table or seating grouping for entertaining?


America's growing infatuation with wines has created construction companies that specialize in building cellars for the care and keeping of collections. One source for a list of custom construction companies is available at

On the other hand, designing a wine "cellar," even if it's above ground, shares many of the same problems and elements as designing a kitchen. You should also be able to find the expertise you need in a local kitchen designer. Check your yellow page listings or visit kitchen specialty studios and design showhouses. You could also ask friends and neighbors or click on and look for designers in your area who are certified by the National Kitchen & Bath Association.

The wine room in the photo we show here was created by such a kitchen specialist (Orren Pickell Designers & Builders), using handsome hardwood cabinet elements from Wood-Mode. Like yours, this "cellar" is above-ground. It's also as attractive as it is generous in storage and long on charm. There's even a table for tasting with a top that displays a fine collection of corks under glass.

Q: I want to confer with you before I call my painter back to redo our living-dining room. We spent weeks picking just the right shade of light green, which looked perfect when he first painted the rooms last winter, but now the color has changed so it almost clashes with our new rug, which has an all-over pattern in mostly burnt orange. When I spoke to him on the phone, the painter said something about paint changing color over time, but this has only been a matter of a few months.

A: Actually, your painter put it incorrectly: today's scientifically formulated paints are minor miracles of technology when it comes to coverage and consistency of color. What has changed is your perception of the color. Color experts have a word for the phenomenon: "metamerism." It's a subtle shift in the appearance of a color that can be caused by several factors: a change in the season; variations in natural light from one geographic region to another; and certainly by the juxtaposition of another, influential block of color.

I think your new orange rug may be the culprit. Light bouncing off the floor reflects its hue onto the green walls, causing the color to look different than it did when the floor was bare. Repainting the walls won't cure the "problem" - if, indeed, it is a problem at all in this era of iridescent, shimmering and layered colors.

Designers who once fought for consistency are now going out of their way to conjure colors that take on a life of their own.

Q: How big should an area rug be if I'm going to use it under the dining table?

A: Big enough to allow diners to push back in their chairs without pushing the chair legs off the edge of the carpeting and getting all tangled up. Gale Steves, "Design Diva" for Karastan, suggests that you allow 30 inches all around, measuring out from the edge of the table.

Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of "Hampton Style" and associate editor of Country Decorating Ideas. Please send your questions to her at Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112-0190, or online at

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