Secret doors, historical details and a sense of occasion … The new home cellar is a space to savour.

By STEPHEN CRAFTI

WINE STORAGE HAS gone the way of the home office: reimagined and enlarged to become an architectural talking point rather than a mere afterthought. Spurred by the changes wrought by Covid-19, home cellars and tasting rooms have become increasingly popular, reflecting a shift that sees more of us staying in and hosting smaller events, and enjoying a home-cooked meal with a special vintage.

Cellars come in many forms – some are as simple as a trapdoor in a timber floor that reveals a treasure trove below. Others are far more elaborate, such as the one at a grand home in Kew that occupies a former World War II air-raid shelter. From the outside, the only hint of the cellar’s existence is a small concrete dome surrounded by manicured garden beds. Once used as a water tank, the wine vault includes a new concrete floor, concrete rendered walls and steel shelves. A skylight provides additional light.

“It was the perfect space for a cellar, an ideal pre-dinner spot for guests,” says NTF Architecture’s Brett Nixon, who designed the tasting room. It is modest in size (about three metres in diameter) and the architects included the existing steel staircase in their refurbishment. “This cellar is certainly not high-tech but, given it was an air-raid shelter, there’s an even temperature over the entire year,” explains Nixon, who added a small round steel table to complete the area.

Across the river in Toorak, Cera Stribley Architects didn’t have to look far to find the perfect spot to store wine in a new multi-level dwelling. The spacious home features a separate guest wing and generous entertaining areas, as well as a basement car park that houses seven cars and a spectacular cellar that runs some 10 metres along a glass wall, displaying more than 1,000 bottles of wine. The glass cabinets are 40 centimetres deep and filled with bottles: red wines are on one side of a secret door, and white wines are on the other. The secret door is also transparent and has glass on either side, displaying bottles that have been secured into place. “As you can imagine, it’s quite a heavy door to open,” says architect Chris Stribley.

While not immediately apparent, the same door also leads to a home cinema, complete with its own bar and lounge-style seating. When questioned about the dimensions of each glass module and the number of bottles in each, Stribley explains, “You normally purchase a dozen bottles in a box so we designed 11 shelves with a display shelf in the middle.” As one would expect, the cabinets are correctly cooled and kept at an even temperature year-round. What could have been a row of utilitarian wine racks is now an architectural statement and a boon for wine buffs.

Architect Nick Harding, director of Ha Architecture, has designed wine cellars for a number of domestic projects, including one for a 1930s Art Deco townhouse in North Melbourne. Formerly a mechanic’s workshop, the building was completely gutted to create a new three-level home. Located on the ground level, the approximately four¬≠by-four-metre cellar features a built-in tiled table with tiled benches on either side. French-oak boxes have been slotted into the cavity walls, along with oak shelves, to display bottles.

One of Melbourne’s most lavish wine rooms lies within an award-winning period home in Albert Park that was renovated by B.E Architecture. Located at the core of the grand Victorian house, between a formal sitting area and a study, the cellar is accessed via arched doors made of smoked oak and glass. The temperature ¬≠controlled space houses glass cabinets lined with steel and a custom marble dining table, designed by the architects, that sets the scene for intimate evening soirees.

Timber details bring warmth to the grand proportions, while McGuire dining chairs invite one to linger and relish the experience. With about 3,000 bottles reflecting the light, the effect is akin to being inside a magical jewel box. “It just seemed such an appropriate place for this room, borrowing subtle light from the neighbouring spaces, while still providing a sense of intimacy and occasion,” says Andrew Piva, a director at B.E Architecture.

With cellars like these, there’s no better way to unwind from the day, whet your whistle and nurture your soul.

“People are investing more money in wine and are keen to display their collections in an appropriate way,” says Harding.