A Culinary Centerpiece
Famed interior designer Adam Tihany erected this breathtaking 27-foot wine cellar at New York City’s style-minded French culinary institution, Le Cirque, when it relocated about a decade ago. The iron and glass tower holds approximately 2,300 bottles at 58–64?F, with bottles organized by value, from top (most expensive) to bottom. Trained in France’s Basque Country, wine director Paul Altuna buzzes up and down the moveable ladder of the award-winning collection while under constant watch from diners. Altuna says that’s part of the show, helping drive the design.
“During the night, the people who eat at the café see us (working in the tower),” Altuna says, but stresses that wine is the real star here. “No question, it had to be glass for the people to see all the bottles.”
The takeaway: To go all-glass at home, you’ll need a more powerful cooling unit, as insulated glass is less efficient than traditional cellar walls, concrete or brick. Cool air must be pumped in at the top of the cellar, as heat rises.
A sleek modern aesthetic defines this 1,800-bottle wine collection in a modest apartment space on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Designer Randall Straaton of Treffen & Co. consulted with Wine Storage Consultant David Moseler from Wine Enthusiast to, says Straaton, “create a very stable and controlled environment to both age and store the client’s substantial wine collection in a pre-war landmark on the upper floors of a high-rise residential building.”
The result was an unconventional design filled with ingenious solutions like an enclosed ventilation system and protective windows that block UV rays. The cellar was built with glass and cherry wood in a room that serves as a second library. Since it’s essentially a room within a room, the glass “keeps the space open in a modern way in the context of an otherwise traditional library,” he says.
The takeaway: Cellars in an urban space often need to do double duty (showcase and actual storage), so utilizing glass walls and doors for your cellar allows everyone to admire your collection. This design incorporates metal display racking and traditional wooden wine racks to increase capacity. Keeping the glass-walled cellar the right temperature in a small space was another hurdle, but a hidden EuroCave cooling unit does the trick and allows for long-term storage.
Notes from the Underground
Manhattan-based designer Steven Gambrel created this one-of-a-kind subterranean “keyhole” cellar in a summer home in Long Island’s Sag Harbor. In the existing underground space, Gambrel transformed a water cistern into a romantic, low-lit cellar and entertaining masterpiece.
“You’re escorted down this tiny staircase, [see] the beautiful glowing wine cistern and this big long candlelit table, and that’s where you have dinner,” Gambrel says, adding that the concept was driven by the existing house and its materials.
“If the outside of the house is made of brick or stone or wood that should help inform what kind of wine cellar I might design. The bricks had all the patina and character and wear and tear of a century-and-a-half of time, and the walls are the original stone foundation of a 19th-century house.”
The takeaway: Consider temperature and humidity when plotting out your cellar location. Wine will age properly in a consistent climate of 53–57?F and 50–75 percent humidity. Some cellars (like this one) inherently support this environment, more common in a basement-level room with concrete or brick walls. If not, choose a cooling unit that doesn’t sap humidity from the room. Racking style and materials are a matter of taste, as long as bottles are stored horizontally or minimally angled.
—Christina Pellegrini and Marshall Tilden
Photos by Michael Kleinberg