They can’t be described as “novel”, given their status as civilisation’s original cool stores. And they’re not exactly must-haves, given, as Melbourne architect Matt Gibson says, “that like swimming pools, they start off on the wish list but are among the first items to be knocked off”.
However, in some new high-end homes and additions, there is serious cellar work going on in basement and sub-basement spaces.
Gibson recently dug under an Albert Park house to install formed concrete infrastructure to create a “Tube-like” cellar next to a theatre room.
In a grand Victorian house in Armadale, Melbourne, beneath the revamped kitchen floor, Edwards Moore has installed a prefabricated “circular metal drum” structure with what architect Ben Edwards describes as “a cool glass top that lifts up on hydraulic pistons”.
In a large and luxurious readaption of a three-storey building in Woollahra, Sydney, Luigi Rosselli’s architectural team has utilised semi-basement spaces on the sloping harbour section to install a 2000-bottle cellar so well appointed, it may suit a hotel or restaurant with a superb wine list.
This cellar by Luigi Rosselli Architects can be found in a Sydney house, not a high-end international hotel! Photo: Luigi Rosselli Architects
“Requests for cellars vary,” Rosselli architect Carl Rutherfoord says. “Some clients want a full cellar like this one. Other clients just want a cupboard with a fridge. It often depends on the project size and on how big their wine collection is.”
A client asked Melbourne’s Molecule architects for a full set-up that could be in the most expensive international hotel but was beneath a heritage house in South Yarra.
The brief was for “a glamorous bar and sitting area with highly reflective surfaces that created a world-away retreat from the rest of the house”.
Molecule made previously unglamorous rooms beneath a South Yarra house dark and sexy, creating a a subterranean cellar. Photo: Murray Fredericks
Molecule’s Jarrod Haberfield says in a house with vault-like living spaces, the existing cellar with a very shallow ceiling “is a deliberate counterpoint”.
Down the spiral stairs is “an immersive world that underpins an Alice in Wonderland experience of being transported underground into a completely different world”.
With such a low ceiling, the two shades of dark mirroring and the high-gloss ceiling blur the borders of a physically embracing room “such as you might find in a super yacht”.
Gibson’s barrel-vaulted cellar with the rustic wooden table and art-like installation of wine racks – “a beehive installation that comes in prefabricated form and that can be put together in whatever way you like” – is a hideaway “or man cave”, that, he says, is where the male client and his friends go to play cards.
It’s so secretive that entry is via hidden stairs accessed from the scullery.
The Tube-like shape has been inspired by the owner’s memory of a favourite London wine bar.
To make the 5 x 2.5-metre space appear infinite, Gibson has placed mirrors at each end.
“There’s a fair bit of cost in it but it can all be sealed and locked because there is some seriously good wine in there.”
The underground space is below sea level and suffers varying water table levels that mean it needs pump mechanisms, adding to the cost.
Matt Gibson gave his clients a secluded underground “Tube-like” cellar. Photos: Matt Gibson
For the Edwards Moore project, an ingeniously shelf-fitted spiral stair arrangement was found as an off-the shelf product made in Britain asSpiral Cellars.
“It sits in a hole in the ground [and when your are inside] can feel a bit like you’re about to take off to the moon,” Edwards says.
Imported through a Sydney agent, the 300-bottle version cost “about $60,000″.
“You can choose the rim and the shelving,” Edwards says.
“It’s something for people who enjoy wine and shows that they don’t have to make a huge cavern to house their collections.”
Edwards Moore sunk a spiral cellar into the floor of an Armadale kitchen. Photo: Edwards Moore
The racking system surrounds the stair treads on show, with half the lid lifted in the spiral cellar.