Wine-inspired furniture, cellars evolve and expand

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Wine used to just be a nice way to unwind, relax and connect with loved ones after after a stressful week. Now it’s a lifestyle.

As wine popularity soars — especially among Gen X, which now spends more on wine annually than the baby boomers, according to market studies — it’s playing a larger role in how we entertain and even how we decorate.

There are coffee tables and bistro tables that double as wine storage units. There are faux (and real) wine barrel bistro tables and bars. And there’s wine-inspired art and decor. There’s even a National Wine Day — May 25.

Functionality is key when it comes to wine storage and furniture but so is good design. Wine Enthusiast, the catalog company and website that sells a range of products for the “wine lifestyle,” this spring released a new bespoke furniture line that is both functional for wine storage but also aesthetically pleasing.

Marshall Tilden, Wine Enthusiast’s vice president of sales, said they’ve offered furniture for years more in the style of credenzas or refrigerators, but what “we found is there’s a lot more wine-loving people that really want to incorporate wine as part of their lifestyle that aren’t as concerned with the cooling aspect, or collecting.”

Its Hermitage Wine Storage Coffee Table, part of the new Studio Collection, for example, has a glass surface, double side doors and holds 84 bottles.

“We just noticed a trend where the furniture became more of a focal point of a room and if it held some wine, that’s fantastic but it didn’t have to hold 300 bottles and be cooled,” Tilden said.

Designer Lauren Tolles, founder of design-build firm Maison Birmingham, recently opened the state’s first VintageView showroom display in her studio on Old Woodward. VintageView is a type of modular wine rack system. She says more people want to display their wine as art these days.

“As a designer, that opens a ton of possibilities for me,” said Tolles, who has a wine cellar in her own home that can hold 3,500 bottles and features VintageView floor-to-ceiling racks. “It’s an instant way to dress up a basement, make it more elegant. It’s a great accent piece for a dining room or off the kitchen.”

High-end storage

Even custom wine cellars, for the serious collector, have evolved.

Jim Cash, a former commercial construction and real estate development executive who collected wine on the side, got into making custom cellars after he couldn’t find the right storage system for his own collection.

“I damaged labels,” said Cash. “I hated it. I said to myself when I was finally in a position to do my own cellar, I would.”

But after looking for the kind of system he wanted — a drawer he could pull out and see five to six bottles without having to handle them — he couldn’t find it. So he decided to build his own.

Today, Cash’s Revel Cellars in East Lansing has made custom wine cellars for private homes all over the world, including many in Metro Detroit. Cash has also patented several of his designs and storage systems, all of which are made in Holland, Michigan. One incorporates what he calls a wine wheel that rotates so you can see each bottle.

“It’s just a matter of taking the geometry of the wine bottle and doing the engineering and being able to have access to it,” he said.

Key conditions

For those who are serious collectors, temperature control is key (55 degrees is optimal). So is humidity (50-75 percent humidity).

“Wine needs a certain temperature and humidity to really evolve and age properly,” said Tilden of Wine Enthusiast. The conditions are “so the cork stays moist.”

Given those conditions, it’s no wonder why Cash steers customers away from putting seating areas or dining tables inside their cellars. Instead, more are incorporating glass panels into the design so they see and enjoy their collection.

“You don’t want to actually hang out in there because it’s uncomfortable” at 55 degrees, he said. “But if you have a glass wall system, you can have a comfortable tasting area right outside.”

Cash said every material for a custom cellar is chosen for a reason. Mahogany used to be the standard wood because it’s both strong and mold and mildew resistant but customers later started requesting walnut. Now rift cut white oak is popular.

And who says a cellar has to be in the basement? Cash says he’s converted dens into cellars and put them on the first floor.

“We’ve even converted a pool house,” he said.

Wine racks and more

But a cellar is one thing. There are other fun (and cheaper) ways to infuse your love of merlot into your decor.

Troy’s Home & Garden Shop offers some fun wine-inspired decor including a black and white sign that lists various vinos. And wine rack options abound. Great Lakes Reclaimed, based in Petoskey, makes a range of fun wine racks from pallet wood with space for both wine bottles and glasses.

So if National Wine Day is a day that speaks to you, rejoice. You can sip your wine and infuse it into your decor too.

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Twitter: @mfeighan

Wine decor & more

Revel Cellars:

Motor City Barrels:

The Home & Garden Shop:

Maison Birmingham:

Wine Enthusiast: