It's very easy to get caught up in the design (look) of your wine cellar, (Tuscan, contemporary, etc) but some people overlook the finer details of the overall space. Planning for capacity -not just how many bottles you currently own but how many will you have over the next 5, 10, 15 years- allows you to "grow" into your wine cellar.
What type of wines do you currently drink? (750'S, Magnums,Champagne etc) Most of those bottles are completely different sizes..so knowing the answer to those questions will allow for a more custom design and install. There is nothing more annoying then having a case of "splits" that will not fit in any wine rack in the cellar. Planning for magnum or champagne storage either standing or built with in the racks allows for over-sized bottles to be properly displayed.
Cooling or not. Any purist will tell you that cooling is a must. If you are looking to age the wine I agree. If you are turning the wine over quickly (one of my happy problems) then you can consider not using a cooling system IF you have a space that stays consistent and cool.If you require a climate controlled cooling system then there are three choices. A self contained unit, a split system, and a ducted cooling system. Besides the cooling system the room is going to need a vapor barrier and proper insulation to avoid problems with mold.
What type of lighting to use is a crucial question. Will your wine cellar be displayed by either a glass door or a window? Will you bring friends, family etc into the wine cellar? A good rule of thumb is to have all of the lighting in the cellar on a dimmer. If you are looking for "mood" lighting try LED. They are great for accenting display rows or an arch. Other lighting can consist of "puck" lights in the arch or mono-rails, or high hats.
Another design feature is flooring. Brick and stone are my personal favorites and that happens to help keep the cellar cool which will also help your cooling system last longer. Another type of flooring can be tile or re-claimed wine barrel flooring.
Wine racks are usually the last thing people forget about but I would like to point out some specifics. Will you need a drawer or drawers to hide cork screws,labels,corks etc. Should you have stem-ware built into the racks for glass-ware. Will there be some counter space for decanting, or setting cases of wine on. Would you like to display any decanters or aerators? if so what are their sizes? If you are going with custom racks your cellar builder should be able to fabricate anything to fit your needs.
Appliances are an absolute luxury. A dishwasher allows for un-necessary trips to the kitchen over and over. Wine and cigars seem to go hand in hand, and for that smoke-eaters for cigar smoke can be implemented as well. Touch pads for music, intercom, and tv really add to the adult playroom theme.
The last thing I will mention is paint. PLEASE make sure the walls are painted before the wine racks go in..it is virtually impossible to paint once the wine racks are installed without removing the racks. Also keep in mind paint finishes and or murals, both of which can make a wine cellar pop.In regards to colors it is always safe to think in terms of contrast. Light colored wine racks, dark color walls. Stained wine racks, light colored walls. Stick with earth tones and you will never go wrong.
By taking a little extra time to plan for your needs,and your wants, your dream wine cellar and tasting room will become just that. I cannot emphasize enough the need to find an experienced wine cellar builder who can both design and execute the build-out of your wine cellar. The ideas I have mentioned will help any person design a much more personalized wine cellar, which you can enjoy for years to come!
Curtis Dahl is the President of Global Sales for Joseph & Curtis, an industry leader in custom wine cellars and wine racks. He is a regular contributor to IntoWine.com.