Like the decanting of a fine vintage, the creation of a perfect wine cellar and entertaining space cannot be rushed. After a year and a half in the design phase alone, the transformation of a choppy, outdated Falls Church basement into a sophisticated lounge for an extensive wine collection exhibits excellent taste.
“There were a lot of technical pieces and the details were so specific, especially the finishes,” says Allie Mann of Case Design, the lead designer on the project. “We wanted to make sure we got those details right.”
Particularly elusive was the exotic wood the homeowner selected for the cabinetry. “He knows a lot about wood and requested a species called figured sapele that is harvested only a certain number of times a year—and then the cut of wood is only good for a period of time,” explains Mann. “Because our design details took a little longer to complete, we would lose the dates for the wood. We went through that process three or four times.”
The focal point of the redesign—a wall of sapele wood for displaying bottles—was worth the wait. It is housed behind pane-less glass that lends the space an airy ambience. Making the room even more dramatic was the homeowner’s choice of racks that store his collection of about 240 bottles horizontally so they appear to be floating. To achieve the owner’s vision, Mann brought together the creative expertise of Crystal Cabinets of Minneapolis and Vin De Garde, a Vancouver-based wine-cellar company that specializes in unique racking components.
Doors and walls from the old basement were removed to create the open space. In addition to the wine room, a media area now features a sofa and chairs gathered around a large-screen TV that’s been mounted on a wall of figured sapele cabinetry for continuity. The addition of a work area with a floating desk and shelves lends another functional element to the posh space.
Aside from the wall of glass, Mann devised other details that make the space, which is just shy of 700 square feet, live large. She selected dark porcelain flooring that camouflages any water that might get tracked in from the adjacent outdoor pool area. The tile grounds the room, which gets lighter “as the eye moves from floor to ceiling,” says the designer.
The seven-and-a-half-foot ceiling height might have felt stifling, but Mann opted for a lighter palette on the walls and directed all pendant sconces downward to reflect the light. “If we had a higher ceiling, we could’ve faced them up,” she observes.
Even potential setbacks became functional, complementary elements. A structural column that housed critical electrical equipment morphed into part of a custom tasting table, also sheathed in figured sapele. “The column was located close to the wine-tasting area so it worked out well,” Mann recalls.
Finishing touches, including a set of burgundy-toned leather chairs, draw attention to the homeowner’s love of wine—particularly his fondness for red varieties. He had purchased the set previously and stored them in a loft space awaiting the redesign.
“He knew he wanted to put these pieces down there, so we had to think about how they would most thoughtfully be arranged,” Mann explains. “They led the ultimate design and arrangement of the room.”
The end result is indeed toast-worthy. “We wanted to take the basement and make it feel like a lower-level lounge,” Mann says. The homeowner “is a wine enthusiast, not just someone who has a glass every weekend, and he also wanted it to feel like an entertaining space. I think we succeeded.”
Cathy Applefeld Olson is based in Alexandria. Stacy Zarin Goldberg is a photographer in Olney, Maryland.
DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION: ALLIE MANN, Case Design, Bethesda, Maryland.