Q: We’re considering building a cellar off our kitchen for storing and displaying our wine collection, but we have no idea what our options are. Can you help us out?

A: Wine cellars have evolved over the past few decades. No longer just glorified racks of bottles in your basement, modern wine rooms are showpieces of personal style and have become central features in the home. These days, how you display the wine is as important as proper temperature control.

Before you jump headfirst into the world of wine rooms, you’ll need to get a handle on your range of options. Here’s a short primer to get you started.


Elements: Loving fine old wine doesn’t mean that your wine room has to look old. There are many contemporary customization options available for both casual wine lovers and diehard collectors. Custom designs can complement any style of decor and can be expanded as the collection grows.

Finishes: There are countless metal finishes, wood species and stain options. Timeless finishes, like matte black and chrome, are very popular. Elevated finishes like gold and bronze are also available.


Traditional: This type of wine room — built with humidity resistant woods — will transport you back in time with its cozy and welcoming atmosphere. Racking features like lattice and diamond bins, wood-case storage and cork-forward storage can pack in large quantities of bottles. Cork flooring, oak barrel stays and large format bottles all shine in traditional cellars.


Transitional and rustic: This trend mixes metal, wood and glass, often merging Old World style with modern metal racking. Mixing natural elements such as stone and metals with flooring and countertops made from repurposed wine barrels is common. Reclaimed wood can add to the pleasing look.

Contemporary: Functional and fun, modern wine rooms break from traditional wood. Featured in the main areas of the home, they often show off the wine as much as store it. Popular options include darkened wood, aluminum or acrylic pegs, and suspended cable racking that creates a dramatic floating appearance.


Just as important as the design of your wine room is selecting the best location. No longer relegated to the basement, wine rooms can be placed anywhere you like. Kitchens and dining rooms are especially popular as they allow you to engage the wine while cooking. Just be careful to place the racking in a location that minimizes potentially damaging light exposure.

Another popular location is under the stairs — just pop out the wall, replace it with the right type of glass with brackets, and add cooling for a true showpiece.

Other storage options for public display include glass doors and wine walls — a great way to show off your wine collection while keeping your fine wines cool — and room-divider wine cellars. Dividing a room with two glass walls is a simple way to add a transparent, passive barrier that is as stunning as it is functional. Your wine will be a jewel box surrounded by glass. Remember to include a drawer and cabinet so corkscrews and wine glasses are in easy reach.

If you have space next to your wine room, you can also include an adjacent tasting lounge with comfy seating, creating the perfect space to crack open your finest bottles.



Today, technology is fundamental to proper wine storage. Your cooling system can be linked directly to an app on your phone, effectively creating a smart wine cellar with remote temperature control. Other available features include automatic lights and thumb-print readers for locking the cellar. LED lighting is a great, sustainable way to create a mood and give favorite bottles the spotlight in your collection.  


However you decide to design and equip your wine room, it’s important that the room is built correctly to protect your wine over the long haul. To do it right, you need to plan for insulation, cooling and wall materials at the beginning of the process; don’t make the rookie mistake of waiting until after you install the racking.

If you need expert advice before beginning the project, a wine cellar professional can help you decide what racking options will best showcase your collection, and offer options for room preparation, wine cooling, meeting storage needs and even which bottles to feature.


Doug Smith is the president and chief designer of Rhino Wine Cellars and Cooling Systems and a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBAKS’s nearly 2,900 members, write to homework@mbaks.com.