February 10, 2011

Wine Cellars

Posted in Decorating tagged , , , , , , at 7:30 am by dotcomdecorator

Man caves, basement rec rooms and home theaters have become the standard upgrade for many homeowners. Those wanting to take it to the next level include the installation of a private wine cellar. When considering the addition of a wine cellar/tasting room, the process needs to begin with the core-level: the proper storage of wine. Whether you want to store a dozen bottles in simple fashion, or showcase your 20,000-bottle collection in a climate controlled, limestone wine cave, there is a storage solution for you. 

First, assess your “wine collector status”.  Are you a serious collector—someone who has a substantial (numbering in the thousands of bottles) amount of wine for which you need long-term storage? Are you a tweener—someone who has a few cases of wine and the need for 18-24 month storage?  Are you a fledgling—someone who is learning an appreciation of wine and buys a few bottles to have on hand for consumption in the near to immediate future?

I am confident that anyone classified as a serious collector has already made a substantial investment in having a professional wine cellar constructed. Therefore, I am going to move on to options for tweeners and fledglings.

The top considerations to proper wine storage are temperature and humidity. To age properly, whether for months or decades, wine needs cool temperatures—around 55 degrees Fahrenheit—moderate humidity, low light, and little or no vibration or odor.  If not stored properly, wine will taste flat and lifeless. For small-scale storage needs, consider temperature-controlled units. For the fledgling, this can be a small countertop unit; for a tweener, a reach-in/walk-in unit big enough to hold several cases. Both of these options are affordable and can easily be incorporated into your existing living space.

If you prefer to construct an actual wine cellar/tasting room and have a home with a basement, this is the ideal place for your wine cellar. Ideally, a “passive” cellar—a non-lived-in space—with natural heating and cooling, and the addition of a humidifier, will provide an ideal wine storage environment.  However, most modern homes have lights, mechanical equipment, and artificially heated and cooled basements. In this case, if you are serious about proper wine storage, you should follow a few basic principles when considering your wine cellar.

  • Guard against extreme fluctuations in temperature. These are far worse for wine than a constant too-high or too-low temperature. Fluctuations can cause corks to expand, contract and loosen, causing spills or allowing oxygen into the bottle, which can result in spoilage. Invest in a quality cooling system, designed specifically for wine storage areas.

  • Humidity should also be fairly constant, around 60 to 75 percent. Too much humidity can cause mold growth and can cause labels to disintegrate. Too little can dry and shrink the corks, causing spills and oxidation.
  • Too much light can also harm wine, because ultraviolet rays can cause spoilage, and because light creates heat, which can ruin your efforts to maintain a constant temperature.

A perfect wine cellar is insulated and humidity-controlled by means of a vapor barrier (usually 6- to 8-millimeter plastic sheeting). If done properly, with the vapor barrier placed on the warm side—which is the exterior of the cellar/the interior of your living space—you will be able to maintain a proper environment. Without a vapor barrier, condensation can be a problem. The moisture in the air of your warmer living space will condense on the cooler walls of your wine cellar. Too much condensation can threaten the integrity of the cellar walls and make the cooling mechanism work harder to keep the air inside the cellar at the proper humidity level.


For a wine cellar, the insulation should be R-19. Many cellar design specialists prefer rigid foam insulation. The cellar walls can be regular sheet rock or plywood, though moisture-resistant dry wall, known as green board, provides extra protection against moisture related problems. Also, consider doors as part of the insulation picture; sturdy exterior-core or specially designed glass doors are recommended to keep the cold air in.

After insulation, humidity control and cooling, the rest is aesthetics.  Size, design, lighting, racking, and furnishing options are abundant! Will you select wood racking or French limestone? Do you want a traditional serving and tasting area, or simply a place to store your collection? How do you want to store and display your wines? Your pocketbook is the only limit!

If a custom-built wine cellar is in your future, assess your needs, do your research, then call on a quality builder to construct your ideal wine storage space!

Until next time,

Viva Con Gioia!

The DotComDecorator

 

November 15, 2010

Supporting My Habits

Posted in Decorating, DIY Projects, Uncategorized, Wine Cork Topiary tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:53 am by dotcomdecorator

Well folks, I’m back to the cork projects! This weekend I made two adorable little cork boards, some easy-as-pie napkin rings, and some kitschy push-pins. In all I used 528 corks!

 

Champagne cork napkin rings

Champagne cork napkin rings

Before you start wondering how I manage to make anything after drinking so much wine and/or champagne, let me assure you,  it’s my friends doing the drinking!  Ok, and me. Most often together.

As we open another bottle, I wonder:  Which habit am I supporting?  Have I started creating cork items because they’re fun and fit into my decor, and it is a great way to recycle; or have I amplified the habit of sharing a glass of wine with friends so I can have more corks? I worry about these things!

Corkboard

Cork board

However, it took only a moment to realize it was a silly question! Wine and friendship have been around for the ages, and if it weren’t for all those previously shared bottles (without any agenda other than to enjoy our friendships over wine), none of us would have amassed a collection of corks to complete these projects. So, pop a cork, raise your glass, and toast to good wine and great friends!  And, what are you going to do with that cork? Just asking…!

I will eventually have time to post project directions on my website, but if you are interested in learning how to make any of these items, or the wine cork topiary previously featured here, just drop me an email request at dotcomdecor@gmail.com

Cork trivet/server

Cork trivet/server

I, and my friends, will continue to engage in the habit of enjoying the nectar of the Gods, satisfying our souls with friendship, our artistic muse with new projects for the corks, and our palettes with good wine! Try it, you’ll like it!

Until next time,

Viva Con Gioia!

The DotComDecorator

PS:  If you like the serving spoon in the above picture, check out www.shopfunkyfinds.com for more information!

September 19, 2010

The Beauty of History

Posted in Architecture, Decorating, Uncategorized tagged , , , at 3:02 pm by dotcomdecorator

I was never a good student of history. Dates and names and tales of war bored me to tears. Without a doubt I frustrated those teachers who tried to enlighten me to our historical past. Years later I realize if they had only shown me the great architectural treasures of the past, I would have been impassioned! I have found out that I actually love history…as long as I can relate it to a physical place. Of course, the more unique the place, the more I want to learn!  

  

Pfister Hotel Lobby Ceiling

Pfister Hotel Lobby Ceiling

 

I am blessed to live equidistant between Chicago and Milwaukee–both cities, and the area between, have an abundance of amazing architectural gems from the past.  I recently visited my favorite Milwaukee hotel, The Pfister, the former Milwaukee Grain Exchange, and two Italianate villas of grandeur–Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and The Cuneo Mansion in Vernon Hills, Illinois.  

Back view of Cuneo Mansion

Back view of Cuneo Mansion

 

While all of these structures are immense, each is ornate, stately, and opulent. Most impressive is that they are all well-constructed, timelessly elegant, and have a level of artistic craftsmanship seldom seen in today’s structures. From hand-crafted decorative door hinges, to hand-painted murals on soaring ceilings, to vibrant stained glass windows, to the sweeping marble staircases, to the impeccably manicured gardens, and abundant gold gilding, every space holds a veritable feast for the eyes! However, equally fascinating are the histories behind each of these buildings.  

Villa Terrace

 

Villa Terrace was built in 1923 for the Lloyd Smith family. Mr. Smith was an industrialist and president of A.O. Smith Company, the company started by his grandfather. Wanting to replicate a 16th century Italian villas he and his wife adored, Lloyd commissioned renowned architect David Adler to design and build the villa. From the courtyard with its decorative stone pathway (Mrs. Smith and her six children collected each and every stone from the shore of Lake Michigan and carried them home for the stone mason!), to the water stairs that lead to the manicured gardens, to the magnificent view of Lake Michigan, this home exudes an air of wealth and privilege! However, it was home to the Smiths.  The grounds were home to family football games, the Italian marble staircase endured hoards of stopping feet, and the ornate, hand-crafted metal work probably went unnoticed as the children opened and closed the elegant doors!  

Library at Cuneo

Library at Cuneo

 

Now used for special events and as a movie setting–My Best Friend’s Wedding and Witless Protection, with Larry the Cable Guy–the Cuneo is equally impressive.  Construction of the mansion began in 1908 and stopped during World War I. It was completed in 1918 as the summer home of Samuel Insull, an original founder of the General Electric Company. In 1937, John Cuneo Sr., a well-known and highly successful entrepreneur, bought the home. He and his wife, Julia, and two children made their home on the 75-acre estate.  Even though the mansion was, and is still, filled with priceless antiques, including many religious artifacts, the children rode their pedal cars all through the formal rooms, and used the grand foyer as a parking garage! The mansion has its own elaborate chapel, his and her’s bedroom suites, servants quarters, and gold gilded bathrooms! The grounds with the multitude of beautifully designed and maintained gardens, in-ground pool, and statuary, are delightful in every way! Like Villa Terrace, the Cuneo Mansion is a treasure-trove of exquisite craftsmanship, both inside and out, but also rich with history of the former residents and their guests.  

 
Exterior of Pfister

Exterior of Pfister

 

The Pfister is my favorite hotel in the Milwaukee area.  The hotel website uses the terms “grand elegance”, “historic tradition”, “gracious service” and “impeccable style”…I cannot find better words to describe the Pfister! Since opening its doors in 1893, the Pfister has surrounded guests with priceless art collections, exquisite architecture, and a comfortable, yet luxurious, ambiance. Visionary businessman Guido Pfister and his son, Charles, built the hotel at a cost of 1 million dollars. The hotel deemed the “Grand Hotel of the West”, was the most lavish hotel of its time. Walking through the doors I am transported back to a time of social graces and personal service; the Pfister exudes an atmosphere that invites guests to relax and let others take care of them…the epitome of the word “Salve”   A welcome respite from the nitty-gritty day-to-day, lunch from a bag, life we know all too well! The Pfister has welcomed some of the world’s most famous dignitaries and athletes, a bevy of brides, and is rumored to have one or more resident ghosts! I definitely give this hotel the thumb’s up!
 
The Grain Exchange simply awes me because it was once a place of commodity trading…a bustling work place! In 1879 Milwaukee Grain Exchange was the location of the Trading Pit, first invented and used in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and used as a model for other exchanges throughout America.
Grain Exchange

Grain Exchange

 

Today it is a favored site for special occasions, such as wedding receptions. Taking in its three-story, nearly 10,000 sq. ft. Italian style room, with soaring ceilings, frescoes, stained glass windows, handsome granite, limestone, sandstone and 175 ft. bell tower in the center of the room, I envision the space as more a grand church than an active business center. Could you imagine going to work there each day…how much more inspiring that would be than the drab cubicles or personality-void open spaces of today’s offices!  

If you are able to visit any of these architectural beauties, I’m sure you’ll be charmed! If not, the internet is a wonderful place to find out more information and view other images!  Here are a few links to get your “armchair tour” started:  

http://thepfisterhotel.com http://cuneomansion.org http://www.bartolottacatering.com/grain/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuneo_Museum http://www.villaterracemuseum.org/index.html http://www.hellomilwaukee.com/BookFiles/Chap24_Milwaukee_association_of_commerce1.pdf  

Here are a couple more images to whet your appetite:  

So, there you have it–I love history! Who would have ever thought it.  

Until next time,  

Viva Con Gioia!  

The DotComDecorator

%d bloggers like this: