It started out as a simple wine closet to be built in the corner of an unfinished basement. My customer has simple tastes and he just wanted an improvement on his simplified (non) design that had left his wine collection in a closet under the stairs. In it, he had a through-the-wall cooler that was running with the exhaust pointed out the semi-shut door.

But while he has simple tastes, apparently someone else in his house does not. On my second meeting he pulled out a photo book with a lavish French theater. As long as we were building downstairs and he had the extra room, he wanted to add a theater to the mix. It was a giant jump from where we started, but I did not argue.

The theater room quickly took shape, and the wine cellar followed, becoming equally involved and in a French country style, which called for the racks to have more of a furniture feel. The nine pieces, the arched entry door, and the two beams in the wine cellar were made from a batch of hickory logs that a customer had abandoned. It turns out that about a year is the perfect amount of time for hickory to get very wormy and nicely spalted.

Much of the racking in the wine cellar is traditional, with ladder racks holding the bulk of the collection. One of my favorite little details that I often use now in other wine cellars is adjustable shelving. It doesn’t sound earth shattering, but in a wine cellar the shelves can be used flat for case storage or offset with a tilt for displaying individual bottles. The shelves have a strip across the front that keeps the bottles from sliding off and crashing to the floor. The tilted shelves are especially helpful for holding and displaying odd-shaped and larger bottles that don’t fit in the other racks.

Between the theater and the wine cellar is a spot for a poker table, and a back bar made from rift-sawn white oak cabinets and walnut countertops, with art glass windows above. All of the woodwork around the windows is made from poplar that was stained dark brown and glazed with black for an antique appearance. The countertop was built up to 1.5-inch thick by laminating two layers of 3/4-inch thick stock. I have done this many times and it works great.

The theater itself involved a lot of trim details and conductors of electricity: from the lights running along the floor to the motorized chairs and curtains, along with all the other electronics, making planning the most critical part of this job. Even so, many items were moved several times to get things just right.

From humble beginnings to this showcase of a job, things really changed. I would have never guessed that this is how it would turn out when we started.

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