Design & Remodeling

Peek Into a Wine Cellar Worth Toasting

Kathleen Ramsey Interiors brings a vision of an Old World wine cellar to life.

When Scott and Tracy Strohm outgrew the wine closet in their Shawnee, Kan., home, they decided to think bigger, bolder and older as if the wine cellar had been dismantled, stone by stone, from a castle in Bordeaux.

Thankfully, shipping costs from the south of France weren’t necessary. The couple hired interior designer Kathleen Ramsey to bring their vision of an Old World wine cellar to life. For inspiration, the decorator pored over examples in magazines and from the Internet, and the couple contributed ideas culled from trips to California’s wine country.

All photos by Matt Kocourek

References in hand, Ramsey brought in architect Scott Bickford to design the space, and after interviewing a handful of general contractors, the Strohms chose Country Club Builders to construct the expansion and handcraft its intricate furnishings.

The specifications were exacting to create the ideal environment for precious bottles of wine: 10-inch-thick concrete perimeter walls with no exterior doors. A dedicated HVAC system regulates the temperature and humidity to an ideal 56 degrees. A smartphone controls those functions as well as lighting and security.

But the aesthetics are what make this room truly an experience for guests when the couple entertains. It starts with the custom-made, arched mahogany door carved with a crisscross motif that is repeated throughout the room—one of Ramsey’s design contributions. The door is surrounded by pale limestone set with a grape cluster keystone at the top.

The Strohms never tire of hearing their friends’ comments when they first see the space. “The first comment is usually, ‘Wow!’ then after they have a chance to take in all the details, it’s often followed by, ‘You really did this right,’” the couple says.

Those “done-right” details include the hand-painted, barrel-vault ceiling and wood-grained porcelain and travertine floor tiles. The walls are lined with solid mahogany cabinetry, racking and trim that were all hand-built on site by the Country Club team. Scott Strohm recalls, “They had a woodshop on the property where each piece was cut and fit into place. As an engineer, it was a treat to come home each day and see the project’s progress.”

Perhaps the couple’s favorite element of the room comes from the unique “windows,” which are actually glass panels lit from behind. The glow evokes an afternoon in Napa when everything turns golden. Hidden lighting over angled shelves highlight prized bottles of wine, while wall sconces and a bronze chandlier continue the Old World theme.

While the Strohms enjoy sharing the space with friends, their favorite use of the cellar is when they choose a bottle from their collection to complement dinner at home.

A project this intricate was bound to have some challenges, but Scott was impressed by how creative the team was in addressing each detail.

“Steve Atkins (the general contractor) had such an infectious enthusiasm for this job, it made it fun,” he says.

The yearlong project—which included a lanai—required many of the skills seen in winemaking: talent, passion and patience. The end result, you might say, is as sweet as a late harvest Sauternes served, of course, at the perfect temperature.

See other photos of this successful project (which won a Silver prize in KC Magazine’s Design Excellence Awards in 2013) at Kathleen Ramsey Interiors.

Story by Katie Van Luchene