Designer Ben Benoit has built gorgeous cellars all over his clients’ houses—including in the living rooms. Here he shares his best ideas, some of them surprisingly inexpensive.
Ben Benoit of Cellar Masters in Newbury Park, California, has created hundreds of ambitious designs over the past 20 years, including the glass-enclosed rooms featured in the book Living with Wine. But many of his ideas work just as well in more modest cellars. “I like basic technology, like the rope lighting (small bulbs inside plastic tubing) that is often used on the floors of movie theaters,” Benoit says. “It’s better to have more money left over to buy wine.”
© Ben Benoit
In this Las Vegas dining room, Benoit installed blue LED lights on two sides of the glass wine cabinet. In other cabinets, he sometimes lines shelves with rope lighting from Duralight. “It emits almost no heat, has a lifetime of about 20,000 hours and is inexpensive,” Benoit says. “Plus it works on a dimmer” (from $67 for 30 feet; sldlighting.com).
Benoit always builds in climate controls to keep his cellars at 55 degrees Fahrenheit, but he thinks “the whole issue of humidity in a wine cellar is overblown.” Among the few exceptions are cellars in very dry climates, like Las Vegas.
Wire Bottle Racks
Wall-mounted stainless steel racks from VintageView hold bottles three-deep and make them appear to float in midair (from $80 for a 36-bottle rack; vintageview.com).
© Andrew French
In a Simi Valley, California, room that the owner calls the “man cave,” Benoit highlights the cellar by dividing it from the bar with half-inch- thick tempered glass, like the kind used for shower doors.
Though the bar area has hardwood floors, Benoit installed tile in the wine room because wood tends to warp in cellars.
A sink may be useful in a bar, but Benoit doesn’t recommend having one in a wine cellar: “It’s expensive to plumb hot and cold water lines.”
© Andrew French
For the compact cellars in the living room of a 1920s house in Bel Air, California, Benoit used custom doors with insulated-glass panels; he has installed ready-made versions for other clients (from $400; etodoors.com). On both options, he has the glass treated with an inexpensive coating that blocks the sun’s ultraviolet rays, which can be harmful to wine.
An end table is a handy place to set down bottles after taking them out of storage: “It’s good to have a countertop or table that’s at least six inches deep, to fit two bottles.”