Grape Escape

The Ultimate Transformation: From cramped basement to world-class wine cellar



Nicholas Liadis, Desmone & Associates Architects

Photo courtesy of Desmone & Associates Architects

As you descend the back staircase and enter the wine cellar at Chuck and Kristen Hammel’s large Sewickley home, you might assume the handcrafted mahogany cabinets and copper light fixtures have been in place since the house was built in 1905. There is a burnished warmth to the room, despite its deliberately chilly temperature, that seems to speak of history and the passage of time.

And yet, when the Hammel family moved into the house in 2007, this now-gorgeous space was actually 300 square feet of dank basement. Picture a low ceiling, lots of ventilation ducts, even bits of mold sprouting here and there. It was a room many families would have ignored, especially when the rest of this gorgeous house offered so much possibility.

But the Hammels had a mission: They needed to design the perfect, temperature-controlled space for their ample wine collection. In their previous home, which they built, the wine cellar was figured in from the beginning. Now, settling into this turn-of-the-20th-century house in a tiny Pittsburgh suburb, they had to get creative.

So the wine collection went into storage and the work began. With the help of architects from Desmone & Associates, the Hammels re-imagined this subterranean room in a totally fresh way, turning it into both a showpiece and a practical resource.

The project, which took three months, resulted in a perfect hybrid: cool enough to keep the wine at an optimum temperature of 55 degrees, yet visually warmed by rich woods and soft halogen lighting. It feels traditional, blending with the design of the rest of the house, and yet it has a high-tech ventilation system and custom-made cork floor. The stucco walls are accented with terra-cotta stone veneer.

“I like to mix new with old,” says Kristen Hammel, who worked closely with the architects. “The bones of the house are traditional, but we’ve done some funky things with it.” For the wine cellar, she chose a traditional-looking chandelier from ABC Carpet & Home, but swapped out the light bulbs to create a different look.

Among her favorite details: The table in the wine cellar was custom-made from wood that came from trees the Hammels needed to cut down at their previous home.

The wine cellar is now complete and the family is thrilled with it. But as with most homes, the work is never entirely done: “The kitchen,” says Kristen Hammel, “is our next project.” 
 

Edit Module

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best Restaurants 2016

Best Restaurants 2016

Which 33 Pittsburgh-area establishments did our independent Restaurant Review Panel include among its top picks this year? Find them here.
Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

In addition to awarding Best Restaurant honors this year, our Independent Restaurant Review Panel also voted to recognize six chefs for their contributions to Pittsburgh’s culinary community in 2015.
Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

German blends a collage of community activism and soul-searching artistry.
PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

It only takes one person, one jagoff, one childish, attention-seeking, discourteous jerk to send a woo through PNC Park.
Daytripping: Canonsburg is a City of Antiques

Daytripping: Canonsburg is a City of Antiques

Nearby Canonsburg is a rare find for antiques collectors.
U.S. Open at Oakmont: Will The Town Finally Be a Player?

U.S. Open at Oakmont: Will The Town Finally Be a Player?

The U.S. Open is returning to Oakmont — and unlike previous tournaments, this one could make the community a vital part of the action.
Edit Module
Edit Module