I’m a firm believer that every space can surprise and delight given the opportunity. And I love nothing more than helping clients to look beyond seemingly non-descript spaces and imagine what they could become.

Which is how a wine and gin-loving client ended up with a collections gallery in what first appeared to be nothing more than a wide basement corridor leading to a plant room and downstairs cloakroom.

When I read that sentence back, it certainly doesn’t sound like the most auspicious space for a transformation! But this was a Grade II listed building with charm and quirkiness – and older buildings regularly offer up the chance to make use of unusual areas.

So, standing back and taking a moment to appreciate the strengths of the corridor, I realised it had a sight line from the kitchen. This was a subterranean opportunity to design something bespoke and fun, and to create a talking point when entertaining guests for supper.

Interactions between spaces and clients

Of course, space and client always need to interact. Discovering that the owners had a small wine collection, a large gin collection, and a penchant for whisky and bourbon unlocked the inspiration. A collections gallery with a striking wall-to-wall illuminated wine display, a gin cabinetry and an old whisky barrel would be the perfect use for this space.

The illuminated storage and cabinetry gave the clients the ability to showcase their wine collection – and an excuse to increase it!

I wanted the wine capacity to be large enough to hold a significant amount of wine, both displayed and boxed. The design allowed for storage of 172 bottles and up to nine wine boxes. I incorporated an additional 72-bottle capacity into the gin cabinetry, which ran down either side of the display. This created visual interest as the wine bottles were stored horizontally, contrasting with the upright display of the gin bottles.

Balancing interest with practicality

Creating visual interest in design is so important, so I opted for three different ways in which to showcase the wine. This also allowed for better organisation and opened up an efficient way to categorise – separating those every day bottles from the wines to be laid down.

The addition of a shelf combined practicality with interest. Bottles could be selected and compared, or the client could choose to show off precious bottle openers. Another practical addition to the design, two cupboards granted the clients an opportunity to keep tasting notes and decanters to hand.

Recessed LED lighting created the illusion that the cabinets were floating. The walls and ceilings were designed to include shadow gap detailing, allowing for a gentle wash of light and creating a sensory experience.

The area was naturally cool being subterranean, so the underfloor heating was omitted here, which created an ideal temperature for wine storage.

Reflecting a building’s history

The space also offered up the gift of a generous corner between two doors. Here, I opted to place an old whiskey barrel to display bottles of whiskey and bourbon. The curved form of the barrel also allowed for a break from the visually straight lines in the cabinetry design.

The barrel was ancient and I loved the connection it made to the historic building and its visual connection to the many old beams throughout the client’s home. It was constructed from aged wood and metal constraints. Both had aged and, through this process, acquired a wonderful dark patina. These materials really spoke to the ancient Mill workings, and provided a dialogue between the two.

Corridors in old buildings carry with them a perception of mystery. It was such fun to develop this further and design an enticing gallery that invites individuals to explore. The ultimate success for any designer is when a space works well for the client and reflects their individuality. I’m so pleased to look back knowing it does both.