Workbook: Master of Wine

Wine Cellar - Bingham-33What differentiates a pretty picture from a piece that moves its viewer? Artfulness. This answer is perhaps the easiest way to describe Premier Cru Wine Cellars and what drives its owner, Paul LaRussa, to create art in the spaces in which people love to store their wine. While some companies build cellars, LaRussa builds concept and stirs our senses with his use of space and structural design.

Going Against The Grain

While LaRussa would never mix grains when it comes to wood, he will go against every preconceived notion that other cellar architects will quote as gospel. When Sherman Oaks-based Kerri Gaal hired LaRussa to change her art studio (adjacent to her beautifully self-designed home) into a wine cellar she expected an immediate barrage of information on shelving and square-inches. Instead, she says she got a surprise: “Before Paul even got to the wine cellar he stopped in awe of our sprawling, arms-out oak tree and said ‘We’re using that’. I didn’t know what ‘that’ meant and I have to admit I felt a mixture of excitement and trepidation so I hired him on the spot.”

Wine Cellar - Bingham-2LaRussa had no intentions of altering the magnificent tree. Instead he installed a large window in the cellar. “The window was created to frame the tree as the cellar’s centerpiece. The wood from outside is drawn in visually and complements the fine Knotty Alder that I used for the cellar itself,” explains LaRussa. “The angle of the window and the positioning of the shelving insured no direct sunlight would shine onto any bottles. Instead the light is defused as it enters the cellar, and shaded by the tree itself.”

Wine Cellar - Bingham-13Achieving the potential of the space is LaRussa’s goal. He’s not interested in selling preconceived, one-fits-all hardware, which represents the business model for the vast majority of cellar makers. The tree concept proved to be a huge success, but that’s not Gaal’s favorite element of the cellar. Nor are the striking oak-barrel floorboards or the cleverly optimized use of space. The honor goes to the door.

The handcrafted door was created with more than 500 pieces of wood to capture the upper expression of this visual artwork. The entire door is completely handcrafted with Knotty Alder and finished with proprietary means to acquire the warmth and finish.

If the Bauhaus era, which coupled framed art with tubular furniture, influenced home and office furniture around the world; and if its cubism gave birth to Tupperware’s design, then it is understandable that LaRussa is seen by his wine-industry peers as a pioneer in structure and creative design. Innovation in its most exquisite form meets practicality in its most optimized variety.

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