For years, Patrick Wallen worked at designing displays and refrigeration systems for commercial groceries. Over fifteen years ago, he decided to leverage his talents and turn to designing custom wine cellars. Being in the heart of the northern California wine country, his company, Artistic Wine Cellars took root and has since become one of the most sought after designers of upscale custom wine cellars.
Patrick was so gracious to permit Decoist free run of the top of the best of his creations and to sit down and join us for an interview. So sit back and relax as we show you some of Artistic Wine Cellars best eye candy as we proceed with the interview.
Decoist: Patrick, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with us. What prompted you to move from the commercial display design and grocery refrigeration business to designing custom wine cellars?
Patrick Wallen: It was around 1987 and I received a call from a Client who wanted a climate control system for a wine cellar and she also had no source for a racking system and was persistent in that request. I liked design, so we went for it and the rest is History.
Decoist: Did a love of wine or being in the heart of California wine country influence that decision?
Patrick Wallen: It was really the profitability inherent with doing custom wine cellars that persuaded my employers to let me run with this. The profit margins in commercial refrigeration equipment was and is very low and competitive. There were very few enterprises involved in custom wine cellars and none in Marin County.
Decoist: In looking at some of your designs, we can just see the passion you have for your work. What keeps that “fire in your belly” going?
Patrick Wallen: Wine Cellars are primarily “guy things” and I relate to their passion as Collectors who want to show off their collections. They must have a passion and that in turn motivates me to provide everything he’s looking for and more. I have designed and built more than a thousand wine cellars, but every new project is probably the last I will do for that Client and it’s very important.
Decoist: It appears you use just about every wood known to man in your various custom wine cellars. Do you have a favorite which you like to work with?
Patrick Wallen: Natural clear heart redwood is indigenous to Northern California and is still the standard wood used in my profession because it is easy to mill, doesn’t eat up our saw blades, it’s very light in weight (keeps transportation costs in check) and looks fantastic.
Decoist: Have you ever incorporated used wood that was from old wine casks?
Patrick Wallen: I have swayed away from working with reclaimed materials, too many hassles in manufacturing and it plays hell on our saw blades.
Decoist: In your designs it is apparent your goal is not only to meet the customer’s wants, but to surpass their expectations. Has a customer ever given you carte blanche in building their wine cellar? What was that project like?
Patrick Wallen: I’ve had Clients walk through my doors that say “I have Architects, interior designers and a wife who all haggle over details that do not interest me, but the wine cellar is my space and I want it to look great. A place where I can hang out with my buddies, smoke cigars and talk sports.”
Prior to the recession, these type of comments were not uncommon, but that has all gone by the wayside. Now it’s “what can be done with a low budget in mind?” We have made significant changes in our designs to accommodate the times, but not as much fun as it used to be.
Decoist: have to ask this old question: Do you have a favorite design? Why is it your favorite?
Patrick Wallen: I certainly do, but I have yet to sell it. Briefly, it features all those more expensive amenities such as a lot of rounded corners (bent wood), archways that section off the wine cellar into different quadrants each offering something exciting and unexpected. I call it “infinity” because the ceilings are clad in mirrors so when you look up, the cellar racking goes forever.
Decoist: We see that you can meet any wine collector’s needs from modest 200 bottle collections to advanced collections of more than 2,000 bottles. What is the size of your largest design? Would you describe it for us?
Patrick Wallen: The cellar holds 20,000 bottles and had a smaller cellar within the main cellar to holds bottles that were at least 25 years old and older and he wanted those kept at a lower temperature so maturation was being held in check. The cellar project came to me on a cold call driving past a job site in progress and I knew the project manager who said I was too late and that he thought the Client was going with another Company. He took me to meet the Client and I was shown the existing design which featured 16k bottles, but he wanted more storage. I went to work immediately on a redesign and was able to give him what he wanted. We went with mostly double deep storage on the perimeter walls with large peninsulas (back to back single deep racks jetting out from the perimeter walls). The project has been featured in a couple of TV shows such as “In Wine Country”.
Decoist: In your temperature controlled wine cellars, have you used any high-tech controls such as remote monitoring and mobile apps?
Patrick Wallen: Most of our projects have alarm features and remote access monitors as many of my clients have more than one residence. And yes there are numerous Apps for inventory control.
Decoist: What was the most unusual request a customer asked of you?
Patrick Wallen: A few years ago, I had a male client who wanted to have 1 diamond bin centered on a specific wall so his wife and girl friends could only take wine from that bin and I asked him why and he said, “they like to Party, but it was costing him a fortune!”
Decoist: Just for fun, let’s say a customer loves Edgar Allan Poe. What would you envision as a design based on The Cask of Amontillado?
Patrick Wallen: Definitely detached from the main house, all below grade, with bricks walls and ceiling, old sconces which mimic burning candles, it should be long and narrow with a secret passage back to the main house that only the owner knows about.
Decoist: Would you share your personal wine cellar with us?
Patrick Wallen: It doesn’t exist, but if it did, it would be the “infinity” design.
Decoist: Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and designs with us.
We are sure you are just as excited by Patrick Wallen’s designs as we are. If you are interested in exploring an upscale wine cellar, visit the Artistic Cellars web site. You can also contact them at 415-492-1450 and email PW@ArtisticCellars.com. Better yet, just visit the showroom at 4286 Redwood Hwy, San Rafael, CA 94903.
Be sure to let us know your favorites in the comments section below. While we haven’t seen it, we would opt for the Patrick’s Infinity design. We imagine it will outshine all of his stellar cellars!