Form Follows Function

Fijian Mahogany cellar
The Fijian Mahogany cellar cabinetry blends seamlessly into a modern aesthetic and contemporary style family room off the wine cellar. Photography courtesy Chuck Heiney

Necessity really is the mother of invention. Just ask Jim Cash, founder of Revel Custom Wine Cellars in East Lansing, who couldn’t find what he was looking for when trying to store his wine collection.

“When I wanted to build my own wine cellar, I looked around for products and they all had the traditional ‘grab the bottle by the neck and stick it into the little cubby’ design,” he says. “I could never find the bottle I was looking for, so I decided to design my own system.”

“We also connect our furniture with our growing wine industry. It’s great to have something like this designed, created and built in Michigan.”
— Jim Cash

Cash, whose background is in commercial real estate and construction, came up with clever solutions inspired by kitchen cabinets, such as wine wheels that rotate like a Lazy Susan and sliding drawers for easy access and better visibility.

“I create cellars made of cabinets that are purpose-built for wine bottles,” says Cash, who launched Revel in 2009 and has a number of patents. “We also connect our furniture with our growing wine industry. It’s great to have something like this designed, created and built in Michigan.”

Each cellar is custom-designed and handmade with cabinets constructed from a variety of wood species. Other distinctive details come from counters, flooring and ceiling treatments.

Wine storage
Multiple storage components designed by Revel include a Wine Wheel tower, case storage pullouts, wine ladders for single bottles, and drawer pullouts. Photography courtesy Chuck Heiney

“We see the rooms themselves to be like any other room,” Cash says.

Revel’s distinctive furniture pieces include bistro tables with rotating levels below that can hold more than 50 bottles of wine, making them ideal for a cellar, tasting area or any entertaining space.

Though Cash says the traditional wine rack has long been the dominant way to store wine, in other parts of the country there are new design developments, such as the current trend toward more contemporary wine cellars outfitted with glass and steel for a more industrial tone. Oak has given way to walnut and other premium woods.

“There is a lot of change in some of the aesthetics,” he says.

One constant is the fact Revel’s wine cellars are made by second- and third-generation craftsmen and artists.

Old World style wine cellar
Revel designed and built the custom wine racking, cabinetry and entry door system for this Old World style wine cellar, also from Fijian Mahogany. Photography courtesy Ashley Avila

“We have the best in the world in furniture design, joinery and construction,” he says.

“The advanced technology of computer-aided design layers on top of that, creating a new legend for high-end furniture worldwide in Michigan. We’ve built a reputation that is truly worldwide,” says Cash, whose clients include celebrities and CEOs from the world’s largest companies.

Derek Schaap, designer with Benchmark Wood Studio in Holland, which manufactures the wine cellars, collaborates with Cash on the systems that feature sustainable materials like renewable wood.

Schaap says the size of the cellar depends on the needs of the client. “There are a lot of options for depth and width,” he explains.

If there is enough space, there may be a tasting or entertaining area where the wine-filled cabinets act like a piece of art.

Though the cellars are made in Michigan, they are shipped around the country and all over the world.

“The whole collaboration is handcrafted in the U.S., where the legacy of furniture making was in Michigan and Grand Rapids used to be the capital,” Schaap says. “That may have shifted elsewhere, but we still have a presence.”


Vino-themed pieces further accentuate a wine cellar, dining room or tasting area. Light fixtures made from wine barrels and vintage posters that promote the popular beverage are well-suited for this type of environment.

Contemporary reach-in wine cellar
This contemporary reach-in wine cellar holds 668 bottles and combines Revel’s wine wheels, sliding pullouts and case storage in a modern home built by Scott Christopher Homes. Photography courtesy Scott Christopher Homes/Michael buck

Judy Frankel, owner of Judy Frankel Antiques in Troy, specializes in pieces from the past, such as old wine jugs and drinking glasses that work well in a cellar setting.

“All of these are vintage or antique. They’re real — there are no reproductions,” she says. “The craftsmanship was simply different; it was better. It has history and it’s handmade.”;;

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