A Colonial Root Cellar Becomes a Wine Bar on ‘Stone House Revival’

When Tom and Angie Guzzo of Newtown, Pa., wanted to refurbish the root cellar in their circa-1710 home, the project gave Stone House Revival host Jeff Devlin the perfect excuse to return to his hometown. He transformed the crumbling cellar into a chic hideaway fit for a wine tasting, and while he was at it, gave their living room a new look inspired by the farmhouse’s history.

By: Lisa Arnett
From: Jeff Devlin

A Toast to Happy Homeowners

Jeff and homeowners Tom and Angie raise a glass to the finished projects: a stunning root cellar-turned-wine hideaway and a freshly formal living room.

 

Cellar Roof, Before

In a Colonial-era home like the Guzzo family’s, underground root cellars once provided a cool, dark place to store not just root vegetables (think onions, potatoes, carrots) but also other veggies and fruits before the advent of refrigeration. The stone-walled entrance to the Guzzo’s cellar is located in front of their home (shown here with roof and door removed). Their goal: To turn the dilapidated cellar into a usable space where they could have a glass of wine with friends and talk about the history of their home.

 

 

Cellar Roof, After

Jeff replaced the cellar’s rotted roof with fresh cedar shingles. Though the cellar’s original door was damaged beyond repair, he saved its original hardware to add historic character to a new door, also crafted out of cedar. 

 

Cellar Entrance, Before

The root cellar’s stone-walled entry needed an overhaul. One wall was structurally sound but in need of restoration; the other was crumbling and leaning sideways. 

 

Cellar Entrance, After

Jeff and his crew repointed the stone on the first wall by chiseling out the old mortar and applying fresh mortar. While knocking over the other wall, the crew took care to salvage usable stone pieces to stack alongside new pieces of sandstone during its reconstruction. The walls below were resurfaced and painted a bright white, while iron lanterns were added to light the stairway.

 

Back Cellar Wall, Before

The plaster-covered stone walls of the cellar were discolored and cracked from years of neglect, with actual plant roots growing through the crevices.

 

Back Cellar Wall, After

Jeff made the cellar’s back wall a focal point by removing the plaster covering and repointing the stone. He also added a working potbelly stove to keep the space toasty and perched candles atop stone supports that previously held up a wooden shelf. 

 

Back Cellar Wall, After

Potted plants, patio chairs and accent pillows in graphic blue, white and black prints add a modern touch to a historic space.

 

Root Cellar Chimney

Jeff and his team routed the exhaust pipe for the new potbelly stove through the root cellar’s original chimney, which surfaces in front of the house.

 

Wooden Shelf, Before

Along one wall of the cellar, a wooden shelf was held up by stone pieces mortared right into the cellar wall, a detail that caught Jeff’s attention during the first walk-through. The shelf’s counter-level height gave it the potential to become a perfect wine bar.

 

 

Wooden Shelf, After

The shelf was refinished and reinstalled on the existing stone supports to create a wine bar with plenty of space for glasses and plates. Stools in a complementary wood tone and blue-and-white ceramic vessels with bright yellow blooms set the scene for sipping.

 

Wine Storage, Before

While the original cellar stored fruits and vegetables, the remodeled space could store wine. Jeff wanted to build bottle storage that would be decorative as well as functional and zeroed in on this wall to house a custom creation.

 

 

Wine Storage, After

Jeff created a leaning wine rack by fitting wooden planks into an iron frame and drilling angled holes for the bottle necks. The design was inspired by a French riddling rack, used to tilt champagne bottles during the finishing process to allow yeast to settle.

 

 

Wine Storage, After

Devlin stained the wine rack a deep shade of walnut to match the wine bar and stools. More iron lanterns, a vintage milk can and a potted topiary add to the ambiance. 

 

Root Cellar, Before

Without any windows to let natural light in, the cellar was seriously dark and dismal.

 

Root Cellar, After

Though candles add a soft glow, Jeff and his crew added electricity to really light up the space. A line of bulbs down the center of the cellar emphasizes the arched ceiling.

 

Root Cellar, Before

The cellar’s original stone floors were in decent structural shape but looked dingy under decades of dust and dirt.

 

 

Root Cellar, After

Taking a power washer to the stone floors allowed their natural beauty to shine through, while a fresh coat of white paint brightened up the plaster walls.

 

Living Room, Before

The two-story, stone-covered entry of the Guzzos’ home leads into a living room that was added on to the original structure in 1792. Because the couple already has a spacious family room to share with their three kids, Jeff pictured this room as a more formal, adults-only space with details that would bring back its character.

 

 

Stone Wall and Shutters, Before

This stone wall already featured historic character thanks to two pairs of shutters, but their color blended in with the  desk, side table and floors.

 

Stone Wall and Shutters, After

Painting the shutters and trim a crisp white provides contrast with the natural stone wall, and a smaller cobalt blue table replaces the heavy-set desk and bulky chair.

 

Mural Wall, Before

The walls directly across from and next to the stone accent wall were painted a shade of straw yellow, and windows featured draped treatments in slate blue.

 

Mural Wall, After

Jeff brought in a local artist (his friend Tina) to paint a mural of a Colonial landscape, channeling what the view around the home might have looked like a few hundred years ago. “Murals in a Colonial home would have been a depiction of wealth,” he said. “You would have done this for your own enjoyment, but mostly to impress the people that came over.” To keep the focus on the mural, the window treatments were switched out for simple white Roman shades with grass-green trim.

 

Mural Wall, After

The custom countryside mural features a miniature version of the home itself. Look closely to the left of the root cellar for an Easter egg cheekily added by the artist: It’s Jeff clad in knickers and knee socks constructing the Guzzo’s wine rack.

 

Living Room, Before

The existing living room featured crown molding and baseboards that matched the trim around the windows.

 

 

Living Room, After

To bring a dose of historic character back into the room, Devlin added a chair rail and painted it white to match the existing trim. Chair rails were first used in 18th century homes to actually keep chair backs from rubbing against the walls.

 

 

Living Room, Before

The Guzzos felt like they never found the right flow with their existing furniture layout. A large leather couch and credenza divided the room in two, while a pair of striped chairs sat opposite the desk.

 

 

Living Room, After

Jeff rejiggered the layout to feature one common seating area with powder blue chairs and a lush green velvet sofa clustered around gold-toned tables. The door, now painted black, pops against the colorful mural and white trim.

 

Fireplace, Before

At the far end of the room, the white fireplace mantle matched the existing trim.

 

Fireplace, After

Jeff spruced up the mantle with a coat of pistachio green paint and floral decorative accents in white. A pair of pearly candlesticks and glass vases atop the mantle and yellow blossoms on the hearth make the stone fireplace a proper focal point. 

 

Living Room, Before

Can lights were the only overhead lighting in the living room, and the ceiling lacked the architectural details typical of a 1700s home.

 

Living Room, After

A tiered crystal chandelier was just what the room needed to kick the formality up a notch. Around its base, Jeff installed a ceiling medallion surrounded by a ring of ornate trim.

 

 

DIY Ceiling Medallion

To make the ceiling medallion and trim room-ready, Jeff started with a coat of white lacquer.

 

The Glaze Stage

To give the trim an aged look, Devlin applied brown glaze over the lacquered trim and buffed it off with a rag.

 

The Finished Product

Ta-da! The brown glaze layered over white lacquer gives the medallion a proper patina.