Last summer I sat down with my sketchbook and listed out a bunch of ideas for possible products I could design. This was at a time before I had launched my website when I only had two existing products (a coffee table and lamp). I ended up focusing my efforts on designing the Suspension Shelf and the Signature and Peering Lamps, but partway down my sketchbook page, I left a note to myself that it could be fun to design a wine rack. I've never been much of a wine drinker, but the idea of making some sort of rack appealed to me because of the opportunity it would give me to introduce a new element - a wine bottle. The wine bottle, I figured, would be a new and interesting piece to play around with in a system of tensioned cables and carefully balanced parts.
Ten months later, I've finally had the chance to realize the idea. Since the last several designs I worked on were larger, more expensive pieces, I figured this would be a good opportunity to create something simpler and more attainable for the average person. With that in mind, I decided to forgo designing a large rack that could hold a wine-enthusiasts entire collection and instead opt for a smaller tabletop design that would hold four bottles.
Like my other designs, I knew I wanted the wine rack to be not only a functional object but also an intriguing sculpture. As usual, I went straight to my sketchbook to work out some ideas. The basic notion I started with was that of balancing a piece of wood diagonally on a rectangular base using some method of steel cabling. If done right, I figured that the diagonal piece of wood would be stable enough to support the four wine bottles. Given how simple I wanted the rack to be, it took me a surprisingly long time to come up with a design I was happy with. My original sketches all featured a bunch of cables being used to balance the diagonal board and the result was way too busy and crowded looking. In the end, my breakthrough came when I figured out that the design could be realized using only two cables. It's much easier to show than describe, so here's the final sketch:
Perhaps my favorite aspect of this design is the way the cables run down the front side of the rack before bending away to connect to the front of the base. It reminds me of the neck of the guitar and gives the piece a bit of an instrumental quality.
With the key elements of the design figured out, I realized I needed some sort of accent to make it a complete piece. Though I was aiming for a simple aesthetic, having just two rectangular boards seemed a little bland to me. As a solution, I decided to employ an idea I initially put to work in the design of the Suspension Shelf and "float" a thin piece of wood out in front of the main diagonal board just to give things a little more texture and variation.
Once the design was finalized on paper, I moved to building a prototype in plywood. As usual, this process involved first recreating my design on the computer and then using a CNC machine to cut out the different parts that comprise the wine rack. The prototype worked pretty well, so after a couple quick tweaks I advanced to building the first polished version of the rack in my tried and true combination of mahogany and oak. The result was pretty good, I thought, but the colors of the mahogany and oak didn't quite sit right with me in combination with the typical colors of a wine bottle. Determined to find a better coloring scheme, I tried out two woods I had never worked with before: walnut and birch. Right away I knew I had found the right combination. The new colors looked great on their own, but, more importantly, they went very well with the wine bottles, too.
I've probably written way too much at this point, so just enjoy some more pictures! If you want to check out the new product page for the wine rack, it's right here.