Tucked into a neighborhood retail street in Birmingham, Alabama, Golden Age Wine is an unexpected find. The 2,000-sf wine shop is the first in the state to offer natural wine by the glass and bottle. The Golden Age proprietors wanted the flexibility to showcase an unrivaled selection of more than 800 natural wines in a space that captures the honesty, sustainability, and beauty of this growing movement. Adaptive reuse of an original 1962 building, the space had great bones that had been covered up through the years. A dropped acoustic-tile ceiling hung down past the storefront windows, the interior was clad in bumpy drywall, and the concrete floor was obscured by dark brown polish. The new design opened the ceiling to full height, smoothed the walls, ground the floor surface down to its original aggregate, and reorganized the interior space.
The renewed home of Golden Age Wine is characterized by a balance of comfortable warmth and uncluttered minimalism. With the building pared back to its bones, strategic details in simple materials create an inviting, uncluttered elegance on a modest budget. The original space included an office on an existing second floor toward the rear. This upper space divides the ground-floor shop, allowing for a soaring tasting room up front and a shift in scale for an intimate back room for gathering or overflow seating. Arches added to the hallway soften the transition between the front shop and bar and the event room behind. The final space includes 60 seats (42 in the front tasting room, and 18 in the event room) plus a 600-sf stockroom. Two broad strokes of shelving—totaling 400 linear feet—define and frame the interior.
An off-the-shelf modular wall-mounted shelving system paired with custom wood-veneered shelves offers flexibility and character at a modest cost. The shelves were made by local artisan Cliff Spencer and include a clever routed reveal on the front of each for the “shelf-talkers”—a signage system that allows every bottle to be labeled clearly without fuss, tape, or fasteners. The materiality celebrates Birmingham’s terroir: brick tile handmade nearby with Alabama clay, tabletops cut from local stone-yard remnants, vintage chairs found across three states, and a ceiling of reclaimed oak shipping crates from a Birmingham manufacturer.
Cozy wood benches, accented by leather backrests and blush sconces, provide a counterpoint to the spaciousness in front of the wine walls that allow customers to linger over the large selection of bottles. The bar and shop are elevated by several key collaborations, tapping into the rich wealth of regional talent to create a beautiful space rooted in place by the wares of local artists and artisans. Ceramicist Civil StoneWare was commissioned to create custom dishware, combining three different clay bodies and glazes for a unique bespoke set. Botanical artist Holly Carlise created a sculpture of dried local hydrangeas for space, and woodworkers Alabama Sawyer and Cliff Spencer designed and built the shelving and tables. Proprietor Brandon Loper’s grandfather, George Loper, made all of the cutting boards—on display behind the bar—by hand.