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Frank and Becky Ponterio enjoy a glass of red in the pergola. The couple’s wine collection is stored in a former carriage house that has been converted to a pour room (at left).
For years, interior designer Frank Ponterio has been too busy creating luxe residences for his A-list clients to get around to the projects awaiting him at home. Friends say it seems like forever that he’s been talking about tweaking the elegant Lake Forest house he shares with his wife, Becky, and their 12-year-old daughter. So it was a delightful surprise for his wide social circle to hear that Ponterio had finally completed two upgrades—a renovated kitchen and a pour room—aimed squarely at entertaining.
Even before these improvements, gathering chez Ponterio was always pretty swell. But with his fancy new kitchen and the chance to dine surrounded by hundreds of bottles of wine, the designer has amped up the anticipation an invitation to one of his frequent get-togethers elicits.
The pour room is in a tiny outbuilding, a former standalone carriage house, that’s a remnant of the 1929 estate designed by architect David Adler for advertising tycoon Albert Lasker. The Ponterios live in the gatehouse of that long-vanished estate, and for the past eight years they’ve been gradually (and respectfully) renovating and repurposing their property’s structures. The pour room is a particularly inspired idea.
“We didn’t want to do a wine cellar with a dining table,” Ponterio says. “Yes, it’s fun to eat in a wine cellar because you’re surrounded by wine, but it’s chilled and you’re chilled!”
The courtyard, complete with an outdoor fireplace, is perfect for both cocktail parties and intimate chats on a pair of Adirondack chairs. The building to the right houses Ponterio’s office.
Rather than fitting out a clammy basement to hold his bottles, Ponterio transformed the carriage house, storing his wine in enormous temperature-controlled “caves” hidden behind panels made from simple slat boards that match the look of the old structure. He installed large front doors of naturally aged mahogany, which he and Becky fling open as often as the gods of Midwestern meteorology allow. It’s about the furthest thing from a dank, candlelit wine cellar you could imagine.
“It looks very rustic in there on purpose,” Ponterio says. “We really wanted to keep the mood casual.” Now, as often as twice a month, eight or so fortunate guests enjoy dinner around the rough-hewn French farm table Ponterio found in New Orleans. As his guests gaze contentedly through the open doors and across the lush gardens designed by Frank Mariani, Ponterio pours liberally from his collection of fine Italian reds.