Moody, atmospheric, simple but beautiful. These were the words Phil Sexton, owner of Giant Steps Winery, gave interior designer Wendy Bergman, when planning the winery’s complete redesign.
Before the renovation, Giant Steps shared the Healesville space with Innocent Bystander – a cider, prosecco and pinot gris label. It was a big, noisy, casual eatery with a lot of steel and concrete, Sexton says.
The sale of Innocent Bystander to Brown Brothers is what sparked the redesign.
“We were juggling two personalities,” Sexton says. “There was a lot of stuff going on, we were trying to be the best of all worlds.”
There was a dining area where visitors could order pizza and sample both wine labels, but the tastings were done in separate areas. Giant Steps hosted visitors in a private room where the barrels were kept; you sampled Innocent Bystander at the bar.
“It worked really well with Innocent Bystander, but it didn’t work well with the people who wanted to sit and talk about the wine,” Sexton says. “We needed a more intimate and quieter space, we wanted it to be moodier but wine-moody, like being in a cellar.”
“It’s like a little piece of me – it has that ‘coming home’ lounge room, relaxed and earthy feeling about it,” she says of Giant Steps’ new space.
“It is such a large space with a huge ceiling, so to create that intimacy we used timber panelling to absorb sound, we darkened the ceiling and used a colour palette of greens and mustards,” she says. “We chose really deep, earthy colours to complement the wine coming from the earth.” This darker colour palette is balanced by a number of glass windows with timber shutters, one of the only parts kept from the original build.
With room for 140, Wendy says the part she’s most proud of is her “leather-cross seating” booths that allow diners to look out onto the restaurant. “They are four intimate seating pockets with a two-and-a-half metre wide chandelier hanging over the top of you – it makes you feel so secluded, yet you can still look around and watch people.”
Bergman’s husband, industrial designer Paul Grummisch (Please, Please, Please), created the chandeliers, tasting table and wine wall in the tasting room. The wine wall is filled with individually hung leather slings attached to metal brackets, cradling hundreds of wine bottles.
Along with the interior changes the menu has had a revamp. “There is more food … everything from whole roasted duck through to a selection of wood-oven pizzas,” Sexton says.
“Before it felt like a train station, people coming and going all the time, nothing was happening slowly,” he says. “In making this change we wanted people to stay longer, feel better and fall in love with it.”