Back in the pre-Frigidaire, pre-supermarket era when the word “cellar” was mostly associated with tubers, not table wine, and when hoarding comestibles didn’t necessarily have anything to do with the impending zombie apocalypse, most homes were equipped with larders, cold closets and other designated low-temperature areas in which to store food.

Passively cooled root cellars — mostly associated with potatoes and turnips but also used to store other fruits, vegetables and leafy greens, preserved/canned goods and grandpa’s homemade hooch — were standard features in many homes, particularly homes in rural areas where homeowners produced all of their own food. Often a totally separate space from a home’s main cellar, these low-temperature, high-humidity (to stave off shriveling) underground lairs could be found bursting with crops during harvest season; their shelves neatly organized and arranged, everything properly labeled, for easy access during the long winter ahead.

Now that everything old is new again and homesteading — once relegated to the land of Old-Timey Things Our Grandparents Did and largely abandoned in favor of quick convenience — has been embraced by a new, self-sufficiency-minded generation, root cellars are, well, cool.

However, not everyone is fortunate enough to live in a home with a built-in root cellar or another type of subterranean pantry in which to store the bounty of your backyard mini-farm along with gallon jugs of home-brewed kombucha. Sure, you can build your own or carve one out of an existing basement. But why go through all the hassle when you can simply buy a prefabricated root cellar in which all the design considerations are taken care for you?

All you have to do is big a (rather large) hole.

Having previously tackled portable wood-fired hot tubs, wheelbarrow benches and al fresco stoves, the latest "backyard adventure"-minded offering from Dutch designer Floris Schoonderbeek and his always-delightful outdoor living product design firm, Weltevree, is the Groundfridge: a factory-built root cellar crafted from hand-laminated polyester that maintains a constant temperature of 7 to 15 degrees Celsius (about 45 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit). In terms of overall capacity, Groundfridge is roughly the equivalent of 20 refrigerators. As pointed out by Lloyd Alter, these are likely not full American-sized fridges being compared but smaller European models. When comparing the capacity to the mega-fridge found in the average American home, the number drops from 20 to roughly six. Still, that’s a whole lot of space.

Groundfridge, a prefab root cellar by Weltevree

Weltevree also notes that this “innovative take on the traditional root cellar" is large enough to store the harvest of a nearly 3,000-square-foot veggie garden or up 350 meals. Just open the hatch door, pass through the bathtub-shaped portal and descend down a short flight of stairs and into the cellar proper to fetch — or store — whatever you need.

Resembling a crash-landed space pod or an oversized connector piece for a plastic hamster habitat, the 7.5-foot-diameter Groundfridge comes complete with lighting and cabinetry. Installation is available on request.

Elaborates Weltevree:

It meets the requirements of people with their own vegetable garden, who choose to live in a modern and self-sustaining way. Floris Schoonderbeek (founder of Weltevree) is continuously discovering and exploring new angles, chances and materials that he puts to good use in improving and enriching our habitat. With the Groundfridge, he presents a means for new world citizens who want to handle their food in an autonomous, independent way.
Weighing a little over 660 pounds, there’s no pricing info on the Groundfridge at this time — it's fresh off its international debut at the annual Salon del Mobile furniture fair in Milan. According to Weltevree, the Groundfridge will be available starting this summer.

Groundfridge, a prefab root cellar by Weltevree

Groundfridge, a prefab root cellar by Weltevree

In addition to its primary food storage-centric function, the Groundfridge could also serve as the perfect backyard hideaway — a subterranean alternative to the garden shed — for when the in-laws are in town for an extended visit or when you need just a few minutes to get away from it all. Simply camouflage the hatch door with some branches and dirt and head on down into the chamber for a few minutes of quiet reflection amongst the canned peaches and carrots. 

Via [TreeHugger], [Gizmag]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.