This Wine Country Hillside Cave Features 120 Hidden Sources of Light

Lighting design by Pasolumination includes LED fixtures tucked within stonework, ceiling coves and other structural elements to illuminate this 5-acre cave on the coast of California.


Carved into the hillside of this 5-acre property on California’s central coast is a cave that completely belies its outward appearance. Integrated within the stone, steel, concrete, and other natural materials that make up the custom-built, underground structure is a sophisticated architectural lighting control system.

Together a Lutron HomeWorks QS system, Lutron control app and seeTouch keypad illuminate the interior of Rancho Vertigo Cave and showcase the natural elements as well as some of the owner’s prized possessions beautifully, thanks to a thoughtful design by Pasolumination.

“The main goal of the lighting design was to incite drama and intrigue — to build anticipation and excitement as you walk through the space,” says Pasolumination lighting designer and system programmer Kevin Mikelonis.

Highlights at Every Turn

LED fixtures tucked within stonework, ceiling coves and other structural elements spill pools of light in a stepping stone-like fashion to lead guests through two tunnels more than 300 feet and into two circular gathering spots: “Big Kiva,” which measures 28 feet in diameter, and the smaller 16-foot-diameter room, “Little Kiva.”

Along the way, lighting accentuates photography, concert posters, illustrations and other works. The technology behind the magic goes unnoticed.

“There are more than 120 sources of light, and not a single fixture’s light source is directly visible when touring the cave,” Mikelonis explains.

He and his team went so far as to hire a local blacksmith to fabricate a rustic-looking steel “lighting tray” that could be suspended and serve as a hiding spot for LED fixtures overhead.

Scenes Set the Stage

A “Spelunk” button triggers a scene that ramps up lights in a choreographed sequence, leading to Big Kiva, where blue, red, green and amber LEDs spray the ceiling from the spokes of a 20-foot wagon wheel overhead. There, guests can watch the sun set through a huge glass door or step through to the patio.

Mikelonis added LED lighting to this area, and tied it to the HomeWorks system so there would be no worries about breaking the area’s “Dark Skies Ordinance,” which prohibits artificial lighting after the sun has set for better star gazing.

A tap of an “Away” button signals the lights to fade, the fountain to silence, and a ventilation system to activate. The latter pulls the cool night air into the cave to help nurture the extensive wine collection. 

About the Author

Lisa Montgomery:

Lisa Montgomery has been a member of the CE Pro and Electronic House editorial teams for nearly 20 years; most of that time as the Editor of Electronic House. With a knack for explaining complex high-tech topics in terms that average consumers can understand, her style of writing resonates with people who are interested in adding electronic systems to their homes, but are unsure of the steps involved and the solutions available. From basic lighting control systems to full-blown automation systems, Lisa understands the home electronics market well, and is able to point consumers in the right direction on their quest for a smarter, more convenient, efficient and enjoyable home.

Over the years, she has developed close relationships with key manufacturers and seasoned custom electronics professionals, giving her a keen sense of what home technologies are hot now and what is on the horizon. She shares this wisdom regularly through feature stories, product roundups, case studies technology spotlights and comprehensive guides and books.