Maximize Your Basement

When you own a small home in one of the many historic districts of the DC, such as Capitol Hill, it is necessary to maximize every bit of living space. Many homeowners who do not have sufficient land area to build an addition to their home decide to remodel their basements to gain additional living space. And this is what we recently did for the basement of a client’s townhouse. The house lacked a family room, guest room, and extra bath. Their under utilized basement was the perfect place to remodel to satisfy their needs. As a positive feature, the existing basement was a spacious 24' x 24', had a triple set of large front windows with a functional 7'-0" ceiling height, all fit for remodeling. On the negative, the basement was a convoluted warren of poorly fabricated rooms; an ancient bath occupied the only front windows, and mechanical equipment (furnace and water heater) took up prime floor space in the middle of the basement. A former rear outside stair areaway (3' x 6'), covered over by a previous addition, was wasted space that we wanted to utilize.

Gutting the old basement allowed our new design to maximize every square inch. New mechanical equipment, both compact and energy-efficient, was selected to replace the old. The new equipment was relocated to the rear where it shares space with a laundry room. Full size washer/dryer units were placed side by side to allow a folding counter for laundry with storage shelves above. The former rear stair’s areaway was reconfigured as a shower stall for the new bath; the old concrete steps clad in tile as a bench for the shower stall. The space remaining between the new bath and laundry room was finished off as a cedar closet. Grouping the laundry, utilities, bath, and cedar closet along the rear of the basement enabled us to open up the space and create an 18' x 24' family room which benefits from the natural light of the front window. Along one wall new egg crate style bookcases accommodate storage and a flat screen TV. An upholstered furniture grouping and area rugs makes the new room the perfect media center. At the opposite end of the space a drop-down Murphy bed provides extra sleeping for overnight guests. When the bed is folded up there is space for the owner’s game table.

Because the new space is located in a basement with modest daylight the new lighting was very important. To make the space warm and inviting custom recessed halogen lights were installed in square pockets recessed between the floor joists. A pair of contemporary wall sconces illuminates a central column. Transparency and reflectivity were achieved with frosted glass cabinet doors on the lower portion of the bookcase, frosted glass pocket doors, and a glass railing at the stair. Two frosted glass pocket doors, symmetrically placed, provide access to the rear utilities and bath and help to visually balance the space. Throughout the space light neutral paint colors at the walls with white trim were used. Large-scale (20" x 20") travertine floor tile in a cream color was specified and the bathroom has pale green penny-round tile.

What was formerly a convoluted space, inefficiently used for storage, is now a fully functioning and attractive living space. The comfort of the space, natural light, symmetry and quality materials provide a restful environment at the end of a Washington work day.
photos by Ron Blunt

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