Thursday, June 3, 2010

Basement Becomes Lower-Level Suite

A couple of years ago, we decided to finish our basement--properly.  When we had our home built, we painted the basement walls and installed a drop ceiling and carpet.  The "nothing-fancy" sufficed for over ten years, but when our kids married and started having children, we could see we would soon be short of bedrooms.

We wanted the floor plan to include: a media room,
a small kitchenette, and an exercise room, in addition to the bedroom and bath.

Trying to work within the confines of ducts, support beams, furnace, and hot water heater, while utilizing existing windows proved to be a challenge. First, I hired a building designer for some basic design ideas.  He came up with a couple of plans and showed them to me using his computer-aided (CAD) technology. The virtual visualization was extremely helpful.  What looked like an ideal solution on flat paper, felt boxed in and dark in three dimensions. Punt...

Taking another approach, we contacted several reputable builders. Each came, looked at the existing situation; then returned with suggestions and their estimated cost. One builder, Gerald Graham had a plan, personality, and budget which seemed to fit.

However, the design work was not complete. Taking all the permutations into consideration, my husband and I tweaked the plans placing furniture-to-scale on blueprints. Again what looked feasible by dimension, proved cramped in reality.  Having the space functional was important enough to have hot water heater and the water softener moved to make room for seating.

Another dilemma was how to handle the load-bearing support beams. Rather than fight the poles, my husband suggested joining them, by mirroring the pillars to form a colonnade.

Our son-in-law suggested opening up the stairway as much as possible.  Great idea!

Then, we debated between exposed brick or stone for the wall facing the stairs.Because the outside of the house has brick foundation and stone above, either worked architecturally. However, we chose stone, because of the interesting texture.  The electrician installed lighting to highlight the shadows.

When we built our home, I had the builder make the basement a foot higher than normal. That extra foot was a life-saver. Even in areas where duct work dropped the ceiling, the head-height seems normal. Where the ducts descended below an acceptable height, we had the builder add a sleeping alcove.
Another decision was how to surround the fireplace. With the stone wall, a cement fireplace surround works beautifully.  I hunted on internet and all over the area for one to fit the lower ceiling in that area and still allow for a large screen tv above.  Finally, I located one in a town an hour away.

Next came color selections. Kilim pillows dictated the color scheme.
I carried the pillows to the stone quarry, to the kitchen/bath design studio, and to the paint store. I settled on an off-white paint color with a green undertone. For the columns, I had the painter half the wall color with white, then he halved that color for the ceiling.  Although subtle, the same color-family gives the room a uniform appearance.

In the bedroom, by fire code, we had to add a window large enough to be an escape route. 
 This room holds a double bed and has a nook for a baby bed or twin bed. (To insure many grandchildren, we have stipulated that the couple with the youngest children get dibs on the basement suite! :))

Then, because I detest cleaning glass shower doors and mildew-susceptible shower curtains, I turned the bathroom around multiple times, until I achieved a shower that needs neither.

The last room in the downstairs is an exercise area (which needs to get used more often!).

 This room is large enough that the treadmill, bike and elliptical fit, and still there is room for twin beds. So, if you've been counting, four grandchildren plus a couple could comfortably stay in the downstairs. 
The lower-level turned out better than we could have hoped. In fact, it won the county building associations "Remodelers' Award of Excellence." But, the best part is how well-used the remodeled space has been. We should call our lower level the "prophet's chamber" after the room with a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp that the Shumanite couple built so the prophet Elisha would have a place to stay when he passed by their town (2 Kings 4).


  1. How gorgeous. I would come and stay! :) Here's hoping you continue to be blessed with adorable grandchildren.

  2. I have so much catching up to do here. I just added you to my sidebar so I can visit more frequently.

    Your basement looks good enough to live! I love it!!!

    I had to chuckle when you said that you are encouraging your children to have grandchildren. Cute.

    Hope you are able to make it to the Blogger Meet on Saturday.

    Becky K.

  3. What a lovely basement! I especially love that sleeping alcove!!

  4. Maurie, what an absolutely beautiful space you have created. Wonderful remodel, I love all the details!!

  5. I came over from Rhoda's site - I love your space & everything you've done. I feel like I could just move right in. Everything is perfect.

  6. Well done, Maurie! You have one of the prettiest and most liveable basements I have ever seen. I know your family is enjoying it.

  7. Very pretty home. Thanks to Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality I am now following another great blog!


  8. Absolutely beautiful! You thought of so many special details, which is what makes the space memorable. The woodwork, the well proportioned fire place and furniture, the old and new, the warm and soothing color scheme, the cute nooks waiting to be discovered . . . it's simply spectacular! --APC

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