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An Unfinished Basement Transformed for Entertaining and Family Fun

You think you have a big house, until your teenagers, pets, hobbies, and active social life start to make it feel cramped.  This is the point where you think about moving, right?  

But wait, what about all that space down there.... in the basement?

It's not just for storage and hoarding great deals on detergent and paper towels.  Especially if you have a larger home, it could be hundreds of square feet or more that are wasted.

That's what happened to my clients.  They have a 10-year old home with a  large basement (about 1000 square feet) that was merely storing bikes, sporting equipment, and lots of boxes of stuff that was barely touched in years.  They needed more function out of all that space; more room to entertain, and for the kids to hang out with their friends. So, they asked me to help them make the most of the space 


A full size kitchen with an island

separate dining area

 media space with a large TV

 3 piece bathroom

exercise space

a large laundry room 

a crafting space

lots and lots of storage

No problem!!  I'll have the plans to you next week (HA!)

Here's the BEFORE pictures of the cold & dark unfinished basement

I had a pretty good brief and spent lots of time getting to know my client's needs and the specifics of how they wanted to use the space.  I started off creating zones for all the activities required.  We had a couple of options for where the kitchen could be located, but all the other areas were determined based on the architecture of the home and working around the endless bulkheads, plumbing and HVAC that is a necessary evil in every home.

Here's the overall floor plan and the furniture layout I came up with.

As you can see,  every inch of space has been allocated to this highly functional space. The red dots are for recessed lighting and pendants.

So after the initial clean up the crew got to work with some new plumbing, HVAC, electrical, framing, dry walling, 

installing floors, doors, cabinetry, fixtures, tiles, lighting and paint....oh my!!  

Here's the amazing results AFTER several weeks of all the very important messy work.


I designed this kitchen without upper cabinets because of the low ceilings.  I prefer to see open shelving and a beautiful back splash all the way up the wall; this one is a glass mosaic.  

There was lots of room for two tall, open cabinets on either end of the kitchen and a large pantry (far right) for all kinds of storage.  The island houses a dishwasher and microwave.

I had custom live-edge walnut shelves made to float on the tiled back splash and along the side wall to add warmth and display pretty dishes and glass ware.  White quartz counters in Calacatta Nuvo from Ceasarstone provide contrast to the espresso brown cabinets and help brighten up the space .  Sleek grey, backless stools with chrome legs invite guests to hang out with the cook.  Glass pendants with industrial bulbs are light & airy, adding artisan quality.

Rustic wood-look laminate floors in a warm greige tone were installed throughout.  

They are great for basements, and durable enough for teen gatherings & the family pets.

Here's a close-up on the glass mosaic back splash tiles and the custom made, floating live edge shelving that was installed on either side of the stove as well as on the opposite wall for display. The contrast of the wood against the vertical lines of the glass really adds interest and some sheen.


Adjacent to the kitchen is an eating area / bar hangout.  The space between the two support posts was the perfect size for a table and created a cozy nook that would otherwise just have been a hallway.  

I chose a bar height table so that it could facilitate watching TV while having a brew and by altering the height from the the island, it creates more interest and feels like a distinct "room".  

The table is reclaimed wood and the white powder-coated steel stools can be tucked away 

under the table when not in use.  A single industrial style, glass ceiling pendant helps ground the space while adding to the pub vibe.

An overview of the kitchen and bar area from the stairs (shown below).


The main colour of the basement is Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter with a couple of accent walls in Van Deusen Blue.  Low media cabinets from Ikea were selected to create a modern, sleek design where the TV could sit on while a single side tower cabinet offers some height in the space and a contemporary look for additional storage.  The client's sofa and loveseat were reupholstered in grey/blue coordinating fabrics.  Pillows in lemon and aubergine add fun pops of colour.

The reading nook wall was given an accent colour and dedicated lighting to create it's own zone. A large graphic area rug in light blue and cream grounds the space and makes it extra cozy.  Only artwork still remains to be purchased.  There will be a series of black & white photographs from the client's travels framed on the large side wall (right) and a few more accessories.


This area at the bottom of the stairs (shown far left) houses a custom built cabinet that stores craft supplies. We added chunky wood shelves above to showcase the home owner's treasured vintage books and pretty display items.  

In the small space beside the stairs we created a great area for games & crafts.

A cork craft project in progress shown on the small white tulip table.

The light fixture was a vintage flea market find the client was holding on to until it found the perfect spot right here.

 A grey tufted bench offers more storage.

Pedestal table and chairs are durable, easy for clean-up, and stylish for the small but mighty hard working space.

The back wall behind the bench is done in black chalkboard paint to keep score while playing games or leaving messages. A vintage white frame will hang here to outline the inspiration.


My client is very active and exercise is important to her.  This space is her sanctuary for yoga and TRX training, so it also had to be ZEN, which is why it's the only closed off space (with double doors), other than bathroom and laundry. 

I chose a light grey wall colour, Benjamin Moore Marilyn's Dress, to coordinate with the floors.   Built-in cabinets (not shown on the right side of the room) are finished in the same colour to keep the space feeling very calming.  

Custom built panel door covers the home's electrical panel. On the other side of the room is a small wall-mounted TV. 


The original laundry room was located in the first floor mudroom that was the family's main entry access from the garage.  It was small, dark and always cluttered with the necessities of daily life.  So we moved it to the basement and created a large, bright hardworking room of its own.

We created a fresh, modern and highly efficient space with a quartz counter top in Frosty Carrina, large light gray porcelain tiled floors, white subway tiles above the stainless steel sink with an industrial faucet for washing the pet dog.   

The walls are painted Benjamin Moore Wedgewood Grey. Large glass canisters hold soap and detergent keeping the counter free of bulky plastic bins. The white organizer rack on the wall serves as the dedicated "lost sock" destination. Stainless steel drying racks installed on the wall to the left (and off camera) make maximum use of some awkward corners.  Lots of pot lights make this space bright and super functional.   My client actually loves doing laundry in this space now.


The floor is a wood-look porcelain tile to coordinate with the rest of the basement. The

counter top is Frosty Carrina quartz, cabinets were painted Benjamin Moore Stormy Monday walls are BM Cement Gray.  Mosaic floor tile in the shower was carried up to accent the wall in a 12" wide vertical band to help make the narrow space feel taller.

Still needs some artwork and a couple of robe hooks on the back wall to finish off this room.

The bubble-glass finish on the sconces is echoed in the etched-glass mirror surround.  A sleek chrome faucet with single "joystick" handle is cool and fun!

The quartz-like door handles and "bubbles" mirror add a touch of whimsy

 to this modern chic space.

At the end of it all my clients are using the space daily and bypass the main floor living space often to hang out on the lower level.  It's now a space that the whole family can enjoy, 

although Mom tells me that the kids have taken it over!.  

It just goes to show that the basement is an untapped goldmine when left unfinished.  

When you take the time to think about what kind of space you need for your lifestyle and invest in the design of the basement with the same care and attention that you give the rest of your home, lower level living can truly rise to new heights!

How's your lower level looking?


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