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3 basement remodels that prove it’s the coolest part of the house

These basements show even the subterranean space in your house can be inviting.

Photo by Robert Radifera

Ambient & Adult

Once Dana and Jim Whitt’s three sons were grown, the Haymarket couple wanted something entirely different in what was once a belowground playroom. A space that adults wanted to spend time in especially appealed to them.

When interior decorator Erika Bonnell was approached to assist, the basement had already been gutted, and the only stipulation was to integrate an existing pool table and leather sofa into the design.

An over-scale Arteriors chandelier provides ambient light above the pool table and makes a dramatic statement. The counter bar functions as a room divider, incorporating structural beams and creating separation but connectivity between the seating and pool table zones. Comfortable underfoot cork floors were done through Lowes. (Photo by Robert Radifera)

“We wanted two separate areas, one for hanging out and one for playing pool,” says Dana. “Erika came up with a half-wall, using the existing structural columns and designing these X-shaped separators, with a bar counter between them.”

Five pendants, with clear glass globes, light up the granite-topped dry bar base. The paint that wraps the room in moody darkness is ‘Galapagos Turquoise’ by Benjamin Moore. (Photo by Robert Radifera)

Textured, stacked stone forms the base of the bar counter, as well as an adjacent dry bar, where food and beverages are served.

To tie everything together and add moody ambiance, Erika lacquered all the walls and moldings in a saturated teal blue color.

“I also wanted to balance the masculinity with some feminine touches,” she adds, integrating a grass-cloth wall finish, which has gold threads, and a pair of glamorous cut-velvet swivel chairs into the design.

Cut-velvet Hickory Chair stools in a gridded Schumacher fabric swivel to face TV or sofa. On the wall, a grid of Pottery Barn frames with family photos repeat the pattern and provided some brightness in the room. (Photo by Robert Radifera)

Other features include a medley of sofa pillows, as well as small tables.

“I didn’t want things to feel heavy. We balanced the weighty pieces, like the sectional and pool table, with airier side and cocktail tables,” she adds.

“We enjoy the space at night, especially when we have friends over,” says Dana. “It’s dark and moody, with cozy seating areas, which make for great conversations.”

Fun & Funky

Twin Diamond Studios installed the custom-designed built-ins painted in Benjamin Moore’s ‘Shale’ in a Satin Finish. Flooring is by Coretec Luxury Vinyl Tile. (Photo by Robert Radifera)

Vienna-based homeowners Judy and Bill Mann have almost a full house. Though their eldest Hannah (18) is in college, they have daughter Allie (16) and son Lucas (14) still at home.

“The family wanted to redo their basement as a place for everyone to hang out, but they especially wanted to make it an inviting space for the kids,” says Philippa Baker, a senior designer at Studio 320.

A Crate & Barrel floor lamp brightens a dark corner, while the Spoonflower Studio papered wall makes up for the lack of a view. Swivel armchairs by Vanguard can face the TV or the Room & Board coffee table, which is round and easy to navigate. (Photo by Robert Radifera)

“We’re a casual, fun-loving family. Lucas especially loves to have friends over,” says Judy. “Other than creating better storage and improving overall lighting, we were wide open to ideas.”

This belowground basement has minimal natural light. For the renovation, the Manns went for a playful, vibrant retro diner theme to add that missing punch and make the room brighter.

First off, an existing bulkhead was cleverly integrated into a wall of custom-designed storage, housing the TV and more. Its finish is gray, like the walls. The effect: seamless and light.

“To make the design less kitschy, we did a stylish black-and-white plaid wall on the far end. It’s graphic pattern draws you right in,” adds Baker.

Aptly near the arcade game are diner tables by Heffrons Retro. The Lee Industries stools are covered in a Romo Fabrics vinyl, which easily wipes clean. A fun light fixture by Schoolhouse Electric adds spatial definition and light. (Photo by Robert Radifera)

Other than neutrals, the palette is of primary blues and reds. A red mini fridge also tucks into the built-in at one end, creating a dry bar. Directly opposite, diner-style furniture provides a place for snacking and playing games.

“We love it,” says Judy. “Lucas and his friends hang out a ton in the basement—gaming, watching movies or playing pingpong—and when everyone is home, we all enjoy our at-home retro diner!”

Bright & Breezy

A sectional sofa from Lazar Industries sports a hardy poly-blend fabric in a practical dark color. Pillows add color and pattern to the seating area set upon a custom-cut rug from J. Brooks Designer Floors. Art from Picture Source (to the trade) draws the room’s palette together. (Photo by Robert Radifera)

When Cassie and Dan Jackson re-did their backyard, their thoughts also turned to their walkout basement. Once a play space for tots, the room no longer fulfilled its purpose; the Jacksons have three rapidly growing kids.

“We wanted a functional, well-designed space for hosting indoor/outdoor parties,” says Cassie of the basement in their Vienna home. “But mostly, we wanted to create a great gathering spot for our children and their friends, while they navigate their teen years and young adulthood.”

A pair of Zuo Mod stools and a tall table create more seating by the wet bar. The latter is by NVS Kitchen & Bath and has a durable concrete counter and warm walnut base. (Photo by Robert Radifera)

Owner and principal designer Andrea Maaseide of the Vienna-based Studio 320 came on board. To her, the big plus of this particular basement was the availability of natural light.

“That makes it really special,” she says. “It has lots of windows and easy access to the yard. But it was still important to give it a warm, cozy vibe, because basements tend to feel cold.”

Maaseide picked a welcoming organic palette of chartreuse greens and soft grays punctuated by eggplant hues. A wet bar, with double beverage fridges—one locked for adults; one for kids—was designed for the space. An adjacent dartboard area defined by reclaimed wood adds another layer of warmth.

Leather chairs from Modway Furniture add a midcentury vibe, while surrounding a circular table used for games or projects; its pedestal base makes easy room for additional seating—and legs—if needed, including two adjacent swivel stools from Norwalk Furniture. (Photo by Robert Radifera)

“Instead of the old wall-to-wall carpeting, we put in luxury vinyl tile, which is great for a basement, as it needs no subfloors to lay and is moisture-and-scratch resistant,” she says.
“We’re very happy with the remodel,” adds Cassie. “The different zones serve different purposes, from watching TV to playing darts. Of course, we also love how the basement spills into the backyard when the weather is nice.”

This post originally appeared in our April issue. Want more home content? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

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