Wild Thing: Inside A Basement Renovation Like No Other

This story was originally published on the Amy Storm & Company blog.

Basements: a staple of midwestern living, and frequent receptacle of mismatched furniture, unopened moving boxes, and… is that… your high school letterman jacket or am I seeing things? Basements get a bad rap, sometimes deservedly, and sometimes it’s because their potential is untapped. Welcome to #ASCWildThing, a basement like no other.

Our clients came to us after sustaining water damage in their 1800 square foot basement – not an unfamiliar sight in the Chicago area – hoping to reconfigure its sizable but not necessarily functional space. The rooms were choppy, the layout not conducive to entertaining, and the entire space was dark despite sizable windows throughout. In other words, a typical basement.

Given the opportunity for a fresh start, our clients brought a lengthy – and unique – wish list of must-haves: a family room, a guest suite, a playroom, a bar and lounge area, a space for crafting, a fitness studio, and a gift wrapping area – to our first meeting. Less of a “basement,” more of a “lower level,” if you will. All while keeping the space open enough for the clients to throw a baseball(!), taking advantage of the incredible natural light streaming through the existing windows, and working within the constraints of the existing structural supports and supply lines. Got all that? Ok, let’s get started.

Guided by the specificity of our clients’ wish list, we created distinct zones within the expansive space, grounding each with an eye-catching focal point: the cement-tile clad gas fireplace with an oxidized maple mantel in the family room, an adult-only lounge surrounded by white oak panels with brass inlays, and a playroom with barn doors designed to allow light to flow into the neighboring family room whether open or closed.

The fireplace is such an incredible, and unexpected moment in this room. Our clients loved the thought of cozying up in front of a fire, and our original design called for an electric firebox that would have been totally sufficient. But sometimes, sufficient is not enough. When you’re undertaking a project of this scale, it’s fair to question whether you want to keep “sufficient” elements or if you want to go the distance to a higher level of finishes. For our clients, who loved the custom finish selections throughout the rest of the space, it felt better to push the envelope and install a line that enabled a gas fireplace and surround. The result? Totally custom, and a total showstopper.

The pre-renovation basement had a sizable bar that we tried (really tried!) to keep. It was well constructed and in fine condition, but it was large and smack dab in the middle of the space, making it nearly impossible for us to work all our client’s requests into the remodel, so it had to go. Hey, at least we tried. The new bar serves to separate the family room and craft space from the adults-only lounge and is decked out with bespoke cabinetry fit for our client’s prized scotch collection. And speaking of the lounge, let’s take a moment with these white oak panels… these are one of my favorite elements. Maybe ever. The idea was borne of wanting to mask support beams and other structural elements hidden in the dropped ceiling. Our thought? If your ceiling’s gorgeous no one’s going to notice. Spoiler alert: the only thing they’re going to notice is the gorgeous oak and brass combo.

It was important for everyone in the family to have a space to call their own, so we carved out a playroom and dressed it in gender- and age-neutral wall coverings and fixtures. It’s a perfect craft and dress up space now and can accommodate a Ping-Pong or pool table as their littles get bigger. And of course, we couldn’t forget the space to play catch: the open area between the staircases provides an ample (and glass-free) expanse ideal for practicing a curveball.

We love projects that give us the chance to turn underused rooms into the heart of someone’s home. Each choice our team made at #ASCWildThing created a cozy and comfortable retreat that feels like an extension of our clients’ already beautiful home.

Photography by Stoffer Photography.

For more like this basement renovation, be sure to check out this unused family basement transformed into a biophilic spa oasis. 

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