By Jennifer Luce Hinesman
When I was growing up, a basement meant a space where adults told kids to go so they could “run out their crazies.” It was always a bit dark, more than a bit cold, and a home for old furniture. It was fun to have a free space where rules could be bent and we could be loud — but it never felt like a nice, cozy space to hang out. Eventually, we always headed back upstairs to play. Now, basements are getting makeovers. We have many clients renovate their existing basements in order to gain more Family Living space — not just a kid zone. We call them Lower Levels, as the spaces are lively and versatile and an extension of the Main Level. If you’re thinking about taking on your basement as a project, here are a few suggestions: Open up: if you’re renovating, the ceiling will probably be lower than your Main Level living spaces. A way to combat this issue is to remove ceiling tiles or just let the exposed duct work and joists remain open. Paint the ceiling a light color (a warm gray is lovely) so it opens up even more. Recessed can lights are still appropriate; just match the trim to the paint color as closely as possible. Divide functions, not space: toy storage, gaming / TV area, office space, extra bedroom and bath: these are just a sampling of the new functions that are moving down to the basement. Partial height walls mark changes in function (and help corral the toys!) but still allow light to move between spaces, making everything feel more open. Creature comforts and code requirements: the temperature of an older basements usually mirrors the outdoor temp — too cold in the winter and too warm in the summer. We have successfully moderated this cycle by furring out the existing walls and applying spray foam insulation in between the new studs. A new egress window will also be required; but that’s a good thing, as it brings more natural daylight to the Lower Level. Lively colors: why not? Accent colors, tack boards to display kids art, and fun throw pillows are all low-cost ways to bring color into the space. A punch of color is always fun! Image courtesy of Houzz user Wentworth, Inc.