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A Dynamic Lower Level: Add Space Without An Addition


Despite the need for more space, many homeowners are deciding to stay put rather than list their home in an uncertain market.

Adding a large window or door for safety reasons also gives the space and upper-level feel.

While over-improving your home is always a consideration, claiming an existing storage space for extra living space is an economical alternative to building an addition.

Once you establish that your basement is dry under all conditions, it is the obvious choice for additional living space.

The basement before.

It’s spacious, and accessible. Depending upon local building code, the first step may be enlarging a window to a size appropriate for escape in the event of emergency. This necessary step may require some exterior grading to provide access to the window, as well as minor wall demolition and framing for the larger unit.

The basement after.

If you have exterior conditions conducive to a patio, you may also want to include a door. A full light door along with a bigger window really gives the space a main-floor feeling.

The next step is to have the HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) evaluated. Perhaps your new space can be handled by your existing system, but a professional should help with that decision. The ductwork for the house is undoubtedly a major factor in determining how the space will be utilized. If some spaces have more headroom than others, they will be assigned for the activity areas. Lower ceiling heights may be incorporated into storage, or cabinetry areas. The “problem” of ductwork often creates an “opportunity” for interesting ceiling features, and for visually dividing spaces.

Once the existing space is mapped out, the supports for the upper level need to be identified. These items (usually poles) can be hidden within new partitioning walls, or for open plan areas, neatly wrapped in millwork.

A ventless fireplace and proper lighting give the space warmth and light.

Adding attractive millwork in the form of book cases, storage cabinets, wainscoting, or crown molding gives an incredible boost to the formality of the lower-level space, making it more of a continuation of your living area rather than a “finished basement.” Take it a step further, and include a vent-less gas fireplace.

Because most basements have a poured concrete floor, floor covering is decided accordingly. Floating floors are the ideal choice, and come in a vast selection of wood and wood look-alike.

They are pre-finished and provide an easy installation with instant gratification.

Don’t compromise on the light fixtures. Ample flush mounted or recessed fixtures, accented by sconces and a chandelier, provide abundant illumination for tasks,

A nook is a cozy spot to play games.

or can be dimmed to an ambient mood for relaxation.

Besides TV viewing, listening to music and lounging by the fire, adding entertainment such as billiards will transform the lower level into your family’s destination for enjoyment.

Spared the expense of major excavation, foundation, framing, siding and roof, adding living space below rather than beyond captures the square footage you already own, and leaves something left over for popcorn!

Camille Gracie, ASID, is certified by the National Council of Interior Design Qualification and holds professional status in the American Society of Interior Designers. www.camillegracie.com