Design Solutions: Clear Direction

by Kyle Clapham

With approximately 1,500 square feet of unfinished space, a busy and tech-savvy family of five wanted to transform their basement into a functional and fun living area. The clients, one of whom works for a large tech company, needed a practical computer room in addition to desk space for their three kids to do homework, a media area, a space for crafts and an extra bedroom with a ¾ bath.

“They were really clear on the direction that they wanted to go for their basement,” says Emily Stewart, interior designer for Melton Design Build in Boulder, Colorado. “It was a pretty full house, so they wanted space to expand. Their wish list was an additional bedroom for when the in-laws come to visit and stay for holidays, a workspace for their three boys to do homework, a media space where they could sit and watch movies, and an area dedicated to a new game table.”

The company presented a handful of different layouts to the homeowners that accommodated all their wish list items and, in some cases, exceeded them. In one iteration, for example, Melton fit in another bedroom to demonstrate just how much additional living space they could create. The family, however, did not seek to add more elements and items unless they served a clear purpose.

Out of Sight

Because the clients had so much stuff in their unfinished basement, the company opted to carve out as much storage space as possible. “A lot of clients, when they see all the added rooms they can get, they forget about, Oh, we have all of these Christmas decorations, and we have all these things we’ve been storing down here for years—where is that going to live now?” Stewart notes.

As the project progressed, the homeowners also decided to move the home office up to the main level instead of keeping it in the basement. They did not want computer equipment to clutter the room, so Melton designed a custom feature in the basement ceiling directly below the new home office to store its hardware. Cords now run through the flooring—out of sight—to the desk above.

“They had a ton of wires and servers, and everything was just shoved into one corner, and things were kind of hanging out of the ceiling—and it wasn’t working super effectively for the upstairs office,” Stewart explains. “At that point it turned into more of a design. Let’s get this cleaned up; let’s get it functional. And if they wanted to convert it into a more permanent office, they could.”

The room in the basement that would have been the home office became a virtual reality gaming and workout area that the whole family can enjoy. “When I was over there taking photos [of the project], something [the client] mentioned was, ‘How cool is it that I have a virtual reality room now? Not many people have one of those,’” says Heather Dieck, marketing manager for Melton.

Little Touches

After walking through the rest of the house, Stewart could immediately tell the homeowners had a creative style. For example, the upstairs powder room contained a wood wall made of individual pieces they cut and applied themselves. For the media room in the basement, Melton installed flooring up on the wall to give it a reclaimed wood look at a much lower cost than using actual reclaimed wood. “We wanted to make sure that the space incorporated some of that character,” Stewart says.

“We wanted to give them a lot of open shelving where they can display the kids’ photographs, artwork [and] projects of their own. The base cabinets have these cute little chicken wire fronts, and these little touches were unique to them. We don’t really see or do [them] in every project necessarily.”

The family stayed very involved in the design process, she adds, and the oldest son even drew up his own sketches for the kids’ desk space. One of the first designs that Melton presented put this room near the bottom of the stairs, but he desired more privacy, so the company moved it to the other side of the basement. When he asked for a door on the room, they compromised on sliding barn doors with a sidelight on each one to allow the parents to check on the kids when necessary.

“We presented a handful of different finishes and inspirations, but they were very amenable to different ideas and open to a bunch of different finishes. They weren’t necessarily stuck on one particular style.” Stewart notes. “We got to show them a lot of different things and figure out what worked best. Thankfully, the rest of their house was a pretty good clue to their aesthetic.”

Smooth Project

Although the staircase between the main and second floors winds, the stairway from the ground level to the basement ran straight down. Melton showed the clients both options—sticking with the current stairs or making them round. They opted to build a new, rounded staircase, so that it would line up and match the style of the main stairway, aligning better with the rest of the house.

“[We] had to open up the main floor [to build the new staircase] down to the basement,” Stewart says. “I remember going on site [one day] and them adjusting this massive wood railing that they were bending. They dealt with a lot just to get it installed—that turned into a unique challenge.”

The crafts room doubles as a guest room when needed and has easy access to the new tranquil ¾ bath that mimics the look of other bathrooms in the home. Melton used family-friendly materials, so the boys now have plenty of space to run around, play ping pong and have Nerf wars without their parents having to worry about damage. The basement has something for every member of the family following the project and will be a place for many great memories for years to come.

“They’re super thrilled with the space. I went by at the end of the project and got to speak with the clients, and they were blown away,” Stewart recalls. “They submitted a review and were very happy with the whole entire construction process and their buying process as well. I think it was a smooth project on both sides, which is always great. And they seem to be using it quite a bit.” QR

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