Designer’s Notebook: Redefining Basement

by Kacey Larsen

When my partner and I were invited to return to the home of one of our previous clients—this time to remodel their basement—we were excited. With high expectations bred from our successful master suite renovation, we knew they would give us an opportunity to bring them something inspirational for their lower level. 

A dull but functional 15-year-old basement with utilitarian finishes served as a hangout space for their now emancipated kids. Our clients wanted a truly special lower level: a space to relax, entertain and warm their souls.

Here’s a review of some of our thoughts and efforts that helped to accomplish their goals:


Lines draw the eye—Long, horizontal lines accentuate the modern feel in these new spaces. The natural clear pine slatted ceiling above the family room creates a connection to the slat wall (with a hidden door) in the bar area. A long stone wall frames the two-sided linear fireplace, sidled next to the flat panel TV, providing optimal viewing angles for both. The carpet inlay in the family room echoes the geometry of the ceiling treatment designed above, drawing the eye to our client’s wildlife photographs displayed in the wall niches.

Juxtaposition of hard, soft flooring—We tested for the presence of moisture and found the numbers ideal for an engineered wood floor. After applying a sealant to the concrete, the floating floor was installed throughout the space with rugs and a carpet inlay that provide a balance of hard and soft floor finishes.

Technology paired with natural—While 4K televisions, exciting audio systems and lighting scene devices all provide functionality to make a space like this work, the palette of natural materials in their natural state—stone, glass, steel, quartz and several wood species—add the necessary yang to the high-tech ying. The seamless interaction of technology with natural materials provides the balance necessary to make a space like this truly comfort the body, mind and soul.


Elegance for the wet bar—We expanded the size and functionality of the wet bar to allow for more wine storage for our wine-enthusiast clients. We selected quarter-sawn, grain matched oak to keep with the modern style and the custom-designed, freestanding high-top table was built to provide a place to serve hors d’oeuvres along with the day’s wine selections. Glass shelves set into the stone backsplash bring further earthy elegance to the bar.

‘Make it work’ moment—With two finished floors above the basement, figuring out how to vent the fireplace would be a challenge. However, improved technology allowed for a remote blower to exhaust the combustion air through the basement rim joist. Even though our fireplace subcontractor initially gave up and told us to “move the fireplace somewhere else,” we figured out how to make it work with some reconfiguration of the water and gas lines and ductwork.

Concealment allows light—We concealed an unsightly structural column in the new stone fireplace design. Capped with a linear mantle, the open area above the dual-sided fireplace creates a visual connection and allows natural light to flow to the bar side of the living space.


Hidden features—Seldom used, we hid the mechanical room door behind a series of horizontal natural pine slats that run continuously along the wall and across the door slab. The black background and pine stripes are such a strong pattern that the seams of the door go nearly unnoticed. And speaking of fooling the eye, the firewood storage niche flanking the television adds texture and a touch of whimsy when you realize the gas fireplace requires no firewood.

Cohesive basement bathroom—Wanting to update the bathroom to help it feel cohesive, we designed a tile monolith in the corner and installed a floating vanity to its side. The tile column conceals rerouted supply and drain lines to the new sink area without the need to break up the existing concrete slab, saving on labor and materials. The perfectly fine acrylic shower surround and toilet location were saved as well.

We believe a space like this redefines what is possible in a basement remodel. |QR


Authored by Sid Levin, co-designed with Rob Aldecocea

Sid Levin (R), principal, Revolution Design + Build, works with his clients to create design/build solutions through his time-tested, in-depth, lifestyle-based interview process. Intimately focused on the needs of his clients, Levin respects each homeowner as unique. The goal is a perfect balance of functionality, aesthetics and investment. Once the design solution is realized, the partnership moves naturally to an easy, anxiety-free construction process. Levin’s expert communication and critical organizational skills provide a finished result that exceeds expectations.

Rob Aldecocea (L), partner, Revolution Design + Build, started his desire to learn with his undergraduate program in architecture at the University of Minnesota. Since earning his Master of Architecture degree from the University of Colorado, he’s continued building his knowledge of architecture, design, construction and technology through research and continuing education. Communication with his clients is of paramount importance, beginning with the very first meeting or phone call. Once the needs and wants of the client are discovered through an in-depth lifestyle-based interview, Aldecocea’s goal is to translate those desires into architectural expression through hand-drawn and computer-generated renderings.

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