Informal Retreat


A client’s needs and desires often begin as separate entities, but tend to merge or are adjusted as the plans for a project progress through the creation stage. Such was the case with our clients in this finished basement project. They wanted to have an enjoyable entertaining space in a less formal atmosphere than their very traditional main level. They sought comfort as well as fun, and gave us license to use architectural elements to meet their goals.

We discovered a lack of grade beams where load-bearing walls supporting two upper floors had been built. We cut and removed concrete in locations where our columns were to be installed. To fix this, we created new, properly prepared reinforced footings. Those columns became the signature feature of this terrace-level basement.

Another challenge was encountering a partially finished plumbing drainage system. The lift station tank was buried underneath the slab, and the plumbing drainage levels were damaged in two locations. We looked with our plumber to find and repair the leaks and tank. A significant amount of slab cutting, removal and replacement of drainage lines also occurred to accommodate the new floor plan.

When we began, the staircase was not on the need or want list but as the design developed, a new staircase became a desire. We removed the entire existing staircase and designed a new one with a lower rise and thicker, deeper treads. Now, the stair has glass and metal features with a bold curved handrail. The glass rests in a slot at the top of the stringer; the top glass panel is inserted into metal slots in the ceiling and side wall. Adding structure, the metal pieces reinforce the industrial look. We then improved the room’s flow by curving the wall at the bottom of the stairs to guide one to look out to the room instead of looking into a wall.

The clients wanted an open entertainment room with a bar. We removed hall walls and staircase walls, and put columns in their stead. The clients wanted flair in this space so the bar became a semi-circle with a natural stone quartzite and brushed pewter countertop. The top of the bar countertop is for seating and the lower area and back area contain a dishwasher, trash drawer, ice maker and refrigerator. Tall cabinets store glasses and dishware.

The homeowners also asked for an informal media room, but not like a theater. We wanted the television viewing room to relate to the entertainment space so we removed the wall between the rooms and used columns again. The TV is suspended between the columns.

A wine cellar was on their wish list, but space was limited once we took into account a playroom, a nanny/guest suite with bath and closet, a separate powder room for the entertainment space, a new mechanical room and storage space. Not wanting to lose the wine cellar, however, we tucked it into the space under the stairs and extended it back into the new mechanical room. The cellar is small, but the glass door and windows create the illusion of a much larger space.

Our design skills assisted us as we worked around existing problems in creative ways, such as in the wine cellar ceiling. A stair riser was in the wall on the left side and masses of ductwork were on the right side. The ductwork was leaving the mechanical room and traveling to locations in the terrace level. We handled this by designing a unique ceiling that allows us to cover both these items. 

The client’s family owns a farm in West Virginia, and she wanted wood from the farm to be in her home. Her father sent wood samples and, after deciding on walnut, he milled the wood in various sizes for the curved bar base. Hardwood floors in the media room are 4-in. planks of white oak over plywood. Other woods include pecan bar cabinets and mahogany wine cellar. These different woods added a warmth to the area.

The terrace level is loved and well used. Our clients say they never want to leave; they are stimulated by the design and comfortable in the space. That is the best compliment we could receive. 

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More