September 25, 2023

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A Second Chance: From Raw Basement to Family Room

A Second Chance: From Raw Basement to Family Room

Valuable Real Estate

Photo by Erik Rank

In the quest for extra square footage, a dry, unfinished basement is a holy grail. For the cost of some finish work and mechanicals upgrades, you can get a whole new room, sometimes two or three.

For years kitchen designer Karen Berkemeyer used her below-grade space as a laundry room. But the desire for what her home lacked—an informal space for family lounging and TV viewing—caused her to take a second look. “We never had one space where we could all gather and watch a movie,” says Berkemeyer. So the basement was transformed into just that, and during the process upgrades were made to the laundry room and storage closet, and a full bath was added, allowing the space to double as a guest suite.

Letting in the Light

Photo by Erik Rank

Though only one was required to meet code, two egress windows were added in the family room; their top halves sit above the grade. Custom fieldstone window wells with drains in the bottom dress up the view. Additional lighting is supplied by multiple recessed fixtures.

Neutral Nooks

Photo by Erik Rank

The whole of the bathroom is wrapped in limestone to prevent dampness, including the ceiling. In the laundry, the Miele washer and dryer are tucked under a Corian counter.

Laundry Sink

Photo by Erik Rank

The limestone backsplash behind the Kohler laundry sink and faucet provides a focal point when viewed from the main living area.

Guest Bath

Photo by Erik Rank

In the bath, honed black granite tops an antique-dresser vanity.


Photo by Erik Rank

The old basement, which housed the washer and dryer, had a concrete floor, exposed plumbing, and stone foundation walls. The main challenge was excavating below the concrete slab to achieve the 7-foot finished ceiling height needed to meet code.

Water Heater

Photo by Erik Rank

The water heater in the mechanicals closet still stands on the original concrete floor, 8 inches higher than the renovated areas of the space.

Original Layout

Photo by Ian Worpole

An exterior wall divided the basement from crawl space under a porch, a tiny—but key—70 square feet of extra room.

What They Did

Photo by Ian Worpole

1. Removed a wall to dig out under-porch crawl space and make it part of the new family room. A steel beam provides support in its place.

2. Dug out the existing floor except in the mechanicals area to achieve a 7-foot finished ceiling height.

3. Kept the original locations for the water heater and boiler, shutting them away behind doors.

4. Created a storage closet to hold extra household goods, from cases of wine to bulk-size paper towels.

5. Squeezed in a full bath measuring 5 by 5 feet.

6. Moved the laundry to the far end of the space, tucking the washer and dryer under a counter, adding a sink, and installing a space-saving ironing-board cabinet.

7. Built in cherry cabinetry by Wood-Mode to maximize storage for the TV, stereo, DVDs, CDs, and books.

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