Go with the Flow

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Though the homeowners had high hopes for the remodel of the lower level of their home, their project had been in limbo for some time given discord with their neighborhood association, which did not approve a previously designed addition that drastically enlarged the home's footprint. So when the homeowner brought Wright Street Design Group of Ann Arbor, Mich.

January 01, 2007

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Swim Space

The Wright Street Design Group's biggest challenge was to design a logical, open flow between the game room, great room and theater room so that each space was separate but connected without the use of hallways.  After photos by Fred Golden Photography

Though the homeowners had high hopes for the remodel of the lower level of their home, their project had been in limbo for some time given discord with their neighborhood association, which did not approve a previously designed addition that drastically enlarged the home's footprint. So when the homeowner brought Wright Street Design Group of Ann Arbor, Mich., to the project, it was imperative that the group work within the existing footprint to create an open, warm and informal space while keeping any additions to the basement as minimal as possible.

Wright Street founder, owner and principal designer Stanley Monroe estimates that he created at least a dozen iterations (with numerous sub-iterations) before the construction phase. After about six months of design time, he finalized a layout that worked within the existing structure of the basement's nine steel columns putting rooms that required natural light around the perimeter. The only structural work required stabilizing a sinking foundation and repairing a vertical crack from the eve board to the footing and repatching the masonry in the corner where the new fireplace was placed to ensure the chimney was adequately supported.

Before

Monroe says it was imperative to have a logical flow among the game room, great room and theater so that each space could easily access the snack bar and people were not segregated from one another during a large gathering.

He avoided using hallways to connect rooms or floor plans that called for furniture placement to define rooms.

This project's details included incorporating both arched and full-circle windows that echoed those in the existing home; using wood and stone finishes; and emphasizing nude, soft colors that gave an "up North" feel that complemented the natural Midwestern landscape of the home. For example, the homeowners had an extensive collection of Petoskey stones they wanted to incorporate, so a Wright employee spent several hours slicing and polishing the stones that were later used in the bathroom tile.

"The key is not to stop until you solve every problem, both for the client and how you feel the space should function as the designer," Monroe said. "I never like to stop until I feel I've solved every issue — traffic, a comfortable sense of space, view and light. Once you get that overall scheme, you go further."

"It started midway through the project, and it took several months to complete, but it's important that you listen to every little thing the client says," Monroe says. "They may not know all the details or how it should come out, but you get a feel from them of how they want a space to look, feel and function, and you get to present ideas that help them carry that out. And that's invaluable."

The 14-month project cost $650,000.

 

The theater room was situated in a space that didn't receive natural light from outside, so available window areas could be utilized elsewhere.

Basement Remodel

REMODELER AND ARCHITECT: Wright Street Design Group, Ann Arbor, Mich.
PROJECT LOCATION: Ann Arbor, Mich.
AGE OF HOME: 12 years
SCOPE OF WORK: Turning 3,000 square feet of unfinished basement space into a lavish living area complete with a 600-square-foot addition for an indoor pool


Products List

HVAC: Carrier Doors & Windows: Eagle Fireplace: Temco Travis Home Systems & Controls: Home Automation Inc. (HAI), Lutron Lighting Fixtures: Juno House Wrap: Tyvek (DuPont) Insulation: CertainTeed Locksets: Baldwin Paints & Stains: Benjamin Moore, Sherwin-Williams


The swimming pool room additioin is noteworthy because, in addition to being finished with a paving brick, it maintained a view of an existing oak tree that the homeowners cherished.

Swim Space

To keep the swimming pool addition small, Monroe made two key decisions in his design: He drafted the space with a smaller exercise pool than previously suggested and he positioned the addition underneath an existing upper deck of the home. Also, the pool's mechanics had to be below the basement slab, which required two weeks of underpinning. And with a stone patio replacing the deck on top, the addition had to have a concrete structural slab and steel engineering to support the new weight. An on-location steel erector allowed the remodeler to pinpoint all the anchor/plate locations where steel columns would fit, size all the parts and have them fabricated.

The addition took almost three months to execute.

"It took a lot of trust, supervision and guidance, and a lot of back and forth," Monroe says. To maintain the addition's walkout, he says, it required that the roughly 7- by 14-foot, pre-fabricated pool be brought downhill for installation, which was very tricky. "But it was important that the pool had a walkout and that when you enter the basement from the upper level, you saw that the pool was visually aligned and connected to the entire space and not just a separate room off on its own."

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