Parting Worlds

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In his time living in this home, infamous Depression-era political boss Tom Pendergast thought of the basement simply as an escape route. Fearing attempts on his life, he had a tunnel system built behind the walls. The current homeowners sought a bold, bright, kid-friendly basement inspired by two cherished art pieces.

January 01, 2006

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Preserving concrete and stone
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The "light wall," made of Plexiglas and MDF, creates the illusion of windows. It's backlit with track lighting that can be customized with colored gels.

In his time living in this home, infamous Depression-era political boss Tom Pendergast thought of the basement simply as an escape route. Fearing attempts on his life, he had a tunnel system built behind the walls.

The current homeowners sought a bold, bright, kid-friendly basement inspired by two cherished art pieces. Three years earlier, they hired Metzler Remodeling for a historical renovation on the rest of the home. For the basement, they wanted a clear departure from the cherry Shaker cabinets and soapstone countertops of the upper levels.

Informed by his background in commercial design, Perry Quick, AIA, Metzler's in-house architect, assigned different colors to different materials and spaces rather than putting up walls to separate rooms. Brick is red, stone is yellow, trim is silver, the bathroom is purple, and the closet is ochre.

The semi-finished basement has a loft-like quality. To reinforce that aesthetic, Metzler Remodeling left the space open - with the exception of added walls to configure an actual bathroom around the freestanding toilet and sink.

Rather than hide electrical panels and piping behind wallboard or wood, he suggested using stained-and-polyurethaned medium-density fiberboard. These MDF structures create some of the rooms' most useful and interesting features, such as the built-in bench seat and under-stair cubbies.

To maintain the industrial look, Quick chose silver door and window trim, outlets and switch plates. Black cabinet screws with chrome washers or metal studs were used as fasteners for the MDF panels.

Quick says the most challenging part of the project was the demolition, which took close to two weeks.

"The ceiling was full of hundreds of years of electrical mess," he explains, including electrical, phone, doorbell and cable wires; old knob and tube wiring and Romex wiring. Galvanized pipes, gas pipes and copper lines added to the confusion. Says Quick: "It took us a week to simply figure out what was live."

Before

After these wires were tested, cleaned up and housed (if live), Metzler workers repaired and repatched the plaster ceilings. They left the ductwork exposed in order to preserve ceiling height — which varied from 7 feet to 8 feet, 4 inches —and to keep the industrial style consistent from top to bottom.

Indirect fluorescent light fixtures give a uniform light level despite the varied ceiling heights and provide a commercial flair. The artwork that inspired the design hangs on the wall in the billiards room, accented by three hand-blown glass pendant fixtures above the pool table.

The $65,000 project was completed in approximately 10 weeks. Quick estimates that using MDF instead of wood saved the homeowners one-third of the material costs.

"Kansas City is a very traditional market, and to do something this outside-of-the-box in this neighborhood was really fun," Quick says. "People think because a project is simple it's not sophisticated, but there's a lot of thought and detail that goes into simplicity to make it look simple.

 

Remodeler and architect: Metzler Remodeling, Kansas City, Mo.
Project location: Kansas City, Mo.
Age of home: 91 years
Scope of work: Creating recreational space, office space and storage solutions in a 700-square-foot basement

Preserving concrete and stone

The existing concrete floors and exposed stone walls lent this basement a raw quality. Preserving that created challenges. The concrete slab had heaved so badly in one area that Metzler Remodeling considered repouring it. However, once sealed, the color and grain of the new concrete most likely would not jibe with the rest.

Instead, the company built an "entertainment platform" on which the big-screen television sits. The platform not only hides the incongruity in the slab, it also transitions into the new bench seat, which is scribed to the stone wall, and shelving. Together, the platform and bench seat mask the water heater pipes along the baseline.

Metzler Remodeling considered power washing the stone walls and leaving them natural, but prior tuck pointing proved too shoddy to let the stone stand as it was. Metzler re-tuck pointed all the walls. Then, because the walls looked "too new" to remain exposed, Metzler sealed and painted the stone yellow, creating a nice contrast with the primary-red-painted brick.


Products List

Bathroom fixtures: Chicago Faucet, Kohler. Lights (fluorescent): Metalux. Lights (pendant): Fusion. Lights (track lighting on light wall): Juno. MDF board: Plum Creek. Paint: Benjamin Moore. Stain: Woodsong. Stone Wall Sealer: Quick Crete

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