Project Spotlight: Basement Breakthrough

Sun Design Remodeling Specialists remake a lower level to suit the entire family.

July 22, 2014
Project Spotlight: Basement Breakthrough

Relocating a structural support column in the lounge allowed the clients to arrange their furniture around the fireplace and entertainment center.

Not long after moving into a home in Oakton, Va., the owners became increasingly dissatisfied with its previously finished lower level. The basement, which encompasses more than 2,000 square feet, presented ample space for leisure activities, but the homeowners soon deemed the existing areas ill-suited for their family and difficult to adapt otherwise. In search of a solution, they contacted Sun Design Remodeling Specialists, a design-build firm based in Burke, Va., that reconstructed the lower level of their previous residence.

“When they purchased this new home, the basement was finished but it wasn’t anything like they wanted it to be, so they called us again,” says Mindy Mitchell, a design consultant for Sun Design. “Their wants and needs were different from what their lower level allowed at that time.”

The existing basement already featured an extensive lounge area, but a colossal bar and kitchen abruptly greeted guests upon descending the stairs from the first floor, and an unsightly structural support column obscured views of the television and made it impossible to position furniture around the fireplace. In the back corner of the space, a seldom-used guest room with two large closets linked to a cramped bathroom through a long interior corridor. The segmented nature of the lower level created disconnect among living areas and also contributed to a lack of natural light.

Company Snapshot

Company: Sun Design Remodeling Specialists
Owners: Craig Durosko; Bob Gallagher
Location: Burke, Va.
2013 sales volume: $9.3 million
Projected 2014 sales volume: $11 million
Website: www.sundesigninc.com

In order to produce the “cozy retreat” and recreational space the clients desired, Sun Design focused on integrating the existing fireplace and media viewing area with the rest of the basement and reinvented the lower level to exude a rustic motif. “They knew they wanted it to be a lodge,” Mitchell says. “So that was the feel and effect we were going for.”

Opening up

Sun Design relocated the support column from the middle of the lounge area and instituted a concealed steel beam overhead so the space could become more open and accessible. The transformation not only permitted an ideal arrangement of furniture in front of the fireplace and entertainment center, but it also established valuable sightlines to an east-facing two-panel sliding glass door and suffused the basement with much-needed sunlight. “We didn’t initially know what would look best, if we wanted to do three beams or four beams,” Mitchell says. “We didn’t know how things were going to play out once we got up into that ceiling to see how the steel beam was going to work.”

Before reaching out to Sun Design, the clients outfitted the basement hearth with stacked stone veneer to increase its visual appeal. But the fireplace remained off to the side of the room, leaving the firm to ponder how to incorporate the amenity with a large, mounted TV. Sun Design ultimately extended the stacked stone veneer across the wall to serve as the backdrop for a 70-inch flat-screen model and fabricated custom built-ins below the TV for storing video games and systems.

“It drew your eye across, and being able to set the TV there made the whole piece became a focal point and it was centered,” Mitchell says. “They had a very specific vision for how they wanted their family to be sitting around the fireplace and looking at the TV.” The owners also sought to appropriate the space for occasions when their teenage sons brought friends over to the house.

Sun Design demolished the bulky kitchen and bar near the stair landing and kept the area open so the clients could assimilate additional recreation elements in the remainder of the lower level. The family ultimately opted for a chess table near the lounge area and a billiards table toward the back of the basement. As an alternative to the kitchen, Sun Design fashioned along one of the walls a highly functional wet bar with two refrigerated doors and a microwave. The piece—with its marble surfaces, glass-facing cabinets, and crown moulding—acts as a complement to the lumber and antique brackets used throughout the lower level. “All of that wood is reclaimed from Idaho—we had it shipped,” Mitchell says.

The firm’s lead carpenter handled all of the lumber and built everything onsite, including an authentic three-panel barn door that replaced the wall between the guest room and the main living space of the basement.

Tearing down

On an initial visit to the home with Mitchell, Sun Design co-owner and president Bob Gallagher advised the family to remove the wall in order to bring more natural light into the primary area of the lower level. The clients rarely utilized the guest room, although their parents would come to stay at the house every now and then, so they needed a way to close off the space for privacy if the firm deleted the wall. What evolved from Gallagher’s proposal—a 1890s-inspired barn door on mounted rollers—not only proved functional but also introduced an aesthetic statement that drove the entire interior-design scheme forward.

Product List

Wet bar faucet: Hansgrohe
Wet bar sink: Native Trails
Cabinetry: Crystal Cabinets
Bathroom faucet: Delta
Bathroom sink: Duravit
Shower trim: Moen
Bath accessories: Delta
Toilet: Kohler

“Since it takes up such a big space, we wanted it to have an art feel so it would be impactful when the door was closed and just hanging there,” Mitchell says. The clients moved their existing ping-pong table into the former room to make way for the new billiards table, but they made sure to furnish a sleeper sofa there as well to accommodate potential overnight guests. “The ping-pong table folds up so they can slide that away, close the barn door, and it turns into a suite,” Mitchell adds.

The guest room had led to the only bath on the lower level via a hallway, but with the space now merged into the main living area, the corridor became unnecessary. Sun Design eliminated the passage and modified an adjacent closet in order to expand the floor’s small bathroom into a spa bath replete with infrared sauna. The clients also requested an exercise room, so the firm repurposed the clients’ daughter’s contiguous ad hoc playroom into a 12-by-12-foot fitness center equipped with a treadmill, workout bench, and weight system.

As a result, the exercise room opens directly into the spa bath, which features a tumbled Picasso stone finish with porcelain detailing. A Bacino vessel sink sits next to the large, walk-in shower, and the warm adobe wall coloring picks up the golden texture highlights of the space to imbue the room with a soft, restful glow. The clients wanted what they called a “zen space,” and with a spa bath, sauna, and workout area all tied together, Sun Design delivered a “zen retreat.” The firm even carved out a play area for the daughter underneath the staircase and set off the space with handmade saloon doors.

During the project Sun Design collaborated with the client’s interior designer, who had helped furnish other rooms in the house. The firm employs its own designers, so Mitchell learned a lot from working with an outside designer for the first time. “It was important to make sure communication was good, and expectations were clear, about how we were going to work in each other’s spaces,” she says.

Carrying on

This renovation ultimately won Sun Design a regional Contractor of the Year (CotY) Award for “Best Residential Basement Interior.” The firm planned and executed a solution that introduced more natural light and visual continuum into the lower level by removing selected interior walls, relocating a critical structural support, and reconfiguring several rooms. Circulation in the basement now flows seamlessly from family gathering space, to gaming zone, to flex room, to “zen retreat” (bath and gym), and finally to a play area for the young one.

Budget History

Estimated cost: $230,300
Change orders: $13,350
Final cost: $243,650

Sun Design concluded the lower-level makeover with an eye toward the impending graduation party of one of the teenage sons. Each family member contributed with input to the project, which has garnered the firm a number of referrals since its completion. The ability to satisfy the contrasting wishes of a diverse family played a major role in the remodel’s lasting success.

“People can be doing different things down there in different parts of that big, wide-open space, and yet they all feel like a family—they’re still all together,” Mitchell says. PR

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