Post-fire kitchen rescue leads to cat-in-tree call. Wait. No. Actually: basement remodel.
We know, we know. What we do is downright cushy compared to reaaaal rescue workers. But we do like the idea of saving rooms from a dire state of out-of-date-ness.
A few years back, we got a panicky 911 call about a Glen Ellyn kitchen fire. We were needed on the scene – stat. We pulled up our suspenders, slid down the pole and sped over – siren blaring, ladders and hoses ready. (Ok, TBF the GEFD got to do that part, since they’re specially trained for it and all. We got called in a little later – more for kitchen remodel duty. Please just humor us and let us remember it how we envisioned it all goin’ down.)
We quickly assessed the damage. People? Safe. Kitchen? Wrecked. Good news was: sprinklers! Bad news was: sprinklers! Their perfectly lovely kitchen was now a smoky, sodden mess. But. Skip ahead a few months. All better. We fixed ‘er up better than new. Fast forward eight years or so, and we got called back for a less urgent, but still important basement remodel – which evolved into a first floor redo as well. (Ah, scope creep. It’s the best and possibly only good kinda creep.)
Unfinished basement turned TV-watching hangout and sports memorabiliarium. (New word. Coined just now.)
The house is newish, but the basement had never been finished and gradually became the catchall for all things miscellaneous, and over time did catch maybe not all, but quite a lot of miscellany. So Step 1: Purge Party. We use the word party loosely – this, friends, is a CHORE. And this was the extended remix version that went on for a few months as they pitched, donated and decluttered the space. Meanwhile, we got to work on floor plans and color palettes and ideas for disguising some of the non-budgeable utilities.
This couple has three kids and wanted a super-functional, multi-purpose hangout space that was polished enough for entertaining, but comfy enough for low-key family nights. They didn’t want it to feel overly bar-like (because: no bueno para los niños). And flexibility was a biggie in terms of being able to move things around for different-size groups and food setups and optimal TV viewing angles.
The words “warm” and “industrial” don’t usually hang out together, but they do here, thanks to the right combo of finishes. We left the ceiling exposed to buy some extra height, but painted all that wood and wiring and whatnot a dark, blackish gray so it sort of disappears. We went with dark charcoal trim, and matte black hardware on the doors and cabinets. And for the floors, we chose a durable luxury vinyl that mimics a wood plank look.
To make room for a big, cushy sectional, we decided on a glowy electric fireplace that only needs 6 inches of depth (vs 2 feet), and still brings the cozy. The tile surround has a brick-like look, in keeping with the industrial feel. And the TV above is huuuuuuuuuuuge, per the verrrrrrrry exact specifications from the man of the house on this particular “design feature.”
A half-dozen structural posts figured into the floorpan equation – we wrapped/finished two and were able to strategically camouflage the others behind walls. (Five bucks if you can find ‘em.) We also added two storage closets for seasonal decor and other basement-y things – and hid utilities like the sump pump and electrical panel behind finished cabinet doors. (Nothing to see there, people. Nothing to see.)
We located the kitchenette on the far wall, just past the main living space, and installed a full-size 36-inch fridge, microwave and gobs of cabinet space for Costco-size snack stashing. For the table, we ordered a counter-height metal base, then had a custom top made from wood with a wire-brushed gray finish so those inevitable new scratches (from other people’s kids, right?) just blend right in.
We added a crazy-long, live-edge wood high-top extending the entirrrrrre length of the wall under the windows – perfect for perching drinks and plates of food, leaving both hands free for high-fives and knucks when the game’s on and there’s a big play worth physically acknowledging. Bar stools run the length as well, leaving options open for both sitters and standers at social gatherings.
The screen situation was a (non-contagious cough, cough) lively topic of discussion, and we landed on the aforementioned massssssive TV on the main wall, and slightly smaller (but still pretty sizable) one on the kitchenette wall. We even carved out the sides of the wall in the arcade game niche to accommodate a bigger monitor for Golden Tee addicts to better analyze their shots.
We gave the ping pong table its own space off the kitchenette/living area, and added a good-sized fitness room with barn doors to close it off when they’re entertaining. A full bath had already been roughed in, so we finished it with a steam shower, handmade-looking porcelain wall tiles, a bold graphic-print wall covering and terrazzo-inspired floor.
We created shelving and display space in multiple spots for the homeowners’ impressive collection of sports memorabilia – an homage to some of the brighter moments in Chicago sports history, pulled from the archives (read: cardboard boxes). Even the ‘gram got some play, courtesy of an Insta-ready, decidedly non-Glen-Ellynish, floor-to-ceiling urban graffiti’d mural on one wall.
Movin’ on to the main floor, we went with a calming blue/gray palette, refinished the wood floors and repainted. In the family room at the back of the house, we replaced all the furniture, relocated the TV and added new, less invasive, custom built-ins on either side of the fireplace with storage and decorative shelving. Then we tackled the house ghost town…
In far too many homes, the living/dining rooms get neglected. It’s sad. Like when that good table at a cool restaurant sits empty all night, save for the lonely “Reserved” sign sitting there all by itself. We’re adamant in our belief that dining and living rooms should be dined and lived in. So we knew we needed to get to the heart of the neglect issue. A quick convo revealed the issue, with a guilty-party finger-point at the oversized dining table and chairs they purchased when they moved in. And just. Never. Really. Liked. Annnnd, they’re outta here – currently replaced with a sleeker, more elegant, streamlined profile to give the room some breathing space. As the table and chairs are dark-ish, we went with a light, textured wallcovering on the walls, window treatments, artwork and rug to provide some contrast.
For the adjacent living area, we flipped that equation – going with a deep, classy, near-black navy wall color and lighter furniture pieces gathered in an intimate conversation area by the front window. (We created a layout that could be reworked and colors that coordinated with the adjacent Dining Room, so the room can still report for its annual tree-hosting duty come Christmas.)
Like a lot of renovation survivors, this family lived onsite while we were tearing things apart and redo-ifying everything. An impressive feat of togetherness, as they were restricted to the upstairs and basement (which we finished first to give them a little extra space and keep therapy bills to a minimum). We commend them on their patience and agreeability throughout the process. If any of this has you thinking it might be time to upgrade from the current concrete-slab-slash-kids’-roller-hockey-rink situation you have goin’ on now, we’d love to chat. Always happy to take your call – from the panicked 911 to the less dire 411. (This client’ll vouch for us.) You can reach us here. Or here. Which is technically the same place – but we know some people like options.