And Now for Something Completely Different

Category: Before & After

As if we didn't have enough going on with the new back porch, new fence and the new basement stairwell, we have another project in the works: our basement.

The basement has never been finished, so for the first time we actually have a clean slate to work with...albeit one that's always been packed with quite a bit of stuff:

basement-before.jpg

The good news is that this 'before' photo is from quite a while ago. In fact, the basement is now cleaned out. (That was the other big use for the dumpster we rented this summer.) We're guessing this is the first time that the basement has been this empty in it's 95 year history.

basement-empty.jpg

So, what's the plan for the space? Well...

...after a lot of discussion we've decided to take a very different approach for the basement. We're going to do it in a loft style.

At first we were a bit anxious about the idea, since we've been so focused on using traditional styles for the rest of the house. We've certainly not been as strict as some Name Your Link">others can be in regards to our own bungalow restoration, but we've tried to stay true to the original Craftsman design.

One thing that convinced us was this great blog post on The Loft Look for Less over at WiseBread. They had great thougths on how a loft style, when done well, can fit in to a variety of architectural styles while also easing the budget strains that come from home improvement.

No realtor or design professional is going to recommend putting a modern industrial style loft right next to your formal Victorian dining room. Not exactly good for resale value, right? But consider the use of the loft look as a money saving strategy for the makeover of a basement into a work out space or an attic into a family game room or teen space. These areas don't really integrate with the rest of the house, and at least a more affordable rough finishing with track lighting, MDF board, or spray painted concrete foundation walls will get things started. You can always get more detailed later, if you want.

This seemed like really interesting thinking in our situation. In truth, this is also very consistent with the bungalow's original emphasis on open plan design, design suited to local context, and practical solutions made from simple materials.

It also helped that we came across some interesting photos of loft-style basements, like this one from Rate My Room:

basement-ideaceiling2.jpg

The fact that an open ceiling can help ensure enough headroom in the basement (a classic problem in Chicago) was a great realization. That alone was probably the biggest selling point on the idea.

So, with our overall approach in place we're quickly turning to a whole world of new design choices and decisions ahead of us. It's actually really fun to start thinking about an entirely different architectural style...we'll start posting some of our ideas here in the spriit of sharing. Eager to hear what others might suggest!


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Comments

Your situation seems similar to ours. We bought a 1920s Craftsman bungalow in Chicago 3 years ago and always wanted to convert the basement into liveable space. When we discovered that the wooden columns supporting the beam were rotting, we decided to replace them with steel columns. We excavated 12" down and poured a new 4" floor, and we are mid-construction right now.

The "rec room" (hate that term) will have a loft look, with acid stained concrete floors and the exposed steel columns, but the doors will match the upstairs, and the bathroom will be very period appropriate (console sink, basketweave tile, medicine cabinet, etc.). We had an open ceiling down there until 2 months ago, but you'd be surprised how much dust comes through the floorboards, and the drywall really dampens the sound.

Here are some pics of the construction process:

http://picasaweb.google.com/pharrigan/BasementRemodel?feat=directlink

Good luck!

I think the "loft" look is perfect for a Chicago bungalow basement. Is the concrete floor in good shape? You can either pour a new self-leveling layer or grind it down and then do a DIY acid stain, so you get a finished floor without sacrificing headroom. Then you can add area rugs to define the space.

While I enjoy the "loft" style, I find that when it's not done right, it just looks like a partially finished space - the picture posted from Rate My Space above is a perfect example. It just looks like a space that wasn't totally finished because (a) the owners ran out of money; or (b) ran out of ideas; or (c) ran out of intertia.

When done well, it can actually be just as expensive as a traditional finish job.

We aimed for the same type of loft look in our bungalow basement and so far it's worked out very well. We painted the floor, designated different functional areas with rugs, carefully clustered furniture, and then added back to back Ikea Billy bookcases for walls. We love it, but the big trick is the ceiling. I agree that the difference between the "loft look" and just plain being "unfinished" is the ceiling. Lofts pull it off because the ceilings are high I think. We don't have a good solution for our ceiling yet. It's the last remaining piece of the puzzle. I can't wait to see what you do! Good luck.

Oops! Note on the post above: I'm officially clarifying that I'm Jeanne A. from Oak Park. Not Jeanne from HinP. That way the readers wouldn't be confused that I'm YOU, the original Home Improvement Jeanne. Ha. There you go.

Hey you guys did the right thing by going with loft style for your basement. I have just cleaned up my basement after long period. I am getting ready for home improvement for my basement. I have to get a new ceiling in my basement which elegant and rust free. After that, I will footsteps of you by going for the loft style in the basement. Your post guided me to go with best choice in selecting loft style for my basement.

Hey you guys did the right thing by going with loft style for your basement. I have just cleaned up my basement after long period. I am getting ready for home improvement for my basement. I have to get a new ceiling in my basement which elegant and rust free. After that, I will footsteps of you by going for the loft style in the basement. Your post guided me to go with best choice in selecting loft style for my basement.

We finished our basement (1930's Tudor) this past year and, in looking at your photos, I guess we too went with loft. The ceiling was the key: We left it open, tidied up all the wires (replaced a few, ran some new lines), re-ran some idiotic gas lines (let's circle the WHOLE basement for no reason)... and then we painted it matte black. Sprayed everything - wires, pipes, radiator lines - and suddenly a low ceiling seemed to lift and disappear. We still have access to all the space which is good because I doubt we are done with maintenance of the pipes and wires - and the lower heating pipes add character (and heat). We did put a drop ceiling in the bathroom, for humidity and privacy purposes.

The rest: floor is simple tile. We wallboarded the walls for insulation. Bathroom we kept black and white and traditional. All in all, it's a nice blend for the basement.

So did you end up dumping all the rest of the "what on earth" stuff? Or are you renting a storage space, ha ha, for all the stuff you have yet to go through and appraise? Throw away much that might've been valuable and/or cool (to someone else)?

this is the toughest work to complete mate. i have been thinking of doing my basement for last 3 months. always start it then leaves it inbetween and then resart it again only to find that work this time is a lot harder than before. lol

Very interesting! I love it. I was wondering if you dug out some of the floor to gain more headspace? Keep up the good work.

I agree with some of the above comments you guys did the right thing by going with loft style for your basement.

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