Need More Room? Think Basement

Basements are the new family room, sport center and office.

According to Stuart Shayman, of Stuart D. Shayman Associates in Northfield, in new construction, most people want high ceilings and lots of light, which make the space feel less cave-like and gives the owners flexibility to use the space however best suits their family, whether it be for sports, family time or work.

Sport Space
Although Shayman has never designed a basement swimming pool, he has incorporated exercise rooms, wine cellars, bowling alleys and even basketball courts into his projects. But he cautions that the larger the space, the more complex it will be to build and maintain.

“When you get too large, you get into structural issues, and if you’re going very deep, that brings a number of considerations, including water,” says Shayman, who says sump pumps and drainage systems can address many of those issues, albeit at a cost.

Family Room
“Of course there’s the issue of moisture and lack of light in many subterranean spaces, but my approach to designing or finishing a basement is that it can be a less expensive alternative to putting an addition onto your home, which will ultimately add resale value to your home,” says Nathaniel Ross, of the Chicago-based interior design firm Matter & Order, who helped a North Shore family renovate their basement after massive flooding. “Be it a man-cave, a beautiful home gym, or media center for the entire family to enjoy, it’s definitely a space worth investing in.”

Matter incorporated a built-in wall of closets for extra storage and architectural interest. Keeping in mind the space’s damp history, Ross had fun with the décor, decorating with movie posters, throw pillows and blankets for pattern and color.

Work and Office Space
When mosaic glass artist Heather Hancock moved into her Evanston single family home, she considered moving her studio into the attic, which has skylights that bathe the room in a “fabulous light.” However, she ultimately decided to use the basement, which was large enough for both a studio and family room.

“I can be in the studio and the kids have the entire family room to play in,” says Hancock.

According to Hancock, the basement’s cement floor is better suited for art projects and she says the walk out basement is more convenient for transporting supplies to and from the studio. Hancock says that it’s not as dark as you might think.

“I have a full window to the outdoors, and I really, really love that.”

Which doesn’t sound much like a basement at all.

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