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Beautiful Basements: Something for Everyone

How a sprawling, unfinished basement in Chevy Chase became a space the whole family could enjoy.

Coffered ceilings and structural columns help create separate “rooms” within this large Chevy Chase basement. Photograph by Ron Blunt.

If You Want to Create Your Own Basement Family Room

Plan ahead
Thanks to improvements in the technology of flat-screen televisions, many homeowners are forgoing a home theater in favor of a more traditional basement family room. Wentworth recommends hiring an audio-visual consultant before drywall installation begins, to help hide cables, phone lines, and router boxes. Soundproofing insulation can also be installed so you can’t hear the basement stereo or TV when you’re upstairs.

Divide and conquer
To make a large basement feel more intimate, use ceiling treatments, area rugs, paint colors, or architectural details to create distinct spaces.

Built in the 1990s, this Chevy Chase home had a spacious unfinished basement. The homeowners turned to Bruce Wentworth, owner of the design/build firm Wentworth, to create an entertainment hub with six distinct spaces: a sitting area with a TV; a library; a wet bar; a pool table; a table for cards and games; and an open workout area with space to use exercise balls, free weights, and a mat. They also wanted to add a powder room and a walk-in cedar closet for storage.

“At 50 by 30 feet, we had the luxury of possibilities,” says Wentworth. “But there was a downside: It would be challenging to define certain spaces for different purposes and divide them from each other.”

Structural columns that march down the middle of the space offered a natural design concept to build around. Using the columns as a guide, the design team created a grid of six modules, each measuring about 12 by 12 feet, that would act as different “rooms.” Each is visually defined by its own coffered ceiling treatment and contemporary tapered columns. A 12-foot-long section of custom cabinetry separates the media center from the pool-table area. Built-in bookshelves along one wall and teak cabinets above and below the wet bar add more storage.

To make up for the lack of natural light, Wentworth and his team installed recessed and ambient lighting on dimmers as well as low-voltage rope lighting concealed behind large crown moldings. Each of the six spaces has its own lighting controls.

Says Wentworth: “The family enjoys having a place for young adults to gather with friends and for parents to gather with family. They can play pool, watch a movie, listen to music, play a board game, or enjoy a beverage.”

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This article appears in the August 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

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