From the August/September 2009 Issue:

Ups & Downs

Basements and attics can be so much more than bland storage areas. We show how four designers created functional, attractive living spaces


Article Photo
enlarge | Architect Seth A. Leeb replaced standard cellar steps with Silestone during the renovation of this Towaco basement. From the landing, you see the kitchenette/bar in one direction and the billiard room in another.
High Life Below Ground
A Towaco basement renovation creates a modern, sophisticated playground for adults


Finishing the basement usually means homeowners need a place to stash the kids, their toys, and general calamity below the radar of the rest of the house. One Towaco family, however, saw their bottom floor as an adult refuge.

A sophisticated basement renovation created space for a full bath, home office, bar/kitchenette, billiard room, and media room out of raw space. The floor was plain concrete originally, and the walls were concrete block. A few small windows let in little light. “We were looking to create another floor of living dedicated to adults,” says architect Seth A. Leeb of Seth A. Leeb Architect in Parsippany and immediate past president of the New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects. “We had to design a series of spaces that flowed.” But this basement, like most, didn’t lend itself to a flowing space. Sets of support columns created regular interruptions, and ductwork lowered the available space from a maximum height of 7 feet 9.5 inches to 6 feet 11 inches.

Flowing Space

“In making another level of living, it’s important that you don’t know it’s a basement,” Leeb says. “To do that, we redid the ductwork and removed several columns while making several support beams larger to gain open space. In a normal basement renovation, the duct work just gets boxed in with Sheetrock but you still know it’s there.”

Now dark tile floors unite the different spaces. Silestone, an engineered quartz and resin material, suited the project better than granite or marble because of its uniform color, Leeb says. The size of the tile is important as well as the material. A smaller tile would create a visual grid. The larger tile allows the space to flow. The only deviation is the black shag carpet in the media room, which dampens sound and adds a plush feel.

Leeb incorporated traditionally commercial touches in the basement. The media room can be shut off from the rest of the space by heavy sliding glass doors. Because the glass is so heavy, Leeb specified commercial-grade hardware for it. The walls also borrow from commercial design with a painted recess at their base. “Traditional molding trim could have been too fussy for the space,” he says.

Let There Be Light

Basements, by nature, are dark. Fortunately, one side of this one is above grade, so Leeb installed rectangular windows there. For the rest of the space, he chose a mix of low-voltage lighting, sconces, and small-aperture recessed lighting, along with directional lighting for art on the walls. All the lights are on dimmers so the homeowners can vary the levels for different applications or moods.

Though the basement was originally intended to be only for adults, Leeb reports the kids in the family have infiltrated. If that’s not honor enough, the renovation won an award of excellence from the American Institute of Architects Newark & Suburban Architects Section.

Liz Smutko
writes in New Hope, Pennsylvania

SOURCES Architect, Seth A. Leeb Architect, AIA, in Parsippany; general contractor and media room cabinetry, Boxtree Homes LLC in Clifton; stair treads, Silestone by Cosentino in Stafford, Texas; stair risers and railings, Bedlam Architectural Metalworks LLC in Paterson; kitchen/bar cabinetry, Poggenpohl in Fairfield; sliding glass pocket doors, Hyde’s Glass & Mirror in Dover.



Article Photo
enlarge | Chillin’ Time: Olive-print chenille covers the chairs around a poker table in this game/family room. The light fixture features a white linen shade dressed up with a black band at the top. The window wall is outlined in a stage-style drapery.
Chillin’ Time
Converted space above a garage becomes a backstage pass to fun


Everyone deserves a cool backstage space to hang out before performing in front of a throng of fans. Playing poker, watching videos, practicing tunes, and enjoying refreshments are good ways to pass the time. That was interior designer Terri Lindahl-Castro’s inspiration for this 1970s-style room added over the garage of the Vision Building on Moore Lane in Haddonfield, a designer show house that benefited the Mental Health Association in Southwestern New Jersey.

With the homeowners’ sons — then 18 and 22 — in mind, Lindahl-Castro set the stage with a room-sized durable striped wool rug. The designer, whose firm is T.L.C. Interiors at Mill Race Village in Mount Holly, added a smaller rug with a bold geometric pattern to define a seating area in front of the TV on one end of the 16-by-24-foot room. She placed an apricot faux suede settee under a window on a wall that’s outlined in stage-like draperies. A black velvet, zebra-print chair and giraffe-print pillow made of bugle beads amp up the fun factor. An Indian print wool tapestry, reminiscent of the 1970s, covers a smaller dormer window over additional seating.

Chairs covered in olive-print chenille surround a poker table, while an adjacent refreshment center features a concrete counter topped with aluminum with a circular pattern created by an electric sander. On the opposite wall, a red woven-leather console stands ready to hold CD cases or the latest issues of Rolling Stone. Under the table are lime-green woven leather stools, and above is an angled ceiling dressed in soundproofing material.

Cool accessories: coasters made from the center of vinyl LPs, “roadie” cases used as coffee and side tables, and a mike stand tied with scarves à la Steven Tyler of Aerosmith.

SOURCES design, furniture, lighting, Terri Lindahl-Castro of T.L.C. Interiors in Mount Holly; striped rug, Avalon Carpet Tile & Flooring in Cherry Hill; geometric-print rug, Home Decorators Collection catalog, Hazelwood, Missouri; silk lambskin velvet draperies, Rose Brand in Secaucus.


Article Photo
enlarge | Family Fun: Designer Maria K. Bevill created a basement entertainment space that’s as well-suited to the parents as their three daughters.
Family Fun
Basement gets Deco-inspired makeover


Lime green and red tones punctuate the silvery-gray and black of a theater/bar/seating area in a Morris County basement. “The wife likes color and isn’t afraid to push the decorating envelope,” says interior designer Maria Bevill of Maria K. Bevill Interior Design in Chester. “That’s what made this such a fun project.” The goal was to transform the plain-Jane basement into a spot where the family could relax and watch a movie, the three daughters could entertain friends, and the parents could host parties.

“The wife didn’t want the theater and bar area to have a typical formal look — she wanted the entire space to be fun,” says Bevill, a member of the International Design Society. “I started with an idea for a glass-block bar because I thought it was an interesting, edgy concept she would like. Then we added stainless steel trim throughout the space, which introduced an Art Deco feel.”

Bevill created a silvery backdrop by painting the existing bead board light gray and the wall above it a slightly darker shade and then added light gray carpeting. Next came texture and sparkle with the addition of lighting that shines through the glass-block bar and a band of stainless steel just under the bartop, which is black absolute granite outlined in sapele, a durable African wood with distinctive graining. She designed four bar stools with backs and two without, all covered in a cream-and-black geometric fabric that bridges the darkness of the theater on one side and the brightness of a seating area on the other. For easy entertaining, the bar has an undercounter refrigerator, icemaker, and microwave in addition to a sink and built-in storage.

Another stainless steel band trims a beam that separates the bar and theater and also hides the projector. The family watches movies from black leather theater-style chairs brought from their previous home. The walls are padded and upholstered, with the sides in black linen and the screen wall in the same geometric fabric used on the barstools. The same fabric was fashioned into Roman shades that are lowered over small windows on each side of the screen to darken the room for viewing. When the movie is over, the screen disappears into the ceiling at the touch of a button. Sconces made of Lucite bars add to the Deco feel, as does stainless steel trim on the wood columns that hold the sconces and on the chair rail. The theater system itself was installed by Professional Audio Consultants.

In the seating area, Bevill chose bright lime Novasuede with black trim to refresh chairs the family already owned. “It’s wonderful what reupholstering can do,” she says. Shades of red add contrast in pendant lights over the bar, a round table in the seating area, and the most attention-getting furnishing in the space: an old-fashioned telephone booth the homeowner located on the Internet. “The phone booth adds another fun element to the room and keeps it from looking overly grownup,” Bevill says. And, yes, it’s equipped with a telephone that works and even accepts quarters. “The phone booth would just fit in the room based on the height listed on the Internet, but when it arrived it was six inches taller,” Bevill says. She credits the cabinetmaker who worked on the bar cabinetry and theater area, John Capra of Unique Kitchens and Millwork LLC, for making the phone booth fit.

Completing the basement are a wine cellar, bathroom, and storage space.

SOURCES interior design: Maria K. Bevill Interior Design in Chester; woodwork, John Capra of Unique Kitchens & Millwork in Livingston; theater system, Professional Audio Consultants in Millburn; fabric on seating area chairs, Novasuede by Fabricade Inc. in Holbrook, New York; bar stools, custom with Kravet fabric; bar pendant lights, Wimberley Glassworks in San Marcos, Texas; chandelier over table, World Imports Lighting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; carpet, Blue Ridge Commercial Carpet in Ellijay, Georgia; paint colors: Sherwin-Williams Domino with a metallic silver glaze on the theater ceiling; Benjamin Moore 2140-60 on the bar and seating area wainscoting; Benjamin Moore 2140-50 above the wainscoting and 2140-60 on the door.


Article Photo
enlarge | A Quiet Place: The fabric on these Victorian-style balloon chairs and the chandelier with multicolored pendants inspired the design of the space.
A Quiet Place
Designer carves an intimate study in a nearly century-old home’s third floor


A third-floor space in a 1915 Craftsman home in Cape May was a good spot for a new study. “The angled ceiling was perfect for designing a cozy environment; it’s a place where someone can be ensconced in comfort and quiet,” says Janis A. Schmidt of Dragonfly Interiors LLC in Cape May. But it wasn’t without challenges.

The room was empty with white walls and ceiling when Schmidt started the project, part of the 2008 Cape May Designer Show House benefiting the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts. It had original wide-plank dark wood floors with matching doors and base moldings and one ceiling light. The owners asked Schmidt to design a room in keeping with the Craftsman style and to keep the original woodwork.

A red-and-gold fabric that had caught Schmidt’s eye and a chandelier with colored glass drops provided her inspiration. “I love red, and I knew I had to use the fabric in this space,” she says. It now covers two balloon chairs (a Victorian-era style) that sit on each side of a table under the chandelier. Tying the vignette together is a wall covered in red drapery panels that fall from a cornice at the ceiling.

The opposite wall is covered in an antique world map reproduction. Between the two ends of the room, Schmidt finished a low wall with tin painted in six layers, including black, gold, and red. Above it, she lined the angled ceiling with gold grass cloth and added beams and coffers for dimension. Upholstered boards between the coffers add interest.

“Because the space is not very large (about 19 by 13 feet), I wanted to make the walls and ceiling as interesting as possible,” she says. “People mistakenly think a smaller space has to be plain to feel open. In reality, if you divert the eye to interesting surfaces or materials, you don’t focus on dimension.”

An oval desk is big enough for any office task, but its corner placement allows enough room for comfortable seating. Two love seats are covered in a russet and black-veined leather with nailhead and feather trim on the arms. A sectional leather ottoman serves as a coffee table or extra seating. The furnishings allow for multiple uses of the room, from a private reading session to visits with friends, from evening escapes from the kids to Sunday mornings with the newspaper.

Sources interior design, Janis A. Schmidt of Dragonfly Interiors LLC in Cape May; love seat, Classic Leather in Hickory, North Carolina; balloon chairs, Parker Southern in Maiden, North Carolina, with Robert Allen fabric; ottoman, Harden Furniture in McConnellsville, New York; Sunset Key Oasis Desk and grandfather chimney cupboard clock with four drawers and a door, Stanley Furniture Co. in Stanleytown, Virginia; red leather desk chair, Classic Leather; desk lamp, Uttermost in Rocky Mount, Virginia; “book cradle” chest with clock in top, FFDM in High Point, North Carolina; chandelier with multicolored Swarovski crystals, Fine Art Lamps in Miami Lakes, Florida; wall and ceiling upholstery, Custom Window by Robert A. Kline in West Berlin; map mural, Ronald Redding Designs by York Wallcoverings in York, Pennsylvania; gold grass-cloth wall covering, Candice Olson by York Wallcoverings; lighting, Bright Light Design Center in Cape May Court House; tin wall covering, Christopher Lee Plummer of Metallo Arts in Glenville, Pennsylvania. All furniture through Carl Harz Furnishings in Elmer.