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Projects with a purpose
Three basement renovations reflect homeowners' stages in life


October 2015

While part of the basement still functions as a mechanical space, the entrance into the finished portion and its original wood doors preserve the antiquity of the 1920s-era home.

Irish Influence
Photography by Matt Haas

When remodeling the basement of a Washington Highlands home, Matthew Jahns of Refined Renovations, Wauwatosa, understood the homeownersí desire to have an adult space to call their own. "When they (the homeowners) came to us describing what they wanted to do, they said they wanted a space for them to casually host neighborhood parties, holiday parties, that type of thing," says Jahns. "We had previously done a third floor space for the kids, so this didnít need to be a space for children."

Design inspiration was drawn from the look of a classic Irish pub, and the result is a space that feels welcoming and warm, both subliminally and physically. "The space radiates warmth ó literally," says Jahns, noting the presence of an in-floor hydronic heating system. "Itís a very comfortable space even during the coldest of months." Beams wrapped in wood add dimension to the ceiling, and a stucco finish, which is used throughout the home, covers the space between the beams.

The home was built in 1925, so durability was also a leading consideration. The tile floor, for example, is a practical choice, but its herringbone setting ó a subtle touch of luxury ó lends to the basementís European pub feel. "(The basement) was destined to be utilized as living space even if the original house didnít structure itself toward it," explains Jahns. "Because of its windows and fireplace, it wanted to be used as living space. Working within those parameters to make it such was really challenging and exciting at the same time."

A gradual curve, intentionally resembling the look of a film strip,
wraps around the ceilingís mechanicals.

Custom Showhouse
Photography by Jake Ruiz

For Jake Ruiz of QRS Group, Pewaukee, his West Allis home is much more than a place to live ó it also functions as a resource for the remodeling firmís customers. "We use the whole house as a showhouse for our customers," says Ruiz. "Customers come over before we start a job, and itís a great source of inspiration."

The in-home theater features a 110-inch ultrawide screen, walls covered in acoustically transparent fabric and 13 speakers, 11 of which are hidden.

The homeís full basement renovation is reflective of QRS Groupís ability to blend high design and functionality. "Because itís a lower level, it was important to have really good air temperature control and lighting control," says Ruiz. Heated tile floors warm the air when itís cold outside, and in the theater, carpet is raised onto a platform, creating a vapor area that deflects moisture and prevents water damage and dampness.

Many accessories, including the blinds and lighting, are automatic and can be controlled via iPhone or iPad. Customized settings were accounted for, too. "When you press the movie button, for instance, the blinds go down, the lights dim, the projector turns on, and the whole iPad becomes your remote control for the theater," explains Ruiz. "It makes it enjoyable instead of stressful."

And despite the smaller size of the overall space, Ruiz found creative ways to make it feel larger, such as keeping the rafters above the bar area exposed. "I eliminated any mechanical and then sprayed them the color of inkwell ó that increases the feel of the height of the ceiling," he says. "Because of that extra height and the different color, it really builds so much more character into the bar."

The spacious retreat serves as a place for Coach Wojo and the team to review game footage.

Wojo-Worthy Retreat
Photography by Doug Edmunds

Steve and Lindsey Wojciechowski relocated their family to the Milwaukee area about 18 months ago ó just in time for Steve, more commonly known as Coach Wojo, to start his new job as head coach of Marquette Universityís menís basketball team.

The renovation included the addition of a kid-friendly basketball court, where Jack Wojciechowski has already perfected his dunking skills.

The couple have since extensively renovated the basement of their Mequon home, hiring Stephen Betts of Penny Mustard Furniture and SJB Designs to assist with the project. The space now functions as a multipurpose room ó a place to entertain and socialize, a place for their two young boys to play, and a place for Steve and his team to review footage after a game. "We put the big sectional sofa in so everyone would have a place to sit and have a good view of the projection TV," says Betts, adding that carpet was installed in that area of the space to improve acoustics.

Betts used a monochromatic gray color palette to transform the area ó previously decked out in dark wood and beige fabrics ó into one that feels calmer and more relaxing. "They (the Wojciechowskis) wanted more of a lived-in, warm look down here," he explains. "To keep costs at minimum, we added a paint finish to the cabinets and tore the top completely off of the bar and installed granite to give it a cleaner, sleeker look because the ceilings are so low." K&L Construction worked as the projectís general contractor.


This story ran in the October 2015 issue of: