Reviving a rec room
New space is music to Nelesens' ears



Mike and Kathy Nelesen added nearly 900 square feet of living space when they decided to remodel their New Berlin home. JDJ Builders Inc. of Greenfield did the remodeling job for the couple.

When Mike and Kathy Nelesen of New Berlin decided to finish their basement, they did their homework. “We talked to four or five remodeling companies before we found Perry,” recalled Kathy. They met Perry B. Szpek, design sales associate for JDJ Builders, Inc. of Greenfield at last year’s Fall Home and Remodel Show at State Fair. “He was one of the few that listened to our ideas,” said Kathy.

Although the basement was already partially finished, it didn’t meet the Nelesen’s needs. They wanted to add a more casual gathering place to their three-and-a-half-year-old New Berlin home. “The way the living room is set up everyone had to sit in a circle,” explained Kathy. “We really wanted to get away from that. We needed a better way to entertain.” The Nelesen’s had some definite ideas of how they wanted the room set up. “We knew where we wanted the bar and the entertainment center,” said Kathy. Szpek added a few suggestions of his own, but kept his client’s requests in mind. “I don’t want to dictate to the client on what they should do,” explained Szpek. “We work as a team.”

After nearly two months of mutual design work and a few redraws, the final floor plan was ready. The design focused on three main elements, the bar area, a billiard area and a gathering area and would add nearly 900 square feet of living space. The three areas would be combined into one large room, but would retain their individual space by way of creative dividers. “Mike and Kathy were a treat to work with because they could really envision it,” Szpek said.

Once the work got started the process went quickly and smoothly. “We really didn’t have too much mess,” recalled Nelesen. The contractors came in through the garage door and went right down to work in the basement. “It was great to be able to close the door to the laundry room and leave the garage door open,” she said. “That way you could stay in bed and the contractors could still get in to work.”

The build-out effort took only two months. “We try to give a time estimate that is the worst case scenario,” Szpek explained. “That way if we finish earlier the client is happy.” Nelesen said the impact on the family during the remodeling effort was pretty low since they could just avoid using the basement. But that meant they didn’t use the existing exercise room in the basement. “I got out of the habit of working out every day,” she said.

The finished product was definitely worth the sacrifice. “We wanted to maintain the same feel of the rest of the house,” explained Szpek. “But we had some obstacles to work around like the steel supports.” Rather than simply building drywall pillars to box in the steel poles, Szepek designed a half wall to create a corner to the billiard area. A built in work area makes use of another pole and gives the billiard area another seating space.

“Perry came up with the idea of putting crown molding on top of each pillar,” noted Nelesen. “It really adds a lot.” Along the back wall of the billiard area, Szpek added a shallow counter and accents for display. The Nelesens chose to line the counter with stools to add additional seating options.

Even though the Nelesens planned ahead by building a 12 course basement, they still had to box in parts of the ceiling to work around the ductwork. “We tried to use the variations in height to add dimension to the areas,” said Szpek. The result was two large raised areas, one above the billiard area and the other above the gathering area.

Once all of the construction was complete, Kathy got to work decorating. When it came to pulling it all together, purple was the color of choice. “It’s a warm color,” she noted. “We really like it.” Even the billiard table is covered in purple felt. Besides the dominant color, a musical theme permeates the room. “We didn’t want a sports team theme like most rec rooms,” said Kathy. “My husband is big on music and art.” Kathy made ample use of the Internet to shop for her musically themed art. “It was a big help. It made for easy shopping.” Many of her accent pieces came from local stores. “Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without Jake and Elwood,” laughed Szpek. Kathy’s two 1Blues musicians occupy a prominent place next to the entertainment center.

Despite all of the interesting features, Szpek admits that all
of the nooks and corners for decorative display are his favorite elements. Kathy has a much harder time choosing a favorite. “I just really like it all,” she said. But if she had to choose her favorite feature, she says it would be the bar. “It’s small but has room enough to work.” She is also pleased with the way the steel poles were disguised. “I thought they would be a nightmare.”

To avoid a remodeling project nightmare, Nelesen recommends doing your homework up front. “Research from the low end to the high end,” she advised. “And be prepared for a lack of privacy.” Szpek suggests coming up with a general idea of what you want to do with the space before you start contacting designers. “If you see pictures in magazines of what you like, keep it,” he recommended. Deciding on a total budget is key. That way you can avoid spending more than you wanted. Perhaps most importantly, Szpek suggests building a comfort level with the designer and the contractors. “A good working relationship will make things go smoothly,” he said.