Last month, I shared my new laundry room with you. This month, I’ll show you how we transformed our dreary cold basement into a welcoming suite. Our entire basement is about 600 square feet, and it includes the laundry room, furnace room, bathroom, bedroom and a living area with kitchen.

Our goal was to make the basement shareable. That is, if a future homeowner wanted to have an adult child or other relative live there, or if they needed a nanny or granny suite, this area would be private enough to allow for that. Our reasoning was simple: home prices in our part of Richmond Hill are getting out of reach for some buyers, even though our houses are quite small. It’s a family neighbourhood with lots of schools and parks, and it’s walking distance to a mall. However, first-time buyers may not be able to afford our home. We thought that our basement suite would allow them to share the mortgage with someone.  In future, if Richmond Hill allows basement apartments, our suite may even be able to generate rental income.

We’ve divided the basement so that we can access the laundry room without entering the suite. There’s a door separating the suite from the vestibule leading to our garage, and off of this vestibule, we access our laundry room through a pocket door. The suite door can be locked for added privacy. Beyond that door is a fully contained suite with bathroom, bedroom with large closet, and a great room with kitchen. The suite’s occupants can still share the laundry room, as required.

Below, I’ll share the design details of the great room/kitchen area, which takes up about 200 square feet of the 600 square foot total.  Currently, my 20-year-old son is staying in the suite, while he’s on a 4-month work term in Toronto. I can assure you that it no longer looks as neat as it did in these photos, but it’s working well for him.

Our basement was long overdue for an overhaul. We had painted the 70’s paneling and replaced the carpet, but it was cold year-round (no insulation) and generally very sad. Our hit list included:

  • Installing a new furnace with humidifier, and moving it to the other side of the space
  • Installing new duct work around the perimeter of the room, so that we no longer had to duck under it. (When your son is 6’4″ this is a must!)
  • Getting rid of the water tank and going with a tankless water heater. This allowed our furnace room, off the laundry room, to be much smaller, freeing up valuable space.
  • Adding a small kitchen in the main room, in case future homeowners wanted to rent the space.
  • Having a comfortable, multi-functional living area.
BEFORE — toward the living area: We couldn’t wait to say goodbye to industrial carpet, dropped ceilings, fluorescent lighting and ‘duck’ work.
BEFORE – towards the kitchen area: Nobody likes having a support post in the middle of their basement. Ours had two, one of which was hidden in the wall behind that fire extinguisher. I designed the new walls to cover both posts.
DURING — toward the kitchen area: The kitchen backs on to the new furnace room and laundry room. This means that the plumbing for sinks on both sides of the wall could all be here. You can also see the duct work taking shape from the new furnace room.
DURING — toward the living area: Duct work has been enclosed, with just enough headroom for  our extra-tall son. Supporting posts have been enclosed in new walls.

While our laundry room was an exercise in high-low design, the great room was to be low-low design. We repurposed furniture we already had and added budget-friendly pieces as required. Here are some of our resources:

  • Costco — for laminate flooring
  • Habitat for Humanity Restore — for the kitchen cabinets, new Euro-style fridge (not shown), and microwave hood (not shown). We also scored a chair and ottoman there.
  • Stylish Fireplaces — we brought home an unsold fireplace cabinet from our showroom, as well as the copper-coloured stool at the kitchen counter.
  • Abacus Countertops — our kitchen counter tops are Formica laminate, like our laundry room.

Read on to see how we pulled it all together.

AFTER: The cabinets on the left are IKEA, and we’ve had them for over 20 years. We had all the art prior to the renovation and just moved it into this space. The TV came from upstairs, where we replaced it with a larger one. The mirrored piece behind the chair came from my showroom. The multi-coloured afghan was a gift from Mom, and I thought it brightened the space.
AFTER:  Believe it or not, this chair and ottoman were only $75 at my favourite Habitat for Humanity Restore. I was meant to buy it. I had seen it in the Spring, before our reno started, and I hesitated — there was nowhere to put it. Then they sold it. In the late Fall, as we were getting to the end of our reno, I noticed that it had bounced back into the store and I snapped it up. It’s actually deep enough for my son’s extra long legs, without being too bulky.
AFTER: This grouping of art canvases was my way of filling the vertical space between the eating area and the fireplace. The stool came from my showroom. I ordered the X table base, and had a laminate top made to fit, to extend the kitchen countertop.
AFTER: The kitchen area features the rest of the Habitat for Humanity Restore cabinets that you saw in my laundry room. I used the same laminate countertops for continuity. We were able to squeeze in a small double sink. The dark gray provides a dramatic accent above the kitchen tile and on the bulkhead that extends into the living area. Because we couldn’t avoid having the bulkhead, I decided to make it a feature. We’ve added power for a stove, should some future owner want one, but we put a countertop-height table in the spot where the stove would go.

Jeanne Grier is an award-winning interior decorator and owner of Stylish Fireplaces & Interiors. With over 25 years’ experience in the Toronto area, she has completed hundreds of makeovers. Her expertise extends to fireplaces, and she is an NFI Certified Hearth Design Specialist. She and her husband Colin operate a retail showroom in the Toronto area, featuring over 50 electric fireplaces, as well as wall coverings and fireplace accessories. 

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