Ben and Julie’s basement in Elgin sat unfinished for years, the mostly empty space collecting boxes, holiday décor, and children’s toys. Over the years their family grew, but their current living space did not. After finally deciding to finish this unused part of their home, they desired an effective place where they could spend time with their kids and entertain with friends and family. A basement renovation was the best and most cost-effective option to expand their living space.
They were apprehensive to start because they were unsure of what to expect. They had heard many remodeling horror stories and were looking for a company that could provide a comprehensive solution along with some expert creativity. After a comprehensive search of local companies, Ben and Julie reached out to Advance Design Studio to find out more about their “Common Sense Remodeling” process after viewing project videos and reading online reviews.
“We had never remodeled before and I was nervous about people coming in and out of the house and the noise,” Julie said. It was important to find the right team and to connect with a designer they felt understood their needs.
Project Designer Michelle Lecinski came out to their house to meet the family and talk about their basement renovation. Ben and Julie were immediately drawn to Michelle’s friendliness combined with how carefully she got to know them to find out what was important. They were excited about the detailed analysis and 3D images of the basement’s potential that Michelle would be providing.
“The first quote we got (from another contractor) was just so plain vanilla, but Advance Design’s was just breathtaking,” Julie said. She was amazed at how Michelle not only fit in everything they wanted but designed a few other key spaces that they instantly fell in love with. “Michelle gave us like an HGTV fun computer scope of what our basement would look like. It was amazing,” Julie said.
The finished basement design includes important key areas originally requested by the family: a play area for their young daughter, a dedicated movie theater, an amazing full bar, a TV lounge area, and a full guest bath. When Michelle presented the first design; however, she included a few surprises they didn’t expect. A secret room was custom designed to store toys (and whatever else they might want to store in the attractive shelved storage area) behind an unassuming bookcase wall, a built-in sleeping nook for kids, a custom movie snack bar, and their daughter’s play area was actually a beautiful fairytale-like playhouse.
“They wanted a number of specialized spaces in their new ‘lower-level’ to be a natural extension of their already attractive and stylish home along with kid and pet-friendly flooring, but most importantly they wanted the space to reflect their needs and personality with a bit of a ‘wow’ factor,” Michelle said.
The playhouse delivers on that “wow factor” that Ben, Julie, and their daughters were looking for. Replicating a fairytale-like cottage, the custom-designed and built on-site pink and gray house is complete with a full play kitchen and nursery, windows with custom flower boxes, a front door and mailbox, clapboard siding and a cedar shake “roof”. Jeff Dallain, Advance Design’s lead carpenter who built the playhouse has daughters of his own, said it was one of the most satisfying projects he’s done in quite a while.
“The playroom was all Michelle,” Julie said. “I had wanted just a little playhouse and she came up with this idea and it’s just incredible, my daughter plays in it all the time.” Michelle even designed and installed the flower arrangements in the windows complete with little bird nests to delight the mini-home owner.
A “sleepover nook” for their eldest daughter and her friends has four bunks built into a laddered alcove for the girls and their friends to stay after a long movie night. In the short time since the project has been completed, an untold number of sleepovers have already occurred.
The movie room was an important space that Ben and Julie knew they wanted when they first envisioned their finished basement. “We wanted a place where we could have a family event every week, watch a movie – and we definitely have taken advantage of that,” Julie said. The surround sound audio-visual system coupled with reclining theater seating and specialty lighting ensures every movie-goer is comfortable and has a perfect view. The custom snack station residing just outside the theater entrance holds a popcorn machine and snack storage bins. It is populated with 20 or so popcorn flavorings, one for every possible popcorn connoisseur.
The full kitchen/bar is Ben’s area in the basement. It is a space to enjoy time with friends and watch the game. It has white Medallion flat-panel Maple cabinetry with gray quartz countertops to match the snack station. Attractive patterned tile adorns the full back wall weaved behind a network of decorative shelving holding barware and treasured heirlooms from every family vacation. A granite undermount sink and oil rubbed bronze hardware give the bar a tasteful yet inviting look. The full refrigerator and convection microwave oven assure that any snack need can be fulfilled without ever leaving the basement.
The full bath is perfect for overnight guests. With an Irish Crème Medallion flat-panel Maple Vanity, granite tops and walk-in glass shower, guests feel like they’ve entered a luxury hotel bath, not your typical basement bathroom. Shades of soft blues and grays wash through the ample room creating a soothing spa-like atmosphere.
Anyone who has kids knows that through the year’s toys tend to overflow from every room, rarely allowing for an adult looking space to exist in a home with small children. To solve the toy storage problem Michelle and Julie created a “secret room” hidden behind a bookshelf wall.
“It is probably my most favorite because there is tons of toy storage and it is hidden away so no one has to see it when it is a mess,” Julie said. Plus, the look on their friends faces when they discover the inconspicuous storage area hidden behind the beautifully functional moving bookshelf is fantastic.
“It is just plain fun and keeps the basement looking tidy at the same time,” Michelle added.
After hearing not so great renovation stories from friends, Ben and Julie were prepared for the worst. But they were pleasantly surprised and equally impressed with how well the project went. “It was flawless. The guys were very respectful, and the noise was not anything that I thought it was going to be. It was absolutely perfect,” Julie said.
The whole experience from the beginning of design, the budget work through, the physical construction and final completion were far better than Ben and Julie ever imagined. They had friends who did a basement project recently and it was nothing like their experience. “We didn’t think we would be able to get everything we wanted. We actually got way more, and we are so glad that we found Advance Design, we absolutely loved the experience”, said Julie. Their friends came over and they were absolutely blown away when they saw the finished space.
They now have an amazing space where they can enjoy time with their daughters, and they have already hosted several family gatherings. This was one of Michelle’s favorite projects to work on. “The end result was a collection of unique spaces within the open-plan basement,” Michelle said.
“We would absolutely recommend Advance Design,” Julie said. “The only regret we have is that we wish we would have done it a year ago.”