Design Process – My Basement 1

Let me just start by saying that it’s going to be awhile before I do anything with my basement. There’s fish garden to be done, fancy roof system worthy of its own post to be saved up for, and, most immediately, insulation baffles to be installed. Check out the terrifying view I get when I’m on my back between rafters trying to staple those things in place:

Yeah, it’s a little blurry, but that is the view from inside a coffin of nails. Super fun and not at all nightmare inducing. All that aside, I want to talk about my basement.

In the interest of documenting the design process fully, I have to talk about the more ethereal stuff too, not just the drawing and the building stuff you can see. Think of it like tossing ingredients into a stew, each one goes in with its own flavors and characteristics, some fade to the back, others stand out, and in the end it’s all one cohesive (and hopefully delicious) … design? Whatever, it’s a metaphor, you get it and I’m not going to stretch it too far.

Some of the things you want to incorporate into a well-designed space are needs, desires for kinds of spaces that don’t really take a specific physical form. People who like made-up words call them deliverables. For instance, storage is probably the most requested kind of space when someone is adding on to their home. Here’s how you know that you need more storage:

You have just boxes of shit piled up in random corners of your house. My problem with storage space is that it gets filled up, then it overflows into the garage and corners of your house, and you need more storage again. Most people could probably deal more with getting rid of crap than more storage. Our house, though, has only two tiny closets, so there, I’m different than most people. A responsible basement remodel should address needs like “storage”, and not just needs like “awesome place to watch the game”.

You may have more specific formal things that you want to incorporate into a renovation, such as this gem that wonderful other-not-necessarily-better half came across:

Let me just say here that a big part of a residential architects job is sifting through massive stacks of magazine clippings of “ideas” that potential clients have, and they all look like that. A good architect is going to go through those, and through conversation and experience, decide what the client actually sees when they look at those clippings. Is it style? a certain material? the actual product itself? Or is it the layout of the space? the quality of the light? and so on, and so on forever. I already have some ideas for this “book nook” floating about in my head, so keep in mind what you see above, and what actually gets designed later.

Then there are the materials I’d like to use. I’ll use this as an example of discretion, by showing you a material that I absolutely love:


… but will probably not find its way into my basement. The above is a painted terra cotta tile that just feels good to touch, and has a nice rustic look to it. However, the design taking shape for my basement lends itself to a much more modern design, solid colors, with details in the texture, not the pattern. There are definitely ways do incorporate this into a modern design, but maybe not this particular modern design. I’ll probably have to find another home for this tile elsewhere in the house if I decide I just can’t let it go. Good design is often more about what can be left out in the service of highlighting and simplifying what is in.

So that’s a little sampling of the kinds of things to think about in the nascent stages of solving a design problem. And I didn’t even say “concept” or “parti”.

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