Milwaukee/NARI Offers Latest Trends In Custom Basements

March 19, 2013

For increased living space, bypass the backyard, forget the attic, and look to the basement. A lower-level area can be transformed into the “center” of a home without extensive renovations. Consider the following remodeling and design recommendations from members of the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council Inc., the area’s leading home improvement and remodeling industry resource for 51 years.

Upper level living rooms are becoming more formal and less frequently used, according to Tom Mainville, CR, of Story Hill Renovations in Wauwatosa. “The basement is often now the ‘go to’ room when families want to spend time together,” says Mainville. “Extending living space – even doubling what’s on the main floor of the home – is what’s in.”

An open floor plan gives the lower level an airy feel, while a simple differentiation in flooring by area can divide the space by functions. “A mixture of carpet, hardwood floors, or tiles will make it look more like a home and less like a drab basement,” notes Deron Butler of Joseph Douglas Homes and Remodeling in Menomonee Falls. Butler also recommends maximizing headroom and opening up the stairs at the bottom. “Have this area be the main focal point of the lower level to appear more inviting,” he said. “An exercise space and bathroom can be located out in the perimeter.”

“Adding a bathroom downstairs is a popular trend and truly worth the investment,” said Butler. “Because it’s generally not the main bathroom for the house, a basement bathroom doesn’t have to be large. An area about 35 square feet can accommodate a toilet, vanity, and shower.”

Lower levels with mini and full kitchens are great for entertaining, Mainville adds. “A wet bar or small kitchen makes entertaining that much easier,” he said. “This eliminates the need to go up and down the stairs with snacks and dishes and allows you to focus on the time spent with your guests or just relaxing. Incorporating a basement kitchen does require access to hot and cold water, as well as electrical outlets.”

The choice in lighting is key to making a custom basement feel more like home. “Select recessed can lighting to help your lower level appear more spacious,” recommends Butler. He suggests painting the trim around to can lights to help them blend into the ceiling. “Decorative table and floor lamps will also brighten the space and provide task lighting beside sofas and chairs,” Butler said. “But if you have an opportunity to cut in an additional window, take it, and let as much light in as possible.”

Other touches that help open up the lower level and make it feel like part of the rest of the house include wall trim, ceiling treatments, and crown molding. “Break up long walls with niches or other interesting features,” said Butler. “Simply putting light-colored paint on the walls will make a dramatic difference in the look and feel of the basement. If height allows, tray or coffered ceilings also add a nice touch. The lower level doesn’t have to be dark and dingy.” Also consider covering the basement foundation walls, perhaps with drywall, paneling, or plywood.

The Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council was chartered in July 1961, as a Chapter of the National Home Improvement Council. In May of 1982, the National Home Improvement Council merged with the National Remodelers Association to form NARI – the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

The Council’s goals of encouraging ethical conduct, professionalism, and sound business practices in the remodeling industry have led to the remodeling industry’s growth and made NARI a recognized authority in that industry. With over 750 members, the Milwaukee Chapter is the nation’s largest.

For more information or to receive a free copy of an annual membership roster listing all members alphabetically and by category, and the booklet, “Milwaukee/NARI’s Remodeling Guide,” call 414-771-4071 or visit the Council’s website at

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