Double Take: The Disappearing Home Office
Watch a long workstation in a renovated basement vanish with the wave of a wand — er, with some clever architecture anyway.
“Every mother needs a cockpit,” says architect Elizabeth Emerson of E/L Studio. In this case the cockpit includes her client’s long and linear office, extensive craft and wrapping paper storage, and a laundry room, with proximity to the kids’ homework and craft area and playroom. The best part is, the parts that get messy — the office, homework stations and craft area — can be concealed behind a clean blue lacquered wall when the family wants to entertain.
The renovation of the damp, low-ceilinged cellar of this 1911 home in Maryland posed many of the usual basement renovation challenges, including intrusive brick piers, moisture, hanging wires, exposed ductwork and low ceilings. The renovation addressed all of these issues, and the result is a clean and bright multiuse space complete with an adjacent laundry room, bathroom and family room.
Project at a Glance
Who lives here: A family of 4; at the time of the renovations, the daughter was 7 and the son was 11
Location: Chevy Chase, Washington, D.C.
Size: About 1,100 square feet
Year completed: 2009
Emerson carefully considered the way the family would use each zone in the space. This mom’s command central has loads of storage — overhead, on the desktop and underneath the stairs — including flat files, room for wrapping supplies, and storage for adult and kid craft supplies.
Well-placed lighting, electrical outlets and a fabric-covered pinboard along the back of the wall let her keep everything she needs close at hand.
So, now you see the cockpit …
… now you don’t!
When entertaining, the clients can draw full-height, in-line sliding doors across the children’s craft and homework area and across the desk, leaving everything as cluttered as can be, with no one the wiser.
The doors, made by German company Hafele, stack and disappear into closets at either end when open. There are also bolts in the floor so that the mom can lock up her computer when the kids have sleepovers. The doors are covered in a custom lacquer that reflects the light.
The kids’ workstation has a pegboard for hanging tools and plenty of bins for storing supplies.
“It can take a lot of work to clear a basement,” Emerson says. She replaced the cellar’s original brick piers with a structural system of steel columns; all of the spaces back up around these, which maximizes the usable space. The husband is 6 feet, 6 inches tall, so she also lowered the floor 18 inches. Ductwork and HVAC systems were moved strategically to clear the living space.
In addition to the many cabinets, the new space also includes an ample storage area behind these white doors.
“It’s a floating floor, not fixed at the edges, which means it can expand and contract in case of moisture,” Emerson describes. The floor is cork, which has the elegance of hardwood but is softer for play.
“The office space flows seamlessly from one area to the next,” Emerson says. In the adjacent laundry room, the long counter doubles as a wrapping station. The room also includes a built-in ironing board in a cabinet to the left and an apron-front sink.
“The soapstone we used for these counters is more figurative than the average soapstone and has more veining,” she says. It picks up on the gray and copper tones in the house.
Emerson says the adjacent playroom and TV area is “family center for films and fun.” Plush custom cushions for the bench came after this photo was taken; this is a comfy gathering place where the family has movie nights. It’s also a great spot for playing with the Wii.
The built-in U-shaped bench seat hides the basement reinforcement necessary for dropping the floor level. The beadboard hides insulation and a drainage system that deals with moisture by draining it to hidden troughs that lead to subpumps. The original loose stone foundation was cleaned up and kept exposed above grade, where moisture is not an issue.
“By not dropping a ceiling, we were able to get about 12 more inches of perceptive height,” Emerson says. The electrical, mechanical and plumbing were rerouted so that the joists could be exposed, painted and uplighted to give the room height.
The mantel is made of the same soapstone used in the laundry room. Coppery flecks pick up on the Daltile copper penny tile fireplace surround. Although the space is very light and clean, elements like the fireplace and the rich-colored cork floors add warmth.
Thanks to the carefully considered plan, the basement is now a multiuse space that is efficient and comfortable for the whole family.
Orson B.Klender, Associate Broker
Keller Williams Realty Saratoga Springs
38 High Rock Ave, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
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