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The Basement: Layout Options

by - Tuesday, May 18, 2010

HandyMan and I have been sketching out ideas for the basement layout for weeks now and we've come up with some interesting options. Here's what the space looks like currently:

When we first started thinking about the space, we focused on our top priorities: more counterspace in the laundry room, and creating a pantry. In this option below, we shifted things around in the laundry room (which is currently too big) and made room for more storage closets and a nice big u-shaped pantry room. HandyMan likes niches and alcoves so he placed the pantry in such a way that it created a little niche for a workstation on the other side of the wall of the furnace. Niches like this really maximize the use of the space and create nice clean lines in the layout. He made use of another small niche (to the left of the laundry room door) to put a storage closet for detergents and such.

Building on this first option, we thought - what if we move the hot water tank to the laundry room so that all the ugly but necessary mechanical stuff gets put in one room? And what about creating a separate, more contained work area in the rec room?

Hmm, its not really working is it. The pantry seems to be floating in space. Then we thought - what if we change the entry... make the work area more of a pass-through hallway type of layout?

Okay, that plan is a little better looking. But now the pantry room has completely disappeared! Time for some radical thinking... what if we moved the laundry to the current kitchenette area? This would leave room for a really big pantry/storage room. And we could have a small-ish work/crafting room with a lower kid-sized table beside it.

I'm liking where this is going... but still not quite there. More radical thinking required! What if we stripped the laundry room down to the bare bones and created a small but functional space? And moving the placement of the pantry room... does this help?

Not really. While the bottom half of the layout seems nice and open, the top is a jumble of rooms and doorways. At this point, we took a step back and had a few "lightbulb" moments which helped us create the more streamlined plan below:

First, we decided that the pantry could be an unfinished space, meaning it could just be a bunch of shelves and brackets. It didn't even need to be drywalled or have a finished ceiling. With that in mind, we then thought - well, why don't we put the ugly hot water tank and furnace in the pantry room them? Doing this then created the opportunity for a more streamlined, rectangular shaped laundry room. That meant we could have nice long runs of countertop along the walls!

Another lightbulb moment came when we thought - why don't we change the storage niche that was to the left of the laundry room door and instead move it outside of the laundry room and change it to display space? Then we could create a nice little circulation space - display shelves on the left, laundry door in front, pantry door on the right, and a nice potlight overhead? Having the doors all in one zone makes sense and having visible open shelves creates some interest and texture.

Sweet! Can you see how those few changes has led to a more pleasant, logical and efficient plan? Architects call those lightbulb moments "unlocking the plan". I call it just plain awesome :)

So here's the final plan (I think). I'll be sharing the 3D model HandyMan created in SketchUp so you'll get a better idea of what this plan really feels like.

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  1. I am not sure I understand why you don't leave the laundry, furnace room, and pantry all open? I suppose this is what you have now and you hate it? The area being taken up by 2 doors, and the entrance (with the open shelf) is all unusable space and your rooms might feel the hallway along the stairs is wasted too. Just sayin...

    What if you moved laundry to the kitchenette and left it open to the living area? You can have beautiful cabinets and counter, and maybe a pretty fabric skirt in front of the machines? Then squish your pantry into the corner, and widen the hallway? You could put a console or desk in that new wider hall (along the pantry/furnace room wall, it becomes an extension of the living space)

    Does any of this make sense? Not everything needs to be addressed with walls, built ins and structure!

    Ok...Now that you really HATE ME!

    May I ask, is that enough clearance for the furnace?

    We moved our hot water tank to the other side of the house to clear space and now it takes forever for the hot water to come out of the taps in the upstairs bathroom, and the water pressure is sucky...not to mention the bulk head for the beam doubled in size because of the large copper pipes running along it...

  2. Shannon - its always good to hear your comments, esp since you're doing a basement reno yourself! Yes, we definitely wanted the laundry in a self-contained room. Reality is we are messy with laundry and leave unwashed piles on the floor and piles to be folded on top of the washing machines so didn't want that out in the open. I think I've been swayed by all those HGTV shows too because I've always dreamed of a nice laundry room.

    The hallway unfortunately is something we need to live with. To the right under the stairs is a whole bank of built-in storage which will stay. The wall to the left is necessary as there are two supporting posts, one of which falls in that pantry wall along the hallway. Burying the post in the wall also gives an opportunity to create a feature wall which you see as you come down the stairs.

    We did consider putting the workstation along the pantry wall as you've suggested, but actually we're going to designate that as play space for Chloe. We're considering putting a half wall to connect that wall to the exposed post - thereby creating a cove area to put little table & chairs, or block off with a curtain for an adhoc play theatre. Again, looking at the way we actually use our existing office, we realize we don't need much more than a small work surface.

    The actual furnace is the solid line, the allowance for clearance and circulation is the dotted line so there is enough room.

    Good to know about the hot water issues! We do have pipes for the water and rads that run north/south from the laundry room to the end of the rec room. I'm not sure how moving the tank impacts the existing piping... maybe HandyMan can chime in?

    We're always glad to hear your comments. No doubt there is something we've forgotten to think about!

  3. We just started talking about doing a basement renovation last night. It's really overwhelming to figure out where to put everything to maximize storage space. The thought of losing any is enough to give me hives! I love your layout plans. Thanks for the inspiration :)

  4. Ahh posts! Luckily, we were able to get rid of one (we didn't even ask to remove it, the engineer spec'd it...We had to get new posts anyways so it was no problem to reposition them)...we are painting the remaining one out white (or dusty gray)...not boxing it in or touching it...good luck!!!

  5. I think it's a very logical use of the space. I sort of did a minute mock up in my head before scrolling down and had landed on a similar solution.

    Personally, there's no way that I'd want my laundry area exposed, either. To me, that's a private space.

    Also, I love built-ins. In fact, I'd consider pushing the wall opposite of the stairs back a hair to incorporate a small desk, some bookcases, or shelving (similar to what you've designed by the laundry area) to make the space more usable. But that's a personal choice, and perhaps you prefer more private storage areas?

    Anyway, can't wait to see how it turns out! It looks GREAT so far!


  6. Any concerns over having the furnace in the space with food - ie the extra heat from the mechanics may impact the food being stored there? May not be an issue if the room is well ventilated.

  7. This is going to turn out amazing. I also really love the idea of having a nice little laundry room that has its own space - and since you have the space you might as well!

  8. Anonymous12:25 PM

    I know you will make it adorable. But, ditto on Susan's comment. I would not combined food storage and hot water heater. (heat will affect the life of food and will add humidity to air) You ideally what temp between 40-75 and less than 15% humidity) I would leave water heater access in laundry room.

  9. Anonymous3:35 PM

    good points all, thx. Didnt think about the water heater. We originally had them separate with the idea that the pantry would be a finished room, with a drywall ceiling but cut that from the budget - after all why do cans and bottles need drywall ceiling.

    Kelly: we actually had to push the wall into the corridor a smidge in order to fit the door into the pantry - there wasnt enough room unless we went with a smaller door. But alas we recently discovered there may actually be a column in the way of the inward swing, so the pantry door may have to swing out. argh....

    I have never understood why the laundry is always jammed into a dark corner. Yes we are messy but I hate the idea of giong to the dark basement and folding laundry in some damp corner - we want it to be a nice room even if it is back of house activity.

  10. Pretty laundry is VERY IMPORTANT!

    All those doors at bottom of the stairs get to me...

    Could you make the pantry and laundry and utilities all one room, then put walls up around the utilities? Making it a smaller room within a room? With louvered or pocket door (a door with no swing)? Heck you could make a gorgeous horizontal wood slat screen/enclosure instead of full walls...but that may or may not be practical.

    Then could you move the main entrance to this room down the hallway a bit so that the first thing you see at the bottom of the stairs is the feature wall (instead of looking straight into perhaps a not so perfect laundry room? or a corridor with 2 doors?)

    This could totally NOT work because then you are lugging your laundry farther than you need to...

    just a suggestion! I love messing with layouts!

  11. Anonymous5:09 PM

    one thing we were thinking was using a frosted door for the laundry with nice decal - similar to what we did on the bathrom upstairs. Heck we could replace the bathroom door and have a pair of them, thus lightening up the landing area... hmmm.

  12. Anonymous10:14 PM

    Is Handyman the Anonymous commenter above? Methinks he is!

    I loved going through that progression of ideas with you. It sounds like it's maybe not set in stone, but whatever you come up with is going to be just right, o ye of impeccable taste!


  13. Anonymous11:51 AM

    I am indeed the anonymous lurker.

  14. I love your revisions so far. The one thing I thought of would be to make your craft table/island on wheels so you could move it aside if you (or Chloe down the road) has a big group of people over, then it would be out of the way.


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