Basement Vignettes

Trying to design a basement living space that each member of a family enjoys and uses is a daunting task. Yet that was the job that PK Construction of Kirkwood, Mo., shouldered in taking on this project that PK team members, internally, called “the wine pergola.”

The project’s name is reference to a central feature of the resulting plan, a wine-tasking area nestled within its own elaborate, wrought-iron walls. In the end, the pergola was just one of several vignettes that added up to a complete solution, offering something for every member of the client’s household.

Entertaining the Masses
The goal for PK Construction was to take an unfinished basement being used for storage and convert it into six distinct, yet connected areas. This wouldn’t be the only challenge for the project. Like all basements, there was the imporant question of what to do with the beams and posts supporting the house above it.

“We never had much contact with the homeowners,” says Paul Kanyuck, owner of PK Construction. “They relayed what they wanted and then stepped back, which doesn’t happen a lot. They trusted the professionals.” The trust the client showed PK Construction was well-repaid with a very functional and luxurious finished space.

Visitors who descend the stairs into this $350,000 project immediately notice a landing equipped with a large, in-wall aquarium mounted above sitting bench. From the landing, a long corridor of arches and columns forms an inviting axial space. A rich tile flooring flows around and between each functional space. Immediately to the right is a craft room. To the left is the wine cellar and tasting area set inside floor-to-ceiling wine racks. Rich rough-hewn beams on the ceiling inside the pergola help set it off from adjoining spaces.

“In order to deal with the problem of posts and beams, the areas were divided to incorporate much of the supports in the walls and ceiling,” says Kanyuck. “The remaining posts we wrapped with round wood columns and used it to further divide the space into the different areas.”

In the wine tasting area, Kanyuck’s challenge was to really open up the space with a 10-ft. ceiling and in turn give it the openness of the outdoors. So the architect, from Laura Neri Baebler Architects & Associates offered a clever solution. They decided that instead of trying to hide them they would accentuate them. The result is a rustic looking network of stressed beams and plastered columns which add to the Tuscan theme.

Because the client requested such a large wine cellar, Kanyuck also had to deal with the problem on how to maintain the temperature of the wines without installing a walk-in refrigerator. The solution was to install an air-conditioning unit that only services the wine cellar. This allowed the architect to be more free with the pergola plan by placing fewer restrictions on the size and shape of the space.

Working with kitchen materials and refrigeration was not new for PK Construction. Prior to specializing on more whole-house remodels, PK worked almost exclusively on kitchens. When one of Kanyuck’s past clients raved about his work to a local interior designer during a trip to the paint store, the designer decided to inquire about the company. After looking into Kanyuck and PK, the designer asked him to team up for a number of kitchen jobs. It was a relationship that would last for several years. This partnership shifted PK Construction from primarily working on roofing and room addition projects and put him on the track that lead to the current $4.7 million business it is today.

“After a good number of years working with the designer, my name got out there and referrals started to come in,” says Kanyuck. “The business kind of grew and mushroomed overnight and I had to eventually quit working on just kitchens.”

PK drew heavily on this past experience of building luxury kitchens to complete the wine pergola area, particularly as it applies to the trim carpentry. Expanding on the Tuscan theme, rich hardwood finishes and other luxury touches help create a distinct center-of-gravity for the area.

Of course with so much detailing in one area, Kanyuck was then faced with how to tie the spaces together. The solution was something the family would enjoy.

Splitting the Zones
For the kids, a separate gaming area was created. Although a simpler designed room, it gives the kids their own space to entertain in, with capacity for ping-pong and fooseball tables. This area provides just enough room for the kids to hang out and is set in the middle of the basement where Mom and Dad can monitor things.

“One of the problems was giving this space the feeling of the outdoors and not a dark basement,” says Kanyuck. “Even though there is a walk-out to the lower pool area, that’s on the far end of the basement.”

In order to solve two problems — incorporating different spaces together and the dark feel of a basement — a mural was decided on for a fresh look, backed up by lighting to accent the area. For the mural, several artists were brought in and interviewed by the client. The job ended up going to Kanyuck’s brother-in-law. The mural continues the outdoor feel with the Tuscan twist as it runs down the corridor. It can be seen from all the major entertaining areas that were created. Lighting was then added down the corridor to give the appearance of the sun shining down on the landscape.

At the far end of the basement a family entertainment room and kitchen area were created. Kanyuck’s challenge here was to continue the warmth of the previous areas, keep with a more simplistic theme, but distinguish between the kids’ gaming space and the family entertainment room.

“It was tricky because we wanted to make it clear that these were two separate areas,” says Kanyuck. “We have the tile in the hallway that directs you through the entire area, but how do we divide two open spaces?”

To solve this problem, a double-sided fireplace was installed between the family and kids’ areas. Next to this, a media alcove was installed to house the television for the family area and give a greater sense of separation from the kids’ space.

Kanyuck’s final challenge was dealing with the exercise/spare bedroom. Unlike the main spaces that adjoin the central corridor, this room would be closed off and would not have any access to natural lighting or the outdoor feel. PK Construction solved this problem by moving outside.

“We decided the only way to stop the exercise room from feeling like a basement was to put in windows,” says Kanyuck. “We did excavating outside, relandscaped with a nice wall so we could get the window in and give the room some light.”

Family Living
With the project completed, PK Construction was able to live up to their reputation once again. Instead of looking at the problems of the space and how to deal with them, Kanyuck and his team were able to see the opportunities of doing something a little different with the space.

“They loved it,” says Kanyuck. “Since completing their project, I’ve done the wife’s brother’s basement and gotten great referrals off the job.”