Practical Home Design that’s Functional yet Beautiful

Sep 16, 2021 | Interior, Style

A young family’s dream basement renovation creates a space that is stunning and functional.

Making a space beautiful, comfortable, and practical seems like an unattainable goal, especially if a homeowner is trying to satisfy adults, teenagers, and younger children. It can be a real challenge. People’s tastes and needs change over time, but anyone spending hundreds or thousands of dollars wants to feel like the space will be functional for the long-term. The Den Interiors founder Casey Ernst and designer Natalie Kaelin were able to do a basement renovation that checks all the boxes for a local family’s current and future needs.

The clients who reached out to The Den Interiors had a newborn baby and a 12-year-old child. “They were wanting to create an open-concept basement that could be a multi-use space for children with a range of ages to hang-out in. When they have guests come to town, [they also wanted] spillover space,” Natalie says. The homeowners desired a theater area, a play area, and a wet bar, and because the preteen’s bedroom was moving to the basement, the bathroom also needed to be revamped.

Once some of the practical decisions have been made, homeowners get to add personality, comfort, and beauty by adding texture in rugs, pillows and doors.

Practical pursuit

When it comes to practicality, it is important to ensure the foundational parts of the design (such as big furniture pieces, flooring, tile, or cabinetry) are easy to clean, require little or no maintenance, and are made to last. Natalie says performance fabrics that are easily cleaned and furniture with removable cushions are something to think about, especially if a homeowner likes lighter colors. “Furniture companies have come a long way so that you don’t have to only have darker furniture,” Natalie says. Although many fabrics are stain-resistant, some companies can actually seal fabric once a year to make it even more impervious to spills.

Casey says construction materials such as quartz, tile, and natural stones tend to be better choices when longevity and wear-and-tear are considerations. The basement in this renovation has stained concrete flooring. “Nothing is indestructible, but that’s a very close second. It can be wiped up, and it’s very friendly for rollerblading or sliding around on blankets,” Casey says.

Another practical concern is storage. Families with small children typically need tons of space for toys, books, and puzzles, and they may not want all of this in plain sight. “We combined open storage with concealed storage,” Casey says. She says there are things in the wet bar area that are frequently used that should be in easy reach, while other items that aren’t as visually appealing can be hidden away.

Natalie and Casey selected a sectional large enough to accommodate the family and their additional guests. They upholstered the sectional using a performance fabric for better durability. “The living room was less about special features and more about function for the family to hang out in,” Natalie says.

This playspace features a wipeable play mat, and the base of the play table pulls apart into four stools, each housing storage. The mural is by local artist Tiffany Woodard.

Plush, paint, and personality 

Once some of the practical decisions have been made, homeowners get to add personality, comfort, and beauty by adding texture. Cushions, blankets, and rugs are ways to make a space feel cozy and inviting. The rug in the play area portion of the basement Casey and Natalie designed is actually a wipeable, expandable, non-toxic foam mat that mixes practicality with eye-catching style. “It really fools you that it is a patterned rug but it’s actually a playmat,” Natalie says.

Color in a space is more than just what goes on the wall although this remains very important. It used to be that spaces for young children were vibrant primary colors or babyish pastels, but those aren’t always colors that teens or adults want to look at for very long. Plus, as any parent realizes, kids grow up way faster than you expect. While the basement renovation definitely has color, such as the blue of the wet bar cabinetry, it is muted and sophisticated.

There has been a real explosion in the popularity of plants in interior design. They are another textural element that makes a space feel lived in and brings a little of the outdoors inside. “This particular client was not afraid of plants. There’s a combination of live and faux plants that bring the space to life,” Natalie says.

The bathroom serves as a primary one for the 12-year-old child, as well as the guest bathroom when entertaining. “We balanced having some playful pattern with the wallpaper and hexagon floor tile, but those are sophisticated as well,” Casey says.

Focus on flexibility

Natalie and Casey say keeping some flexibility in the design is important. Clients often worry about being stuck with a certain layout for decades. “[The clients] wanted a game table in front of the bar, [but] they thought eventually they may change the layout a bit. They were worried about a light fixture, but we felt a light fixture helped define the space and designate these different areas. We chose a light fixture that can be converted to a flush mount,” Natalie says. In the future, if the family opts to remove the game table, the light fixture can be tweaked so the space can become functional for the family’s next stage of life.


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