When Kelly and Ryan Lampe built their house in Shorewood in 2012, they opted not to finish their walkout basement.
“We weren’t sure what we wanted to do,” said Kelly.
But a few years and two kids later, the couple had some definite thoughts about what their home was missing.
“We’re glued to the house once the kids go down [to sleep],” said Kelly. “We wanted a casual family space with a large TV for movies and Vikings games.”
Plus, a lower-level kitchenette and bar would make it easy to host friends and family. Other things on the couple’s wish list included a screen porch, a play space for their young children, a guest room for visiting grandparents and a wine cellar for their growing collection. Oh, and Ryan wanted a sauna.
“We waited until we were able to do it,” said Kelly of the project. “We decided to go for it.”
To create their ultimate lower level, the Lampes turned to Lake Country Builders and designer Alethea Sadowski, A. Sadowski Designs. (The project will be open for touring during the Parade of Homes Remodelers Showcase, Sept. 27-29; it’s #R12.)
“It’s a good-sized space but there were a lot of functions to fit into it,” noted Sadowski. “They wanted a universal space, to accommodate an adult party, but also a fun play space for kids. They also wanted adequate storage. We challenged ourselves to utilize every square inch.”
Fitting everything the Lampes wanted into the available envelope was challenging, said Bruce Bebo, production manager, Lake Country. “It’s always tricky with an existing basement like that.”
The lower-level fireplace was positioned in the interior, not on an exterior wall, for example, which complicated the venting for it. “It took some head-scratching,” Bebo said.
And the glass-enclosed, temperature-controlled wine storage room, which holds 180 bottles, also was in the interior, not on an outside wall. “We used spray-foam [insulation] to seal it up tight,” he said.
Open floor plan
The new kitchenette and bar are open to the family room containing the TV and fireplace, creating one big welcoming space for the family and for casual entertaining. There’s a refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave and kegerator.
Reclaimed wood timbers, beams, floating shelves and a wood-topped bar add rustic character to the space.
To create a screen porch that would invite indoor-outdoor living, Lake Country removed windows and installed large sliding-glass doors leading to the patio beneath the deck. Large screens on the other walls offer an unobstructed view of the expansive backyard.
With its beadboard ceiling, and furniture and decor that complement the adjacent family room, the porch is a stylish outdoor room that flows seamlessly from the house.
“In the summer, the screened area is like part of the basement,” said Bebo.
The new lower level also includes the children’s play space the Lampes wanted — a hidden room under the stairs for Charlie, 5, and Olivia, 3.
“I wanted it to be like a basement apartment,” said Kelly. With a Dutch door, sconce light, mailbox and even an address plaque, the playroom looks like a tiny home within a home.
“Our kids love it!” said Kelly. There’s enough space for a small table and chairs, a play kitchen, a bookshelf and floor cushions. And the play space serves a dual function — a place for stashing toys and other items. “You can throw anything in there and close the door,” she said. “Once they get older, we can still use it for storage.”
As the project neared completion, a special event was on the horizon: Olivia’s birthday.
A party was planned, a dozen children had been invited, and Cinderella was scheduled to make a special appearance. It would be a festive way to christen the new space. But there was an unexpected snag.
The quatrefoil-patterned cement tile that had been ordered from Europe for the kitchen backsplash was late in arriving. There were insects in the shipping container, which required a lengthy quarantine by customs, Bebo said.
“It went down to the wire,” recalled Kelly. “I said, ‘We need to finish. The party is in the basement.’ ”
So Bebo doubled and tripled the work crew, including drafting himself — “to make sure we hit the goal of the party,” he said.
In the end, the lower level was ready for the celebration, including the hidden play space, which was a surprise for the Lampe children. “They had the full reveal just before the birthday party,” said Sadowski.
Now that the project is complete, the family couldn’t be happier with their new lower level.
“Down here is our little retreat,” said Ryan.
The couple find themselves entertaining more frequently.
“It seems more doable now — we’ve got the space to do it — especially friends with kids,” said Kelly. “It’s a great space for them to run back and forth, or outside to the sandbox. It’s everything we hoped for.
“And I’m glad we waited until we had lived there awhile. It made me realize what we needed.”