Make liv­ing ‘down un­der’ more comfy

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - CON­NIE OLIVER

SPLIT-LEVEL homes are a unique an­i­mal. They have an open and spa­cious feel­ing and dis­tinc­tive room lay­outs. The lower-level rooms, of­ten bed­rooms or a rec-room, are in­ter­est­ing spa­ces that need dif­fer­ent dec­o­rat­ing con­sid­er­a­tion than rooms that are above grade.

Win­dows in these lower-level rooms are usu­ally large, rec­tan­gu­lar and high up on the wall, which pro­vides bet­ter nat­u­ral light­ing than say a reg­u­lar base­ment win­dow would. The view out of the win­dow is still at ground level, which re­minds one that the room you’re in is be­low grade. This is not a feel­ing ev­ery­one warms to.

In or­der to make these rooms invit­ing (or fin­ished base­ments for that mat­ter) you need to cre­ate a light and breezy space that doesn’t feel like it’s un­der­ground.

Our fea­ture room photo, cour­tesy of Du­lux Aus­tralia, has the feel of a lower-level split-level space. While it is be­low grade, it cer­tainly doesn’t have that base­ment feel. The up­lift­ing colour pal­ette of green and cream makes this room feel open and fresh. Light­coloured wood tones on the cabi­net and pic­ture frame work within the soft pal­ette. (As an aside, the framed piece looks to be a piece of fab­ric of wall­pa­per in the tones of the room pal­ette — art doesn’t have to be ex­pen­sive.) Darker fur­nish­ings and ac­cents would cre­ate a lot of vis­ual con­trast that can make a space feel small and dreary. The wood floor­ing, in a medium tone, grounds the room with­out be­ing over­pow­er­ing. Tac­tile com­forts Rooms that are be­low grade tend to be a lit­tle cooler so adding cosy touches is a good idea. Deep pile area rugs, fab­ric up­hol­stery (ver­sus cold leather up­hol­stery) and co-or­di­nat­ing fur­ni­ture throws and cush­ions will help ward off any chills. If your lower-level room is a bed­room then a down com­forter, feath­erbed or ad­di­tional comfy flan­nel blan­kets hung on a quilt rack will keep

you warm and toasty. Win­dow treat­ment trick­ery The rec­tan­gu­lar win­dow at ground level will al­ways re­mind you that you are liv­ing be­low grade. If you want to cre­ate a sense of an above-grade room you can fool the eye with clever win­dow treat­ments.

Hang floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows treat­ments that when closed will ap­pear to be hung over a reg­u­lar ‘up­stairs’ win­dow. If you’re work­ing with small base­ment win­dows you can use a cur­tain rod that is at least dou­ble the width of the win­dow and again, hang floorto-ceil­ing pan­els. The il­lu­sion will be a wider and longer win­dow be­low the drawn draperies.

You can also in­stall wooden or vinyl in­te­rior shut­ters that are larger than the ac­tual win­dow for a sim­i­lar ef­fect. You can leave them as is or add a drap­ery treat­ment over­top of the shut­ters. Room height is­sues Of­ten times, lower-level rooms have a lower ceil­ing than their coun­ter­parts. Us­ing low-pro­file fur­ni­ture, like the group­ing shown in our fea­ture pho­to­graph, will make the ceil­ing feel a lit­tle higher than it ac­tu­ally is. Lighter ceil­ing colours will help as well. Keep­ing the top half of the walls free of ‘stuff’ will put the vis­ual fo­cus on the lower half of the room. You’ll no­tice there isn’t a lot of wall clut­ter in our fea­ture room. One or two items are used for height to cre­ate drama but the wall space is un­clut­tered.

The use of ver­ti­cal stripes on the wall can also cre­ate a sense of height to the room. Soft wide bands of colour, wheth- er in wall­pa­per or a tone-on-tone paint treat­ment can do the trick. Ac­cen­tu­ate the pos­i­tive Lower-level rooms in split-level homes of­ten have deep win­dow ledges that can be an as­set. While you don’t nec­es­sar­ily want to block the nat­u­ral light, you can use this ledge as a small green­house area or as a dis­play for colour­ful glass col­lec­tions (stained-glass items for ex­am­ple) and so on. Any­thing that will work with the nat­u­ral light of the win­dow area will do. This quirk is an as­set that the up­stairs rooms prob­a­bly won’t have so treat it as a pos­i­tive.

These rooms are gen­er­ally very quiet as well. The roar and rum­ble of out­side noises are less no­tice­able be­cause most of the room is sur­rounded by a con­crete foun­da­tion. This is a great as­set for a bed­room, mu­sic room or a read­ing room.

The fact that these rooms can be a few de­grees cooler than the up­stairs might be a good thing dur­ing the sum­mer. If you’re look­ing to cre­ate a home gym then this is a def­i­nite plus point. Light the way Good light­ing is para­mount in a room that could be gloomy. At­trac­tive lamps that pro­vide gen­eral and task light­ing will help keep the shad­ows at bay. There are so many won­der­ful light­ing op­tions that are af­ford­able and beau­ti­ful.

Life on the lower level can be com­fort­able and beau­ti­ful. Use soft, warm colour and cosy sur­faces to cre­ate a space that is wel­com­ing.

Light colours and large win­dows help make sub­ter­ranean liv­ing com­fort­able.

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