Base­ments are ex­pen­sive to dig out and can prove dark, but Greg Toon finds a light, bright so­lu­tion

House Beautiful (UK) - - Contents -

Clever ways to get light into a base­ment

Base­ments cost about dou­ble the equiv­a­lent of above-ground build­ing works, so get­ting them right is im­por­tant. Life coach Elaine Ger­rard, 64, from Cam­den, Lon­don, is keen to add two ex­tra be­d­rooms – one pos­si­bly with an en­suite shower – plus a bath­room, laun­dry room and stor­age room be­neath her 1850s coach house. Ini­tially, Elaine wants to use one of the rooms as a con­sult­ing room cum of­fice. In the longer term, it will give her ex­tra space for when her grand­chil­dren come to stay.


Elaine’s prop­erty has a paved front area used for off-street park­ing and, at the rear, there’s a small gar­den. Given the ur­ban lo­ca­tion, the front drive­way and rear gar­den ar­eas are pre­cious.

Con­ven­tional wis­dom would be to put in small lightwells so she wouldn’t lose too much ex­ter­nal space, but the down­side is that the base­ment rooms would be dark, with no views, and lack­ing in char­ac­ter.


My design al­lows for a gen­er­ous amount of day­light to flow into the down­stairs rooms, yet won’t com­pro­mise the drive­way or gar­den. The key to this op­tion is to re-imag­ine the gar­den. There’s no need for it to be on one level – Elaine can have pretty much the same amount of out­side space as she does now, but stag­gered over three lev­els, with part of the gar­den on a land­ing next to the steps down to the base­ment.

By tak­ing this more dras­tic ap­proach with the gar­den, floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows lead­ing to a sep­a­rate ter­race can be in­stalled in the base­ment’s main bed­room/of­fice. As the room is south-fac­ing, it will be flooded with day­light and

Greg’s in­no­va­tive design for the trans­formed house still brings in lots of day light, even to the low­est level

Greg Toon Ar­chi­tect and founder of ar­chi­tec­tural prac­tice Po­ten­tial etc…

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