Forget the dreary basements we all grew up with, with their cast-off furniture, cheap carpeting and dark walls. Today’s lower levels are every bit as stylish and functional as the upper floors. In fact, the term basement doesn’t even fly in real estate or design circles. “Terrace level” — particularly when there are windows and doors leading to the outdoors — better describes these inviting spaces.

Kathryn McAdams of Meriwether Design Group recently redid this empty terrace level in a suburban Atlanta house from nothing into a full-functioning living area. “Four years ago the homeowners bought a house with an unfinished terrace level,” she says. “While the children were small they didn’t really need the extra room, but as they’ve gotten older and with the addition of a pool, the family needed more room to entertain and accommodate out-of-town guests.”

Since the terrace level has a dedicated television room, interior designer Kathryn McAdams could turn this smaller room into a seating area off the pool. “Instead of putting a large couch or sectional in here, we broke it up and did four swivel chairs with a central ottoman--all by leeindustries.com,--that’s perfect for conversation,” says Kathryn. “This is often where the women end up sitting to chat while the men watch sports.” 

Since the terrace level has a dedicated television room, interior designer Kathryn McAdams could turn this smaller room into a seating area off the pool. “Instead of putting a large couch or sectional in here, we broke it up and did four swivel chairs with a central ottoman — all by Lee Industries — that’s perfect for conversation,” says Kathryn. “This is often where the women end up sitting to chat while the men watch sports.”

A large-scale iron chandelier in the media room continues the rustic theme. Dark gray doors pick up gray accent colors in the brick and rug.

Reclaimed brick lines the kitchen backsplash and other areas of the terrace level to add texture and instant “age” to the rooms.

Reclaimed brick lines the kitchen backsplash and other areas of the terrace level to add texture and instant “age” to the rooms.

To make each room special, flooring in each room is a bit different. The herringbone pattern in the wood floor is mimicked in the brick backsplash. A built-in banquette adds comfortable kitchen seating.

To make each room special, flooring in each room is a bit different. The herringbone pattern in the wood floor is mimicked in the brick backsplash. A built-in banquette adds comfortable kitchen seating.

The space was completely unfinished except for structural support walls, which were reconfigured for a better flow as one first step. Kathryn then added plumbing for a kitchen and second bathroom. “We debated doing a full kitchen, but the clients really didn’t feel that was necessary,” she says, “so we chose a convection microwave instead of a standard oven, along with a professional cooktop/hood, large fridge, sink and dishwasher.” (The designer is a big fan of some sort of dishwasher — even a dish drawer — in any bar or entertainment area that’s away from the main kitchen to make clean-up easier.)

She took her design cues from the family’s love of their lake cabin, and she decided to channel the look of an eclectic lake house. “I didn’t want it to feel brand new,” says Kathryn. “And I wanted to incorporate the rich greens and reds that I know they love.” Cedar beams frame door openings as one rustic touch. Kathryn also added “beams” in the living area, although she used the trick of substituting mitered cedar boxes made by her trim contractor — rather than solid beams — as a way to keep the budget in check.

A floating vanity, geometric tile floor, and fuchsia barn door distinguish this lively bathroom.

A floating vanity, geometric tile floor and fuchsia barn door distinguish this lively bathroom.

This guest bedroom has a crisp black-and-white theme with touches of pink. Katespade.com lamps and bedding from westelm.com and crateandbarrel.com add a modern flair.

This guest bedroom has a crisp black-and-white theme with touches of pink. Kate Spade lamps and bedding from West Elm and Crate & Barrel add a modern flair.

When it made sense, the designer repurposed existing pieces owned by her clients, such as this white upholstered bed covered in a sunbrella.com fabric for durability.

When it made sense, the designer repurposed existing pieces owned by her clients, such as this white upholstered bed covered in a Sunbrella fabric for durability.

A hanging chair and wallpapered walls contribute to the whimsical boy’s room.

A hanging chair and fun wallpaper contribute to the whimsical boy’s room.

“This bathroom was a fun room to design,” says Kathryn. “It acts as a changing room for the pool and bathroom for the living area. Since it has no natural light, we created the look of a skylight by installing a dropped ceiling and adding a recessed glass case with frosted glass and daylight bulbs.” The paned shower wall brings in another industrial accent.

“This bathroom was a fun room to design,” says Kathryn. “It acts as a changing room for the pool and bathroom for the living area. Since it has no natural light, we created the look of a skylight by installing a dropped ceiling and adding a recessed glass case with frosted glass and daylight bulbs.” The paned shower wall brings in another industrial accent.

Brick accents provide another texture and rustic element. “The brick we used as the kitchen backsplash and the accent wall in the living area are real brick pavers reclaimed from a building in Chicago,” says Kathryn. “That architectural character was critical to help add some patina and history into the new space.”

This project may be only one floor deep, but each room has a lot of details. “It looks clean and simple,” says Kathryn, “but we made sure to add layers of interest and create multiple focal points.”

We’d say she did just that and elevated this basement terrace level to new heights!

Thank you to Jeff Herr Photography for the beautiful photos.

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