Basement club room can be done for fun


February 13, 1994|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Q: Our teen-age children want to convert our home's so-called club basement into an entertainment area, complete with soda fountain, oversized video screen and all sorts of similar trappings. We're not opposed to giving the kids a space of their own, but we do generally prefer traditional, if not conservative, furnishings. How can the basement be designed so that it blends with the rest of our home?

A: I haven't a clue as to how to integrate a high-tech, youthful environment downstairs with traditional styling upstairs. But why would anyone even want to try? A basement is physically separate from the rest of the house, so it's perfectly all right to give it a look unrelated to the other rooms.

And what might that look be? One approach is to create a tongue-in-cheek variation on the theme of club basements of yesteryear. In my day -- and maybe in yours as well -- most of them had knotty pine paneling with vinyl checkerboard floors, a pingpong table, record player and slightly wrecked rattan furniture. Fortunately, no one bothered to improve the illumination in those dimly lighted spaces.

I'm not suggesting that grunge is the way to go. But I do earnestly urge you not to take this space too seriously. Have some fun with it, and you might even be tempted to do a little dancing of your own downstairs when the kids aren't around.

The basic principle here is to make the design suit the tasks that the room will be performing.

Because most basements tend to be dark, low-ceilinged spaces, your first set of concerns should consist of the colors, lighting and materials. In general, keep everything bright and clean-looking. For more specific suggestions, let's consider what was done in the basement area shown in the photo.

I'd call this a Diner Deco look. Re-creating the smooth and rounded shapes and the chrome gleam of a '50s-style roadside diner can be a wonderful exercise in nostalgia. It also need not be expensive.

In this case, a Wilsonart decorative laminate in a softly textured, pastel blue-green finish is used as the counter top. The base cabinet has been surfaced in a lighter shade of the same material, while accents of black laminate and satin-brushed natural aluminum enhance the retro flavor of this post-modern soda fountain. Black-and-white vinyl tiles and a waffle-patterned metallic wall treatment add to the sensation of having stepped back in time -- and perhaps into the club car of the 20th Century Limited as it streaks across the country.

Back then, the colors would have been lavender, pink and aqua-green. Such a scheme might still look fine, but because this is actually the '90s I'd probably choose something stark and shiny -- basic black-and-white, I suppose, with metallic accents and touches of turquoise or red.

Whatever you decide to do, regardless of its style, please be sure to light up your club basement. No design will look good if enveloped in gloom. Reflecting light off the low ceiling is especially essential. If you'd like to introduce a tropical-type theme, I'd augment the desired brightness with accessories such as jungle floral patterns or even cut-outs of colorfully preening parrots. Remember, this is an entertainment area for teen-agers, so decorative excess really won't be an issue.

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