photos © Jonna Reilly Photography

Taking the Basement out of Your Lower Level

Taking the Basement out of Your Lower Level

The word is officially passé: basement. It evokes an image of a dank, dark, unfinished space. And that is anything but the atmosphere today’s homeowners want to live in. The new term: lower level. It evokes images of home theaters, wine cellars, playrooms, home gyms and even spas.

The Blackhawks’ recent playoff run ended too early, but not without some Chicago area homeowners hosting game watch parties in their homes’ swanky lower levels. Home theaters feature professional electronic equipment, oversized, adjustable leather chairs, custom woodwork and acoustical treatments. LED lighting complete with “starlight” ceilings can transform this room into a movie theater experience. The price tag can range from $10,000 to $50,000.

Whether you’re watching a Stanley Cup-worthy overtime or an Oscar-worthy film, you can rely on a stocked wet bar in the lower level as well. With beverage refrigerators and wine racks, you’ll be set.

The lower level can also house a custom wine cellar. You can install a cooling system, wood wine racks or a combination of both. To make your cellar both functional and elegant, you can add etched glass windows and doors, murals and faux finishes.

Some lower levels look like mini-apartments. With a bedroom, full bath and kitchenette, guests or a post-college child could feel right at home without ever going upstairs.  

If you have younger children, lower level playrooms are not just an area where kids (and parents) throw the extra toys. Some feature handcrafted cabinetry that organizes toys and a TV into a combination playroom and media room. Children of different ages can utilize the space. It also makes this part of the home actually look presentable rather than a trashed daycare center.

To keep yourself looking presentable, there’s the home gym. Who wants to trek to the gym at 5am or even 10pm, especially during frigid Chicago winters? With a workout room in your lower level, you might be more inclined to work out. Home gyms feature flat screen TVs, custom mirrors, soft rubber floors and any workout equipment you’d like and can fit in the space. But lower level floor plan decisions can be tricky. Dedicating a room to a home gym might mean giving up that space for an office, theater or bedroom.

Some homeowners are taking the gym and spa experience one step further by installing home saunas. There is a wide range of options here. The most exclusive custom saunas are handcrafted in a toxin-free environment and made of wood that is low in allergens. Their heating systems are made of ceramic and stainless steel. 

Take a walk downstairs in your house. If you see a basement, it may be time to sell your place and buy a new one with an actual lower level. Contact Jim Miller and JM Partners at 773.617.6638 or