Real estate photography in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Making room for an in-law or a student living “off campus”? This month’s column answers some of your questions about setting up a room for an independent family member or guest.

I have a daughter who is going to move down to our basement for the next few semesters.  What should we consider to help her feel independent?

The number one thing that we suggest whether it is a daughter or an in-law is a separate entrance. Even if all you are going to do is place down some pavers around the side of the house, there is something special about opening your own door. You can also have a battery operated doorbell added for her guests. When you come to dinner, use her door as opposed to coming down the internal stairs.

Pro Tip: A bathroom of her own would also mean a large measure of independence. If your basement has one stubbed out already, then you might be looking at not only something good for your daughter, but for your eventual house sale as well.

Our daughter has broached the subject of painting the walls black. How much of an issue is that really?

There is probably not a tremendous amount of natural light in the basement, and while I am not necessarily opposed to the noir look there are legitimate health benefits to getting sufficient light. If the walls are in good shape I would suggest painting a higher sheen dark color like blue or perhaps introducing other dark elements; but if it was a really big deal to her I would ultimately likely relent. When you repaint in the future, it will be a good chance to test out some of the “guaranteed to cover in a single coat” paint lines.

Pro Tip: One option is to prep the walls and install temporary wallpaper. Most brands are not inexpensive, but the takedown is significantly easier than traditional wallpaper. If you are going to do black, avoid digitally printed options. You won’t be happy with the depth of color.

 The basement floors can be quite cold. Should we have carpeting installed?

We never recommend carpet below grade. Sooner or later water always makes its way into a basement. Whether infiltrating from outside or collecting inside, eventually it will happen. Our suggestion would be to use a luxury vinyl plank, one with both texture and an attached cork backing. That will feel good, look good, and hold up even better.

Pro Tip: An area rug can provide warmth and sound absorption, but can easily be removed for drying or rolled up for cleaning if need be. Throw a 100% wool felt pad underneath and even an inexpensive rug can feel luxurious.

What else should we consider, preferably that doesn’t involve construction or another major expense?

Storage. Every room needs storage solutions, and I’m going to guess that you can’t convert your basement without finding a place for at least some of the stuff that was previously down there. An armoire can replace the non-existent closet. A desk can be made from a surface laid across filing cabinets. A coffee table can be traded for a chest or storage ottoman. Rooms are easier to keep tidy if everything has a place.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget underbed storage. As a matter of fact, the foundation for the bed itself can be a number of storage containers provided they are sufficiently strong. There is a lot of cubic volume that can be reclaimed under there.

Is there anything else we may be overlooking?

Lighting is going to be a big portion of making the area feel as it should. Consider the three types of lighting: General, task, and accent. Get the volume of light needed into the space to help it feel less like a basement. Next consider task lighting where activities such as reading, cooking, or school work are going to be performed. Lastly, accent lighting makes the room feel designed and intentional as opposed to simply utilitarian.

Pro Tip: A popular option is colored led strips or string lights. We recommend against them in this setting. Instead consider a few smart bulbs with both dimming and color selection options. Install is a snap, they are very affordable, and they are unobtrusive.

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