For many homeowners in Southeast Michigan, a basement is an afterthought—a spare area for storage, laundry, and utilities. For others, it’s a fun space for play or entertainment. But for Ann Arbor homeowners Paula and Allen, the basement is the emotional touchstone of the entry into their home. And it was setting the wrong tone.

Paula and Allen’s home is built into a hill, and the garage enters into the basement. For them, the lower level serves as their foyer. It’s the space that welcomes them home after a long day of work. But the greeting wasn’t the warm sanctuary they longed for.

Although their basement was finished, it had very basic finishes and a monochromatic color scheme of browns and beiges. Upon entering the house, the first sight was a row of closets and doors to laundry and storage rooms. Beyond that was a screen separating a cat litter area, which created a smell throughout the area.

Paula and Allen didn’t enjoy returning home, only to be greeted by a bank of outdated doors and the smell of cat litter. Their homecomings were unsatisfying and tiring, rather than refreshing and delightful.

The Dream of a Sanctuary

Paula and Allen dreamed of having a particular sensory experience whenever they came home. They wanted to walk into a place that looked beautiful and felt warm and welcoming—something with remarkable materials that reflected their personality. This is a friendly couple with great energy and a ready smile for others. They’re well educated and enjoy fine things. They were looking for a design-build company that could translate that dream into reality.

The basement consisted of a coat room, a long hallway that led to the laundry room and full bath, and a media/guest room. Stairs led to the main floor of the house. While the homeowners wanted better functionality for their space, they weren’t looking for a remodel project. Instead, they wanted to introduce materials that would transform the aesthetics and emotional environment of their tired basement.

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Designing a Delightful Space


hanging barnwood door opening onto hallway

Paula and Allen wanted a design-build company that would collaborate alongside them and bring their vision to life. They were inspired by Joanna Gaines’ modern farmhouse style and wanted to incorporate materials that reflected that aesthetic. We introduced shiplap on the walls in key areas and hung two sliding barnwood doors. We also used tile on the laundry room and bathroom floors.

To complement the homeowners’ sense of fun and energy, we played a bit with the tile in the laundry room. The tiler laid out gray and white octagonal tiles in a random pattern, which created a whimsical, artistic effect. We then took the same colors and used a different tile in the bathroom—this time, in a classic pattern. The result was a playfully duelling aesthetic between a funky floor and a modern farmhouse bathroom. It worked beautifully, because the same colors carried through between the rooms, while the separation of rooms gave permission for using such different styles.

We also addressed uneven ceilings. Soffits ran incongruously throughout the basement, and at different heights. We leveled the ceiling to one single height in the entranceway, and squared out the soffits in the media room. It was a tiny detail that the homeowners never thought about, but it made an undeniable impact on the environment, enriching the restful and peaceful state.

stairway with shiplap wall

From the entry and throughout the hallway and living space, engineered wood flooring and eclectic lighting lend cohesive charm and ambiance to a reimagined basement. The charming bathroom provides relaxing comfort for guests, and the media room lends warmth and peace.

Features include:

  • Modern farmhouse aesthetic including a welcoming entry with stunning, sliding wood barn doors and exposed beams
  • Mudroom with reclaimed wood bench
  • Guest bathroom with clawfoot tub and concrete hex tile
  • Wide-plank hardwood flooring for casual warmth
  • Shiplap siding with washed color to reveal natural grain
  • Cable railing keeps the stairs crisp and airy
  • Eclectic lighting from restoration hardware

Welcome Home

revitalized basement bathroom

The homeowners imagined a reinvention of their lower living level with a fresh infusion of character. With vibrant finishes, creative furnishings, and more functional space planning, their inspiration took shape in the form of a welcoming foyer, media room, guest bath, laundry and mudroom.

Paula and Allen fell in love with their new basement. They were thrilled with the materials—especially the shiplap walls and hanging barnwood doors. They also love the open floor plan, which enables greater functionality. They love walking into their foyer when they come in from the world, and being welcomed home to a sanctuary that truly feels like home.

Your Own Inspired Living Space

Dreaming of your own inspired living space? Giraffe Design Build is a client centric, design driven company motivated by the belief that the built environment profoundly affects people’s lives. Together with our clients, our collaborative team of designers and craftsmen transform existing spaces into healthy, joyful sanctuaries where families celebrate daily life.

Call us today to start a conversation about your dream renovations.