When Andrew bought his new house it came with a rough, unfinished basement. He knew he wanted to create a living and entertaining space for his family, but he also wanted to maximize his return on investment by making it flexible for future needs.
The only problem? He didn’t know where to start.
Andrew enlisted the help of renovation and real estate expert Scott McGillivray to turn his raw space into a perfectly polished retreat. Scott and his designer, Jacqueline Kay, created a plan to add living and storage space for Andrew’s young family while at the same time increasing the value of his home by turning it into a legal income suite. The plan included an open concept kitchen/living area, a spa bathroom, guest bedroom, home gym, and activity room for the kids in the family. Should Andrew want to rent out the space in the future it can be easily closed off and separated from the rest of the house.
Andrew's Reveal

Luxury Bath Finishes
“You can’t have a bathroom with so many luxury finishes and not include heated floors,” says Scott. “Potential renters and buyers will be expecting it in a space like this.”

Andrew was in complete agreement. “I don’t want to step out of the shower and freeze my feet. This bathroom is in a basement after all – those floors could get cold in the winter!”

The floor is controlled by a wall mounted programmable touchscreen thermostat used to control the heating levels and times throughout the day.
If there was one thing Andrew really wanted out of this space it was to have a place where he could escape and unwind. “I’ve got a gym in the basement and one of the things I wanted was to be able to workout in the gym and then get right into the shower without having to go upstairs.” With luxury touches like a steam vent and rain head he can indulge in a spa-like experience right in the comfort of his own basement. But self-indulgence wasn’t the only factor. “At some point I’m going to end up renting this place out and I wanted something that would really stand out and add value.” The glass enclosure, extra wide vanity, and custom details like the shower bench and niche fit the bill for adding value, while fulfilling Andrew’s desire for a luxury retreat for himself. “I only plan on renovating this space once, so I wanted to add as many bells and whistles as I could fit within my budget. With the amount I’ll get from renting, and eventually resale, I’m confident it will payoff over time.”

“People tend to get caught up in the design elements, but what’s behind the walls
and under the floors is even more important than what’s in front of them.”
~ Scott McGillivray
Kitchen Solutions
Andrew hates clutter, and he wasn’t okay with the idea of having small appliances on the counter.

“We had a custom appliance garage built in to the cabinets so he could hide them away but still keep them accessible,” says Scott.

“Usually I don’t like to have the cabinets sit flush on the counter because it takes away counter space, but in this case it makes total sense.”
Fitting a fully functional kitchen into Andrew’s basement wasn’t in the original plan. “I wanted more of a home bar, or a galley kitchen at most.” But with the plan of renting out the space in the future, Scott knew a galley kitchen wouldn’t cut it. “If you want to command a high rental price you need to have a full set of appliances and plenty of storage.” So the team went to work creating a space that would fit the needs of renters while still keeping the open, airy feeling Andrew wanted. Light colors, continuous surfaces, and plenty of under cabinet storage did the trick. “The island felt a bit big to me at first, but now I see the value in the additional surface area, as well as the extra storage underneath.” Despite it being a small space it can accommodate several people and it’s a great space for entertaining – just what Andrew wanted.
"When it comes to return on investment it's always a good idea to keep the major elements neutral. Add personality through art, accessories and floor coverings."
~ Scott McGillivray
Entertain at Home

Nothing says “entertaining” like a home bar, and it was always a part of Andrew’s vision for the finished space. So when designing the media wall he insisted on room for a bar fridge, appliance garage and glass storage. The doors can be recessed into the cabinet for easy access, or closed and locked up to keep the kids from accessing it when they shouldn’t.
Comfort, comfort, comfort – that’s what this space is all about. “This is a place for me, my kids, my family, my friends – I want everyone to be able to come in, put their feet up and relax.” The oversize sofa with chaise, and a collection of plush pillows invite visitors of all ages to sit back and unwind. But the setup didn’t come without a bit of a battle. “I got a lot of flack from the design team about wanting a 60” TV,” he says with a laugh. “It’s a little big I’ll admit, but it’s my home, so why should I compromise?” In order to make the TV look less imposing it was incorporated into a media wall in conjunction with the fireplace. Together they read as one unit, visually minimizing the TV. “I’m happy I won that battle. This TV is going to get a lot of use.”
"Make the most of small and awkward spaces by being creative with storage and using interesting design techniques. You don't have to spend a lot of money to make a space work for you."
~ Scott McGillivray
Bedroom Solutions
A large electrical panel does not a calming oasis make, and since there was a giant one in the corner of the guest bedroom, a plan was devised to mask it. Scott came up with a DIY paneling application that would camouflage the electrical box without disrupting the serenity of the space. “At first we were just going to do one wall, but since the room is so small we decided to wrap it around the entire space and really make it a feature.” Now what could have been a small, nondescript space is a cozy retreat full of character.
A guest bedroom by its very nature needs to appeal to a range of people, which makes decorating a challenge. “There’s a good chance my Mom will use this room when she comes to visit, but I also have other friends and family who will come to stay.” So to keep it simple and appealing to a wide variety of people, a warm palette of neutral grays and browns was chosen. Together they create a sense of calm that can appeal to both masculine and feminine sensibilities. “I want everyone to feel comfortable, no matter what their age or gender.” After the foundation was set, all it needed was a pop of color to bring it to life. “I wasn’t on board with pink at first,” says Andrew, “but once I saw the painting on the wall I let myself be convinced.” And should he ever change his mind, the accessories can be removed and replaced with items in just about any other color. “I’m really happy with how it turned out. No matter who stays here I’m confident they’ll be comfortable.”
Make an Entrance
When and if the basement ever becomes a separate apartment, the first thing people will see as they enter will be the space at bottom of the stairs. “I highly recommend including some sort of table surface in entryways, no matter how small they are.” says Scott. “You need somewhere to toss your keys, the mail, loose change - whatever.” It’s also the first thing people see when they come in so it sets the tone for the rest of the space.
Since the stairs down to the basement will be the main entryway for the apartment it was important to make it as open and welcoming as possible. “First impressions are hugely important and you don’t want people coming into a claustrophobic space.” Scott removed the wall and instead opted for an open railing. “You could also put a glass railing in a space like this, but we decided to go with the less expensive option.” Andrew was impressed with the results. “It’s such a small area but it makes the entire living area feel bigger and more open.”
"Don’t let today’s trends become tomorrow’s regrets. Use common sense and keep the needs of your household top of mind when incorporating trends into your design. Don't invest too much and make sure they're easy to change when you get tired of them."
~ Scott McGillivray
Have Some Fun
“I would never in a million years have thought of doing something like this,” says Andrew about the murals. But the design team talked him into it. “I don’t recommend doing something like this in a big ticket room like a kitchen or bath,” says Scott, “but in a bonus room like a gym you’re not running the risk of hurting your investment.” And even though Andrew was hesitant he’s happy with the finished product. “Sometimes you have to lighten up and trust the professionals.”
The key to a successful home gym is designing a space you’re actually going to want to use, and for most people there are two ways to accomplish it. Either opt for something soothing and spa-like, or take the opposite approach and make it all about the energy. For Andrew, energy was the answer. “I need a room that’s going to make me want to get up and move.” Between all the equipment, the colorful murals, and the large mirror, this is a room that commands you to get moving. “Home gyms are pretty simple,” says Scott. As long as you’ve got durable floors, a decent ceiling height, and room to move around, you’re good. What you do with the décor is up to you.” To make the room functional as well as energetic, he included a storage unit for housing water bottles and snacks, and hooks on the walls for towels, mats and other accessories.
Kids vs Grownups
One item that will likely be removed when it goes back to being a grownup space is the hanging chair. “This room is meant to be fun and the hanging chair is playful and cute, but I don’t see it as something the adults will want to use.” But given how much the kids love it, it’s definitely worth the effort.
Kids grow up fast and their needs and interests can change overnight, so putting custom features into a playroom or activity room isn’t a wise idea, financially speaking. “I wanted a place where the kids can let loose but I don’t want to have to spend a lot of money when they outgrow it.” The decision was made to keep the finishes ultra simple, but to add a chalkboard wall across the back of the room. “They can mess around and do what they want and it will be easy to paint over when they get sick of it.” Décor wise the room was divided into zones, so each kid can have a designated space to do their thing. And while the boys in the family balked at the pink rug, it added a dynamic pop of color, totally appropriate in a room where fun rules.