Pet-Friendly Basement Inspires
For Josh Landers and Josh Williams, 2011 was a big year. They started it off by welcoming a puppy into their lives, a Jack Russell terrier named Bentley. Next, Williams, a property manager and part-time landscape designer, left his job of three years to join a new company. Months later, Landers graduated from law school and immediately started work as an attorney.
"Our lives went from being gone all the time and never seeing each other to having the flexibility to work from home, actually spend time together and own a dog something we'd talked about for years," says Williams. "Unfortunately, we didn't really have a plan for how we'd make room for all of this."
With three life changes converging at once, the duo decided it was time to reorient the 10-by-11-foot basement of their 1980s Atlanta townhouse as a workspace and dog-friendly den, as well as outfit the adjoining covered porch area as a playspace and dog run for Bentley.
For the homeowners, this new space needed to accommodate everyone differently. Landers needed a quiet, tranquil area to look over cases and do research. Williams wanted two separate zones: one to set up appointments between his properties and another to work on landscape sketches. "And Bentley needed a place to hang out in the sun, run around and do his doggie business," says Landers. To tackle these needs, they decided on a budget of $5,000 and a timeline of two weeks.
After looking through magazines and spending time on design blogs, Landers and Williams created a to-do list that included the following:
- Rip out the old carpet and replace it with durable, easy-to-clean vinyl plank wood flooring
- Add easy-to-clean wall covering in a masculine, textural pattern
- Install custom bookshelves behind the spiral staircase
- Add lighting to the ceiling
- Create a drafting area for Williams' landscape design
- Incorporate a steel desk into the center of the room
- Update the porch area with paint
- Build a partition to hide the air conditioning unit
- Cover the exterior floors with faux turf
"Considering how tiny the room and adjoining porch are, we weren't confident that we'd be able to use both spaces for all of these purposes," says Williams. "I think the reason we pulled it off had to do with space planning and a strong emphasis on scale and proportion."
The couple designated the left-hand corner of the room Williams' drafting area. They used the rest of the space for shared storage as well as Landers' legal library. For furnishings, they brought in a small-scale 1950s drafting table they purchased at a vintage store. Concealed storage and task lighting lines the 7-foot wall located next to the spiral staircase. To utilize wasted space behind the spiral staircase, they designated room for Landers' legal library by placing a steel tanker desk in the middle of the room, leaving 36 inches of open space around all four sides.
The first step in getting the project under way was removing and then sorting through the mass of stuff that had been gathering dust in the space for three years. "Getting everything out of there and sorting through it was kind of a nightmare," says Landers. "I promised myself the new space would stay neat and organized forever."
Once Landers and Williams pared back to the necessities, they ripped out the 20-year-old carpet. Williams suggests, "Anyone ripping up carpet themselves definitely needs to invest in a good pair of gloves because it's really hard on your hands."
The homeowners learned that wall-to-wall carpet is easiest to remove by cutting it into 4-foot strips with a utility knife, then taking it out of the room in several small rolls. They found this to be a much better alternative than rolling the entire carpet up into one giant roll, which is not only heavy and cumbersome, but also difficult to dispose of properly.
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With the carpet gone, Landers and Williams called their contractor to install the vinyl plank wood flooring. "It was a really easy product to put down, but we didn't have time," says Landers. "All that it requires is a utility knife for installation." From start to finish, their contractor installed the planks in three hours.
Once the flooring was complete, it was time for the walls to be updated with crocodile vinyl wall covering. "There was no way we would have attempted installing the crocodile wall covering," says Williams. "It required too much math and patience." Instead, they paid a wallpaper hanger $350 to install it. To make for a quicker installation, the homeowners prepped the walls beforehand by rolling a coat of wall-covering primer.
A Pet-Friendly Porch
Next on the list was renovating the porch into a run and playspace for Bentley. "Thinking back, it would have been smarter to have done the porch area before the den," explains Williams. "We had to protect the den floors and walls like crazy due to the dust and debris involved with pressure-washing the porch."
In order to turn the dark, dingy, unkempt covered porch into a light and airy outdoor space, the contractor pressure-washed the fence and the concrete slab, then sprayed the fence and townhouse exterior with blue-gray paint. After painting was done, the ground had to be leveled out. About two-thirds of the area was covered in concrete slab while the rest was an unkempt soil planter. Before the faux turf could go in, it required a flat, level surface that was covered in pea gravel to help with drainage.
To properly install the faux turf, the contractor filled the neglected soil planter with a layer of gravel approximately 6 inches thick, bringing it up to the same height as the concrete slab. Before laying the turf, the contractor also installed dog windows into the fence using acrylic and 1-by-2-inch pressure-treated pine. He then installed a lattice room partition with a huge red wooden bone appliqué attached to the front. These design elements kept the unsightly air conditioning unit hidden from view and also allowed Bentley to see outside into the yard through three small windows.
With the ground now level, the faux turf was laid out and cut to size with a utility knife. "Who knew that both our exterior and interior flooring simply needed a utility knife for installation," says Williams. "I think we kept our project on schedule mostly because of how easy our floors were to put down." The duo decided to put the faux turf down themselves so their contractor could focus on installing bookshelves.
The homeowners had their contractor create custom shelves behind the spiral staircase using plywood and poplar. While the stain-grade plywood made up the actual structure and the back panel, 1-by-2-inch strips of poplar were used to trim out the front. "Although the bookshelves look nice and architectural, the stain actually took differently to the plywood than it did to the poplar," says Williams. "Luckily, we used ebony stain and it's pretty hard to see, plus the room is dark overall."
The last stage of the project included installations, particularly the light fixtures, coat hooks, art, window coverings and window hardware. Williams and Landers were nervous about installing everything correctly the first time, mainly because holes would be put into the crocodile wall covering.
"Although hanging things on walls seems rather simple, when you're dealing with heavy things, which require drywall anchors for stability, it's a lot more involved," says Landers. "After spending nearly $1,000 on our wall covering, it seemed wise to leave all installations to the professional."
In order to hang the light fixture, a new cross bar was installed inside the junction box and a new ceiling canopy was added to give it a finished look. "Make sure when you buy light fixtures they come with ceiling canopies," says Williams. We had to leave our contractor waiting to install it so we could run to the store and grab one."
The contractor used a stud finder to ensure that everything was securely fastened to the walls. The contractor seemed puzzled as to why, in a room packed with dog-friendly, easy-to-clean materials, they decided on draperies that came all the way down to the floor. "We had custom draperies made using indoor/outdoor fabric that is made of acrylic and is super-resilient," says Williams. "Even if Bentley were to lift his leg on the draperies, they can easily be wiped with water and a sponge."
With all of the extra work that went into creating a sophisticated den that could withstand the wear and tear of an active puppy, it turns out that Bentley has yet to have a single accident or attempt to chew on any of the new furniture, much less to mess with the drapes. Now that Bentley is completely housebroken and has his own sense of place, Landers and Williams began their next big project: leash training.