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An Unfinished Basement Gets a Masculine Makeover

An eerie, partially below-grade storage space becomes a fun and functional getaway for a hardworking dad

Even the most die-hard family guy needs some alone time. Take Kirker Butler. The Los Angeles–based writer longed for a quiet retreat where he could craft his TV scripts while still being close to his wife and young daughter. "I wanted some bells and whistles, too," admits Kirker, who hoped a big flat-screen TV, a leather recliner, and shelves for his sports memorabilia and collectibles would make the room just as much man cave as office.

Shown: The designer cleverly incorporated the footings as the bases for mahogany bookcases and a raised reading nook.

Desk: Crate and Barrel. Chair: Design Within Reach.

Before the Renovation

Photo by Courtesy of the Homeowner

Unfortunately, the only spot available was a dreary storage area off the garage. The space, which had once held a gas furnace, was small, with uneven floors and large concrete footings designed to anchor the house in an earthquake or a landslide.

Shown: The concrete footings gave the dreary, unfinished storage space a bunker look.

Glow with the Flow

Photo by Joe Schmelzer

Designer Kyle Schuneman set about giving the dank room a library look with dark mahogany millwork and built-in shelving. General contractor Mark Aller laid a floating wood floor over the uneven concrete and clad the footings in drywall. Now the formerly cold, dark space is a treasured getaway for the man of the house. "I've been thinking about this space for seven years," says Kirker. "It turned out awesome."

Shown: A new window, twice as tall as the original, was installed for more light and air. In the corner, a gas meter was boxed out with drywall and is now accessed through an exterior panel.

Window wall paint: Huntington Beige; Benjamin Moore

Relax and Retreat

Photo by Joe Schmelzer

A varied color palette of warm and cool neutrals helps highlight the architecture of the room. Golden-yellow paint envelops the cozy reading nook, while pale gray grounds its base.

Mahogany boards dress up the drywalled footings and help integrate them into the design.

Reading light: Restoration Hardware. Custom cushions and pillows: Larribas Upholstery. Reading nook paint: Bryant Gold; Benjamin Moore

Design Doohickies

Photo by Joe Schmelzer

Collectibles gathered over time make the space unique. Says Kirker, "A man cave should be personal. I suggest a Star Wars collection from your childhood that your wife doesn't want in the living room."

A Seat with a View

Photo by Joe Schmelzer

A recliner tucked into a corner provides a comfy spot for TV viewing. The bookcase backs are painted a pale color to keep the dark millwork from looking oppressive.

Sisal rug: Pottery Barn. Chair: Mortise & Tenon Handmade Furniture

Spotlight with Soft Lighting

Photo by Joe Schmelzer

The library gets plenty of soft, warm light from sconces installed on the posts dividing the bookcases.

Homeowner tip: "Put electric outlets everywhere—the walls, the floor, everywhere! Then, when you find a really cool lamp made out of a beer bottle, you'll be able to put it exactly where you want."—Kirker Butler, Los Angeles

Sconces: Restoration Hardware

The Men's Room

Photo by Joe Schmelzer

The 14-by-16-foot storage space was used for little more than stowing drippy paint cans and holiday decorations.

Floor Plan: Before the Renovation

Illustration by Ian Worpole

The 14-by-16-foot storage space was used for little more than stowing drippy paint cans and holiday decorations.

Floor Plan: After the Renovation

Illustration by Ian Worpole

The comfy space now serves as study, office, and entertainment center.

What They Did:

1. Zoned the space with a half bath in the room's only open area and bookshelves along the periphery. Concealed a gas meter (now accessed from outdoors).

2. Finished the footings by boxing them out with drywall and building bookcases on top.

3. Mounted a TV and hid a mini fridge inside the wall that leads to the mechanicals access area.

4. Floated a desk in the center of the room and added a recliner for TV viewing.