• Marianne White

Anything but a Man Cave

One of the truest statements that you hear about your home is that basements are excellent, but generally underutilized, spaces in our homes. They become storage centres, home gyms, rec areas, and generally one of the the least appealing areas of the home. I know my basement is not my favourite part of the house, because it’s one of the darker areas, not designed and decorated like the rest of my house, and is the last place I really want to be spending my time while I’m at home. Sound familiar? (Note to self: need to finish my basement!)

Another true statement is that having your basement developed is a great investment and a wonderful opportunity to transform an unusable and/or unattractive space into a favourite area of the home. Now, I am not talking about making a dark-speaker-filled-huge-projector-drop-down-screen-beer-fridge “man cave”, I’m referring to creating another livable space that continues the theme of your overall home onto another level. And YES!, we can incorporate a speaker filled-huge-projector-drop-down-screen-beer/wine-fridge into this space, but let’s keep it bright, custom, and fabulous at the same time.

That was our mission when we designed this walk-out basement suite in Balzac, Rocky View County, Alberta. This basement was originally a chopped up, developed space that the homeowners parents once lived in, and then was fully demo’d after the parents/grandparents had moved into a seniors complex, and had been sitting there unusable for almost 2 years. These clients have lived in this home for 20+ years and NEVER used their basement! So, now was the time.


We started off as we do with any renovation project: drawings. The angles in this house were intense to say the least, but alas we were able to come up with a functional and extremely valuable floorplan. It was open concept, allowed for a decent sized bedroom, bathroom, laundry, storage, and kitchenette. We moved windows and doors on the exterior to optimize the space on the inside and allow for tons of light (which is KEY when it comes to basement developments).

Drawings done by Marianne Marcoff
GC Daniel Fidder, I2I Contracting Inc.

Once permits were approved, framing and plumbing were underway! It’s always so hard to imagine what the end result of the space is going to look like at this phase, but keeping patient and letting the trades do what they do best is always in the best interest of the homeowner. We made regular site visits to make sure everything was going accordingly, but luckily we have a great GC who really helped the process go smoothly. No one likes to babysit so lining up good and quality trades is a must!


To create a light and bright space, we spec’d just that, light and bright colours and finishes! (and a lot of pot lights!) For paint colours, we chose #BMIntenseWhite for the walls in the main areas, #BMGrayOwl in the bedroom, #BMGrayWisp in the bathroom, and #BMDecoratorsWhite for the ceilings and trim throughout. These together create a soft and bright palette, and paired really well with our other finishes we selected for the space.

Benjamin Moore Paint Colours


For the Kitchenette, we originally were thinking white cabinets (as one does when keeping with a “light and bright theme”). However, I really felt that it was becoming a bit too bland, so I suggested we use a light beech wood colour for the cabinets from #ikeacanada. It paired really well with the flooring, which was an earthy/medium gray laminate (Twelve Oaks - Frosty Orchard https://twelveoaks.ca/products/laminate/12mm-laminate-frosty-orchard/), and gave a great organic vibe to the space. Adding a large farmhouse sink also brought a bit of a country vibe into this space, lending it to a more transitional style.

Designed by ME Design

One of my favourite features of this space are the raw floating shelves. We picked these up from Windsor Plywood Airdrie, had them cut to size, sanded and clear coated them (the story is on my Instagram if you’re interested!). This was a great hands on project for myself and the homeowners to do together, and gives a little DIY element to the space.

Designed by ME Design

The element that ties all of these notes together is the backsplash tile. This was one of my first selections for the space. What I love about this tile is the softness in it’s tones, but the drama it offers in the pattern. It has that great geometric/floral vibe to it without being loud, and lends itself to a farmhouse/transitional style. As much as I love the dynamic black and white design tiles that are quite popular right now, this space and these homeowners needed something softer. This is where the inspiration for the space really took off.

Tile is the Moore Series by Euro Tile


We finished off this kitchenette with some square glam knobs just to reintroduce a bit of formality back into the space, and really, I just love a little glam for my hardware.

Designed by ME Design


The bedroom was originally going to be an empty space, however as one does during a renovation process, the clients really wanted to make this area appear finished. We were able to use a lot of the clients existing furniture, which was ideal as we didn’t leave a lot of room in the budget to decorate and style this space.

The theme for this space was to create a transitional-eclectic vibe which we accomplished by using some of the clients existing furniture with some great antique pieces (Where On Earth Did You Get That in Airdrie is exceptional for antique shopping). I also picked up these amazing side tables from Airdrie Furniture Revival and had them painted in a #collardgreen finish. The final result was amazing and looked so great in the room. I was wanting to play with the earthy greens and linens in this space, so the green finish on the night tables was bang on! Overall the space came out dreamy and homey. Just what a guest bedroom should be!


The next element of design and construction in this space was the bathroom. As the bathroom was an item added at the tail end of the project, we wanted to keep the costs low to not add to a big final bill. We supplied the drawings and elevations to the necessary trades and then were off to the races! Where we originally thought we would be doing a double vanity, we opted for a 48" standard stock size and added an inexpensive ladder shelf for additional storage (amazon: https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B00KKHUTX6/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_image?ie=UTF8&psc=1). Instead of a custom glass shower, we built an enclosure that would fit a standard size door and in lieu of drop in tub with a full tile surround, we went with a standard skirted tub. None of these changes effected the overall size of the bathroom, but were great ways to cut costs on high ticket items.

We then elevated the design of this bathroom by bringing in the kitchen feature tile to surround the shower walls with and vanity splash. We then opted for a large, warm grey 12x24 tile for the floors and bath surround. Bathrooms are so exciting for designer because there are so many elements and fine details that need to tie in together. From the overall design concept down to the toilet paper holder, we made sure all the elements coordinated and complimented one another for a truly stunning bathroom.


Aside from these areas, there were also little nooks and hallways that were kept simple, modern, and minimal in their design, to offset the impact of the other spaces. The clients also opted to leave the main space completely open for now to really be able to use the space for parties and spending time with their grandchildren.


As the title suggests, this basement development is #AnythingutaManCave and offers the client the value of space. This is now a feature of their home that they can enjoy for many years to come.

(Note to self: need to finish my basement!)

If you have any questions about design or elements in the posts, please feel free to comment or send us a message and we'll be happy to get back to you!

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