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Digging deep to find more room

Photos: Joshua Huston

When Phinney Ridge residents Dominic Williamson and Sam Spencer’s preteen daughters (Lucy, 12, and Isabel, 11) outgrew their bunk beds and shared room, the couple knew that the time had come for a change. While some families may feel that preteens with too little space is a problem solved only with a big move, Dominic and Sam decided to dig deep — and down — into the basement for their space solution. “It was the typical, dark, eerie basement. Cold, low ceilings, and home to many spiders. “Ever since she was small, Isabel had asked if she could live in the basement. She thought that with a little paint and a quick vacuum, it would be ready,” says Dominic. It turned out to be a much more significant undertaking, but one that the whole family participated in.

For the more daunting aspects of the remodel, such as digging up portions of concrete and creating a new sewer system, Dominic and Sam enlisted the help of a contractor and an architect. During that time, the whole family was willing and able to roll up their sleeves and assist in creating the new space. For Dominic and Sam, the girls were a great help. During the hand-digging of the basement floor, “they couldn’t manage the wheelbarrow, but they filled buckets and ran the plank, too,” said Dominic. “They helped coil out and tie down the radiant tubes, unload gravel, tape down floor protection and just continuously effused enthusiasm, which really helped!”


The project included not only plans to create private, separate bedrooms for both Lucy and Isabel, with space to style and decorate as they pleased, but also a family hub for play, homework and hanging out. “A couple of families we know with teenage kids had created spaces in their homes that were so awesome that it became the place where their kids and their friends wanted to hang out, which is an appealing concept to parents of preteens, who potentially spend more time with friends than at home,” says Dominic.


“We wanted to expand our home and create a space the kids were proud of, that had the feeling of separation, but also had the feeling of being a part of the house,” Dominic says. With the addition of a reading nook, new aboveground windows, pocket doors with frosted glass, a vintage trough sink and a new storage area, the basement is very much a part of the house. With the project completed, the girls are able to maintain their close sisterly bond with bedrooms that are next door to each other, plus a gorgeous common area for fun, play and having pals over. And when the girls aren’t there? It sounds like Mom and Dad have a place to catch a well-deserved nap.  

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