This design and build project was located in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Berkeley. The existing house was a two-story built on a substandard and unfinished basement and garage. The two stories housed the living room, kitchen, and a bathroom at the entry-level, and bedrooms, baths, and closet on the floor above. There was a strong need for a family/entertainment area in the house.

Due to the compartmentalized layout of the existing living and the dining rooms on the main floor, and the fact they were very formal and rigid, they couldn’t be used as an entertainment/family room. The existing building footprint and allowable setbacks did not allow for extending out of the current building envelope. Therefore, in order to create a place of informal gathering and entertainment, we decided to explore the expansion and remodeling of the existing basement.

Implementing such a design idea proved to be very challenging but still possible. Excavating below the two-story building, controlling/diverting subterranean water, and avoiding collapses of current retaining walls and foundations during the construction were among the challenges in this project. Drainage and construction details in this project were as unique as creative.

Our design provided a bathroom, a kitchenette, and a generous open informal space with a large sliding glass door to the backyard patio. The remodeled basement was connected to the main floor via an open staircase landing into the kitchen above.

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