Luxury down under

Working with an unfinished space and a vision from the homeowners, this designer built the basement of his clients’ dreams.

Let’s face it: Basements aren’t always sexy—they’re too often seen as those dark, dingy
spaces where there’s nothing but cobwebbed corners and unused items no longer needed
in the primary living areas. But that’s where Diego Botia comes in. As an architect and the
head designer of Toronto’s Harmony Basements for the last five years, Diego (he prefers to go by his first name) is in charge of changing clients’ perceptions of their basements—showing them what can be accomplished with careful planning, smart design work, quality craftsmanship and the support of homeowners who want their basement to be an extension of their main living areas.

That’s exactly what he did for a Toronto couple last year. Their five-year-old home’s 1,500-square-foot basement was typical of most unfinished basements—dim, dusty and full of storage. It wasn’t treated as a functioning part of the home. Their hope was that they could relocate their entertaining downstairs—they enjoy spending time with family and friends and hoped the space would serve as an upgraded area to host gatherings. “The owners really wanted to make it part of the house. They wanted something very unique—open concept, a wet bar, gym, guest room, bathroom and feature TV wall. Something modern to complement the style of the rest of the home,” he says.

That was Diego’s jumping-off point. In the course of six weeks, the basement was transformed into a space the homeowners now can’t get enough of. “My inspiration was
to take the client’s wish list and make the room as unique as possible. I also wanted to
maximize their space. I’m a patient designer and I wanted to understand their main goals
and what they had in mind before finalizing my planning.” Diego was able to show the
couple their floor plan in three-dimensional renderings, which allowed them to get a good picture of the design and feel Diego was after.

From there, the construction team brought his vision to life. They installed barn doors in
the guest bedroom and used them to cover the entrance of the furnace room; added pocket doors for the jack-and-jill bathroom; created a wet bar (with a stone travertine backsplash); spray-painted the ceiling in the gym to give it a more authentic feel; and created a feature wall for the TV (instead of placing it overtop the fireplace, where most people choose to hang it). Diego also added bold trim in the gym, pillars throughout the room and designed a new oak staircase to replace the original bare wood, and added matching shelving in the wet bar area and on the TV wall. He placed Torlys engineered vinyl on the flooring to replicate that same oak finish to pull the space together. “It really matches and adds consistency,” says Diego. (According to Diego, this flooring is better than laminate or hardwood because it’s waterproof and mold-proof, and as we all know, basements can be damp and are at risk for flooding.)

Needless to say, the design worked for the clients, who use the gym daily and spend a lot
of time relaxing on their sofas in front of the TV. “We definitely worked together to ensure
the space was exactly what they wanted. We were a great team,” he says. “And if I had a
basement, it would absolutely be like this.”