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In one bold stroke, dark basement becomes informal living area.

Once a dungeon-like basement, this wide-open room now provides just what its owners wanted: an informal living area and play space, somewhat apart from the rest of the house, that can double as a guest apartment. Steve Rankin and Lewis Butler of San Francisco-based Butler Armsden Architects saw an opportunity to transform the basement in a single bold stroke. Because the house occupied a hillside site, the basement level was mostly aboveground and could take advantage of a southern exposure and sweeping view toward Mount Tamalpais. The strategy was to open up the view wall and then orient the room toward it. The architects treated the 1,000-square-foot basement as a series of three overlapping spaces within a single enlarged room. They dug down a foot to alloy 9 1/2-foot-high ceilings. To create a roomy sitting area, they pushed out the south wall 10 feet. In the wall's place, two new 10-inch-diameter columns support a gluelaminated beam. The added space is supported by a perimeter foundation on a grade beam and a series of 18-inch-diameter concrete piers sunk several feet into bedrock. The sitting area enjoys a view out a giant bay window, divided into three 9-foot-high tempered glass sheets. The central panel is 8 feet wide, and the side panels are 4 1/2 feet each. Two steps up from the dining table is a new efficiency kitchen. Though it's completely underground and has no windows of its own, this potentially claustrophobic space is in fact light and airy: from the sink, you can look past the dining and sitting areas, out to the view beyond. The remodel has proved so successful that the owners use their new basement suite more than any other room in the house.
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Title Annotation:remodeling
Date:May 1, 1990
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