Wentworth Inc.|www.wentworthstudio.com

A family of four living in a 1920's Woodley Park rowhouse wanted a fresh start in their tired basement, which was dark, cramped and dank, with low ceilings and uneven carpeted floors.

When the homeowners hired architect Bruce Wentworth to remodel the space, they requested that he not replicate the more traditional upper-levels of the home.

Wentworth Inc. wentworthstudio.com

"My husband and I thought it didn't make sense to go back to 1924," the homeowner said. "Besides, we wanted something bright, spare and functional."

This led to the notion of a Scandinavian-inspired design that could meet the needs of the family.

"The homeowner wanted a multi-purpose room, with a play area for the kids, a desk area for her husband, and a TV area where the whole family could congregate," Wentworth said.

The first thing the architect did was gut the basement, removing all the drywall and flooring. Floors were then properly leveled and 12x24 inch tiles were laid in a staggered formation throughout the space.

"Porcelain tile is a good flooring choice for a basement, as it's not impacted by moisture and is easy-to-clean," Wentworth said.

Next the perimeter walls were insulated and fresh drywall was added back, but the decision was made to leave the rafters exposed, opening up the space and making the ceiling appear higher.

"I wanted a clean, light space. I didn't want excessive ornamentation," the homeowner said. "Nothing overly decorated, just the use of natural materials for what they are."

The elements of Scandinavian design, Wentworth said, include an open floor plan; use of blond wood, especially birch; an airy feel; and, simple furnishings.

To achieve this look, the walls and exposed rafters were uniformly spray-painted in matte-flat white, instead of high-gloss, which would only draw attention to the imperfections in the ceiling. Unobtrusive track lighting was added between the joists.

"The basement also had a structural beam running down the middle," Wentworth said. "I grouped all the pipes and ductwork together, and ran them through this central bulkhead. I then made the columns into a design element."

The three structural columns were clad in horizontal birch slats, with one enlarged to house the TV and electronics. Flat wall sconces were mounted upon them for ambient light. For visual continuity, the blond wood was further used for the doors to a utility closet, washer/dryer and toy storage cupboards, as well as for the basement stair treads. The built-in desk and shelves also are made of birch.

The clad columns, along with clean-lined furnishings help spatially define the task-oriented floor plan, with its home office, living area and play space all in one.

"We love the renovated basement," the homeowner said, "and can't imagine raising two kids in this house without it!"