Photography: Gilad Radat

It was a couple of years ago that we were commissioned to review the plans of the remodeling of a very large and exclusive mansion. Part of the project included bringing to completion of the makeover of a very long, dark, and narrow basement utilizing the existing layout and partitions. It is no wonder that the project had been stopped. Basements are formidable and intimidating spaces for remodeling. They are usually gloomy and cold and some owners (clients) tend to overlook the potential of this ‘second rate space’, preferring to turn their attention to other more inviting and fun places to plan and redesign.

Note here two before and after pictures, a glimpse of what’s to come

But basements can be remodelled and finished so that they not only integrate with the rest of the home, but they become beautiful spaces that add value to the property. Basements may have great potential as they are usually vast and can therefore add a lot of functional space to your overall home. It is also important to remember that upgrading this space maximizes the value of the property.

In this instance, the basement was located in a stunning mansion in one of Jerusalem’s charming suburbs. It was large enough and I could envision many exciting and wonderful possibilities, though many obstacles had to be overcome. And so, after many long hours of thought and deliberations, the client finally decided that he wished to transform his lackluster basement into a prominent aristocratic drawing room/lounge. No expense was to be spared. It was to be state-of-the-art and with all the pampering amenities of a real club, and more.

The project posed a real challenge as the existing layout and partitions were very limiting. The ceiling was low, only 2.10 meters at its highest point, and very narrow. The space was dismal, dark, and dreary. Mechanical equipment was scattered all over the space. There were drainage pipes, air-conditioning ceiling ducts, and more. Much creativity and ingenuity had to be summoned to make the project work, but I love challenges; they are exciting and inspirational.

I first had to decide how to finish the large surfaces: the ceiling, walls, and floors. I received the basement with concrete walls, a concrete floor, with old beams and pipes hanging from above. I decided to go with wood — wood paneling and a parquet floor to make the whole space feel like a traditional space, a space with history.

The final result includes an elegant billiard room, an inviting lounge, and a bar area with an adjoining decorative wrought iron cellar door that leads to a state-of-the-art wine cellar. The wine cellar walls were covered with old authentic reclaimed French bricks and the floors with reclaimed ancient stones.

The old stones offer a well-established and traditional feel to this wine cellar

Crafted Italian woodwork was used with exemplary attention to detail. Onyx backlit veiling panels cleverly disguise the maze of ugly pipes and create the optical illusion of height.

Note the spectacular lit onyx ceiling that is concealing some very unattractive air conditioning pipes

A small kitchen, powder room, and fully equipped gym were added as well as a bathroom clad in stunning Porto Oro marble.

Porto Oro marble is a stunning black marble that is quarried in Italy

The staircase that leads to the basement is covered in rich walnut wood and magnificent gold-leaf wallpaper.

Gold wallpaper leading down the rich walnut stairs with hanging lights!

In conclusion, you can feel the spark of this weighty challenging yet definitely worthwhile project.

The perfect retreat!

The once sad and dreary basement has been turned into an upscale space using bespoke Italian millwork, hi-end products, and materials. It is now a space reminiscent of a members-only club of days gone by, with a warm and inviting aristocratic ambiance. The client now spends most of his time in this exquisite retreat inviting his friends for drinks, a cigar, and a good game of billiard.

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Annette Frommer was born and educated in Belgium. Her work is influenced by European culture, elegance, and sophistication.