When Jonathan and Caren Bach moved into their Mount Washington home last May, it was nearly perfect — but not quite.
The home was newly built by Beazer Homes, and it was lovely. But the couple agreed that the basement, where they envisioned spending many hours with friends and with Jonathan’s son Cary, needed to be more than just an average new home basement. The family wanted to put their own spin on things.
The Bachs got creative, dreaming up a customized basement lair that includes a bedroom and bathroom for Cary, a home gym, complete with sauna, a fabulous bar designed to satisfy both grown-up and teenage needs, plenty of storage and a workroom/art studio for Jonathan.
The family knew they wouldn’t be satisfied with anything “generic” — they wanted to make sure that everything, from the layout to the cabinet knobs, was distinctive and memorable. To bring their vision to life, they partnered with contractor David Cedrone, owner of NLT Construction, with whom they developed a close relationship.
“Caren wanted a great place to entertain and, because my son would be down there, she wanted to make it special for him to have his friends over,” says Jonathan Bach. “We say that she has an idea and I ‘supersize’ it. She came up with a basic plan, and I took it from there. Cary had some say in the decor, also.”
The project started with Cary’s room and bathroom. In the bedroom, the closet door is covered in a decal that looks like a three-dimensional Han Solo in carbonite. “My contractor came up with the idea that we would get a flat panel door so the detail would lay properly,” says Bach.
Cary was responsible for his room’s wallpaper and funky bathroom knobs that look like hands. “They seem to be everyone’s favorite part of the basement,” his father said with a laugh.
Contractor David Cedrone counts himself as a fan of the knobs. “One of my favorite things about the entire basement are the drawer pulls in the bathroom. They are without a doubt one of the coolest pulls I’ve seen,” Cedrone says. “Little details like that are, in my opinion, what do a really nice job.”
For inspiration, Caren Bach mined websites like Pinterest and Houzz, and once the design and construction process was underway, she and Jonathan found that Etsy was a great place for unique accessories and ideas.
No absentee homeowner, Jonathan Bach played a critical role in the project overall, researching and purchasing accessories and design elements at night and pitching in with the construction during the days. “I definitely put my blood, sweat and tears into it,” he says, recalling the anguish he felt when drywall had to be touched up after he’d finished priming and painting the whole basement himself.
“Even the smallest details, like the knobs on the cabinets, I researched for weeks and weeks to find the perfect item,” he says. “In the bar, we needed about 15 unique bar-themed knobs, and they had to be pewter. It probably took me a month to gather them all.”
Bach also handcrafted candy-themed knobs for the bar’s outer drawers, which remain stocked with candy for Cary’s friends. The designs were modeled on some he saw on Etsy but couldn’t purchase. (The original designer was not working while on bed rest during her pregnancy). “I did research to figure out how to make them, ordered a mold and found the resin at a surf shop in California, then made the knobs out of resin and candy.”
For the bar itself, the Bachs knew they wanted blue stone countertops, but they wanted a shade of blue that would look unusual and unexpected. “I must have spent a month and a half going to granite shops and looking online,” says Jonathan Bach. Finally, they found a slab of blue Caesarstone that was perfect. “We got lucky,” he says. “We just happened to find it.”
The bar’s setup is unusual. “The custom bar was a little different in that Caren wanted a refrigerator and candy drawers facing outwards for the kids and a second refrigerator with liquor facing inwards,” explains Cedrone. “It was a bit of a challenge because it’s not a huge bar. Plus, there is a dishwasher and icemaker, so to get all of that into the bar was a little tricky but it turned out really nice.”
Even the icemaker required significant research. “I spent about two weeks learning about the 12 different shapes of ice cubes and the benefits of each one,” says Jonathan Bach. “I ended up with ‘top hat’ ice cubes — supposedly they keep drinks cooler without melting the ice.”
Large wood barn doors, attached to rods, slide to the side to reveal a home gym and a storage space. The inspiration for the doors, another of David Cedrone’s favorite elements of the basement, came from Houzz.
Off the gym, the sauna was also the result of hours of Jonathan Bach’s research. “There are so many heating units with different types of wood, different accessories, the glass for the door — so many options,” he says. “The price range can be from $1,000 to $30,000 and everywhere in between.”
The Bachs’ basement also fills a functional role as a storage and work space, including built-in cabinets and a well-organized workroom.
On one wall, a white panel that looks like a door turns out to be a cabinet that slides out, revealing a storage unit that, when closed, tucks into the space under the stairs. “The under-the-steps sliding cabinet is a really cool way to maximize your space,” says Jonathan Bach, praising cabinetmaker Glenn Raver for his creativity. “Typically it’s just dead storage space, but we were able to use it for rain gear and coats and boots.”
Like the rest of the basement, the workroom is filled with personal touches, including a workbench decorated with faux album covers that were originally used as table settings at Cary Bach’s bar mitzvah. “Instead of having a generic-looking bench, I put them under liquid glass,” says Jonathan Bach. “Work benches aren’t supposed to be pretty, but it’s cool to have those album covers under glass.”
Construction wrapped last October and since then, the basement has already gotten a workout. “We watch TV, make popcorn, make margaritas. Cary’s friends come over,” says Caren Bach. “It’s definitely what we envisioned. Everything, and actually more.”