My Digs: Angela Robinson's basement suite transformation


With the city’s housing market regularly hitting new peaks in price and density, it’s a near guarantee that many homeowners are looking for ways to maximize their homes and seek out creative ways to add livable space, whether that’s for personal use or a secondary accommodation.

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For many young families, the idea of affording their own house in Vancouver is just a dream and finding a space where family is close by seems like an event further stretch.

When local interior designer Angela Robinson was approached by her clients – a young couple with a baby girl who were creating a suite in their parents' house – she was able to completely redevelop the basement of the Kitsilano home to create a stunning space that, with a little innovation, offered both. 


As the ground was excavated to make room for a lower-level suite, Robinson came up with a design plan that worked with the uneven terrain to allow for a functional space that gives no visual indication that it’s partly underground.

“It’s kind of like two homes in one: The entire front is above grade, but the back is buried and windowless,” she explains.

This renovation project was all about location. Opting to situate the kitchen where many would think to locate the living space – the front of the house where all the windows are – made an unexpected major difference to everyday life for the client family, considering it is the highest traffic room during daylight hours.

Maximizing the brightness in the kitchen and eating areas meant that Robinson had to get creative when looking to design a living room that didn’t feel like a cave. Rather than building a traditional wall and door between the living room and master bedroom, a glass sliding wall was installed to allow the natural light from the bedroom to carry through into the family space.

Floor-to-ceiling drapery allows for privacy between the rooms, but otherwise there’s an open-concept feel to the suite.

When working with a small space (this unit is 1,200 square feet with two bedrooms) and limited natural light, the right colour palette is essential.

To keep the space feeling airy with the illusion of more room, Angela went with an all-white finish. White walls and cabinetry elevate the natural light where it is available and eliminate the enclosed feel of the areas with no windows.

While opting for all-white everything might seem anti-climactic to some, the sharp black accents throughout offer a chic graphic appeal. Sleek black window frames, faucets, hardware and decor details create flow and continuity throughout the space that give depth and interest without overwhelming the suite. 

Smaller pops of blues and greens create a tertiary element through the artwork, a white-framed wall of family portraits that adorns the living room and becomes a gallery-esque focal point against the white walls.

The family-focused artwork makes the space feel personalized without adding clutter. There’s another statement artwork in the nursery, which is more than just a stellar image: “It’s a photo of the [Italian] island of Capri, which is the baby’s namesake,” Robinson shares.

Through clever spatial planning and creative customized details, the designer was literally able to create a contemporary home-sweet-home out of nothing for this young family. 

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