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A Multifunctional Basement for the Whole Family

Names: RaMeka Johnson, D. A. Johnson Sr., and our three children

Location: Chatham, Chicago

Type of vintage home: Chicago bungalow

Time lived in: 20 years

Tell us a little about yourself and others in your home: I'm a wife and mother of three who works full-time, enjoys cooking, gardening in my backyard, giving back to my community, and spending quality time with family and friends. My husband works full time, enjoys reading, watching movies and grilling. As for my children, one is pursuing an MBA, another is a college sophomore, when both are home they are usually glued to their cell phones, hanging out in their rooms or now in the basement. The youngest enjoys learning, he's currently taking horseback riding lessons and golf lessons. When he's at home he likes to ride his hoverboard in the basement, enjoys playing chess with his siblings, video games or with his hot wheel cars. We love family road trips, bowling and attending polo matches when time permits.

How did you come to live in your home? Prior to purchasing our home we lived in the South Loop in a beautiful apartment with two balconies which we were quickly outgrowing. When we learned the unit would be converted into a condo we decided it was time to seek out a bungalow in the Chatham area and the rest is history.

Describe your home's style in 5 words or less: Brick bungalow with cute cozy rooms.

What are your favorite original elements and vintage details in the home? I love the hardwood floors on the first floor and the woodwork around the doors and windows.

Tell us about the recent basement remodel: When the pandemic hit, my oldest two children came home from school, my youngest was remote along with myself and husband, the house was FULL. After several weeks, I noticed we were spending many hours cooped up in our bedrooms and we all needed an outlet and additional space based off our styles of working.

We decided to purge the basement, create a family room to gather for movie nights, a game area for afternoon fun, an office nook for myself, a half bath, and a workout room since we no longer were able to go to the gym.

List any professionals you hired (if you recommend them):

We utilized the help of a friend of the family to do the work.

List sources for decor or materials (if you recommend them):

We repurposed furniture we owned and also made a few purchases from Walmart, BestBuy, Lowe's, Home Depot, Burlington, Etsy, Office Depot, American Sale, and Amazon.

Care to share the cost of this project? The cost was roughly $15,000.

Any advice for a budget-friendly basement remodel? Consider all of the things you and your family can DIY before hiring someone. Create a budget and be sure to take a good look around your house for items you already have before making any purchases. Shop around, don't buy items just because you see them in the store, be patient, compare prices. Instead of drywalling all walls, consider painting some of the walls and if it's not in your budget to remodel the entire area, partial remodeling will also make the entire space look better.

Any advice for other vintage home owners? Do what makes you happy but always try preserve a little original character of the home.

What are you planning to do next? The laundry room.


We're inviting our members to share photos and narratives about the renovations, restorations, and redecorating they've completed on their vintage homes (not just bungalows!). Submit your Home Tour here, and we will reach out to you about a potential blog post. Not yet a member? Join today!

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