Design:

Step Inside Athena’s Newly Renovated Basement in Amagansett

Words by Sacha Strebe.

Designing any space always has its challenges, but a basement? Now, that is a whole other level of creative constraints. Working with limitations is where Athena thrives but the basement design of her Amagansett home certainly tested her inventiveness. Especially when you learn that the size of the space is the full footprint of the entire home—yes, we’re talking 2200 square feet. “For so long, it was just a raw basement with cinder block walls, random storage, and crickets jumping around,” Athena says with a laugh. So after 13 years, it was time to take the basement from a “ratty space” to a cozy and warm one where you could do the laundry but also relax. “As our son gets older, he wanted a space to hang out and watch TV, and Victor also craved a recording studio so he didn’t have to go back to the city for work—that was really the jump-start we needed to finish it,” she adds.

Of course, the basement design has all the functional elements without compromising on beauty. If anyone is going to put magic into the mundane, it’s Athena. “Even a practical space like the basement deserves decorative objects,” she stresses. “I wanted to insert the same level of design as upstairs with contrasting textures, materials, and verticality to raise the eye upward. You wouldn’t normally think to style a laundry room with a rug, but I had an extra sample of a Beni rug that fit within the space and it was immediately transformed.”

Keep reading to learn more about Athena’s vision, the before-and-after photos, and the inventive solutions she implemented to get around challenging design conundrums. 

Photo: Mikey DeTemple
Photo: Mikey DeTemple

Open It Up

Rather than designing a bunch of compartmentalized rooms, Athena wanted the space to feel expansive so the laundry room opens up to the TV room which then leads to the studio and home gym (still in progress!).

Before the renovations, whenever you walked down the stairs, you’d always see the laundry room with unorganized storage items. In order to keep within her tight budget, Athena opted out of expensive plumbing and electrical changes and instead altered the design to feel more like a kitchen (more on that below!). Then she used the existing framing to help identify the spaces. One area is Victor’s music studio, and the other one is a solid wall that was framed out to become the TV room.

“Identifying what your needs are before you approach the design is especially for a basement,” she notes. “Sure you want it to be an added living space but it still needs to be a functional and purposeful storage space. We use it to house additional cooking items, props, my son’s surfboards, motorbikes, logs for firewood, and so much more!”

BEFORE

Step Inside Athena’s Newly Renovated Basement in Amagansett

AFTER

Step Inside Athena’s Newly Renovated Basement in Amagansett

The Laundry Room Gets a Kitchen Makeover

Perhaps the biggest change was altering the design of the laundry room to look and feel like a kitchen, while still functioning as one. Rather than creating kitchen cabinetry from scratch (which would have blown out her budget), Athena bought cabinet drawers and doors from Wayfair with dimensions that fit within the space. “I wanted to use the drawers as laundry bins where I could separate the clothing into white/color/towels,” she explains. “We also use them to store TV room snacks, Tide sticks, etc.”

Athena always struggled to find a place for excess linens (extra summer coverlets, pillows, sheets, towels, or tabletop/kitchen towels) so they inserted wire shelving from Wayfair inside the shaker closet. “While it might not be as custom, we weren’t going to invest money where we didn’t have to,” Athena adds. “It just felt logical instead of getting our contractor to custom build them.”

They positioned the existing refrigerator on one side and the washer/dryer stack on the other to balance it out, however, they soon realized after installation that the heights were uneven. To remedy it, Athena had her contractor create a panel above the fridge within the shaker design so it feels more like an integrated built-in kitchen. Voila! Problem solved. 

BEFORE

Step Inside Athena’s Newly Renovated Basement in Amagansett

“If there is a will, there is a way, and always a clever solution to be found.”

— Athena Calderone

AFTER

Step Inside Athena’s Newly Renovated Basement in Amagansett
Step Inside Athena’s Newly Renovated Basement in Amagansett

Inventive Solutions

One of the biggest conundrums was the crawl space behind the kitchen counter that left a cut-out opening in the tile. There is a plumbing valve in that crawl space that needs to be accessed at any given time, so Athena’s first idea of creating a backsplash needed to be reimagined. Eventually, they created a panel with all the tiles attached to the wall with magnets to cover the opening of the crawl space. So plumbers can simply remove that magnetized part of the backsplash to get access to the pipe. “I am never one to take no for an answer,” Athena declares. “I always think you can get creative with problem-solving and that was one of them. If there is a will, there is a way, and always a clever solution to be found.”

Another trick Athena inserted was finding a design solution to cover the HVAC mechanics and various pipes that were all different heights with weird jagged turns. “It made the room feel unfinished,” says Athena. “When I came across those jagged drop downs I decided to do one rectilinear ceiling drop to create one whole clean section from the lowest point so it feels intentional.”

To conceal the different ceiling planes, Athena carried the taupe paint from the walls into the ceiling. “With a low ceiling, oftentimes people want to paint it white, but I think wrapping the taupe paint color into the ceiling envelops you in one cozy space. I didn’t want it to be a different color from the walls so it made it an obvious statement. Using one color really tricks the eye so the space feels more spacious.”

BEFORE

Step Inside Athena’s Newly Renovated Basement in Amagansett

AFTER

“I didn’t think a rectilinear checkerboard floor would work but I love problem-solving and once I put a floor plan together I could see it would work.”

— Athena Calderone

Step Inside Athena’s Newly Renovated Basement in Amagansett

Resourceful Flooring

Athena had her heart set on a checkerboard design for the flooring to make a design statement (similar to her Brooklyn entry and patio) but supply chain delays meant her favored 12×12 or 18×18 from Clè tiles were out of stock. So she was forced to think outside the box. With a short timeline to finish the project, she opted for a 12×24 terrazzo in mouse and a 12×24 terrazzo in white to recreate a similar design she’d seen of a floor in Milan. “I didn’t think a rectilinear checkerboard floor would work but I love problem-solving and once I put a floor plan together I could see it would work,” she said. “When you’re trying to do something on a timeline you need to be malleable to what is available in stock and Clè had these in stock, so I adjusted the design to suit.” 

Bringing the terrazzo tile up from the floor around the baseboards was another design decision. “I wanted to do really tall 8 or 12-inch baseboards of stone but everyone vetoed me because the last stair tread was at 7 inches so it made sense to maintain that height throughout,” Athena recalls. “My husband and I have done so many renovations before so you have to look at the architectural details to see where things align before making those choices. It made sense to continue the same line from the stairs.”

Shop the Tiles:

Clè Foundry Flats Standard Issue Tiles in Sand Cast Brick

These unglazed thin bricks showcase rich, uniform color and a clean, modern surface, perfect for curating a minimalist mood.

Clè Forage Terrazzo Tiles in White 12x24

Imagine a river bed of smooth, water-worn stone encased in a solid foundation of handsomely-hued cement and you have clé forage terrazzo—Italian in nature but with an undeniably “Americana” vibe.

Clé 12x24 Forage Terrazzo Tiles in Mouse

This tile is hearty enough to be used as a countertop, elegant enough to grace any interior wall, and rugged enough for your most purposeful flooring.

Clé Forage Terrazzo Mouse 24x24

This terrazzo design takes its inspiration from the great wilderness of north America (where the aggregate in our terrazzo hails from) and celebrates woodsy earth tones.

Step Inside Athena’s Newly Renovated Basement in Amagansett
Step Inside Athena’s Newly Renovated Basement in Amagansett

Breaking the Rules

To create the effect of a custom-built kitchen, Athena painted the shaker drawers and doors from Wayfair and surrounding walls in a beautiful olive green so it all reads as one beautiful elevation that feels integrated, even though it is being used for different purposes. Despite being advised not to, Athena put her DIY cap on and found a way to make it work. “Call me crazy, but if you use a proper primer, you can always repaint cabinets,” she says. “So we primed and painted them in a matte olive green.” Athen

She also broke the rules by using a dark color in the basement to make a visual statement and insert a design POV. “if everything is all white, it will feel too vanilla,” she adds. Athena thought long and hard about the color palette, opting to paint the walls and the ceiling a taupe color which she pulled from the flooring. “I’m really attracted to these muted but saturated tones right now that are reminiscent of earth hues—terracotta, taupe, green—so I put together a mood board of that palette when deciding. I was worried that the green would come out of left field based on the two colors of the terrazzo floor but they all felt earthy enough to feel cohesive. But it’s definitely a statement.”

Shop the Wayfair Cabinetry:

D Drawer Base Cabinet Gs-Db12

These premium cabinet drawers brings the magazine-worthy kitchen home in an affordable way. Perfect for the DIY-er who wants to upgrade their cabinets in style.

Trimlite 30

This standard shaker door will enhance the warmth and beauty of any home. Prime and paint them like Athena to make a design statement.

Tier Wire Shelving Unit Black 77

With a 450 lb weight capacity per shelf on feet levelers, this wire shelving can hold your large, heavy boxes, big items, and everything in between.

BEFORE

Step Inside Athena’s Newly Renovated Basement in Amagansett

AFTER

Step Inside Athena’s Newly Renovated Basement in Amagansett

Functional Beauty

The TV room is teeter-tottering between a functional space and something beautiful. “I wanted to bring in some wood tones and be cognizant of inserting warmth and materiality,” Athena reveals. “Truthfully, the floor is cold in terms of slickness but also actually cold, so I wanted rugs for warmth but also to add that extra layer of tactility and comfort.” With an open floor plan, the separate rugs in the laundry and TV room also helped to anchor them and identify the room as a zone.

When styling the space, Athena injected her love of contrast, pairing vintage with new pieces. The elegant curvature of the Leonard sofa from Maiden Home and their Mulberry Ottoman with its pedestal base is juxtaposed beautifully against the vintage iron and stone coffee table. “The coffee table used to be outside on our terrace,” notes Athena. “After we finished the basement I said to Victor ‘let’s bring the table down.’ Both he and Jivan weren’t so sure but you should know me by now, there are no rules! When I see something that I love, I’m not reliant on what its original use was meant to be.”

Overhead lighting in a basement is essential but it can tend to feel cold and harsh so Athena shopped around her home upstairs to look for lamps that had a warm glow to them. “I was very cognizant to counterbalance that cool LED lighting, so I wanted to insert something that had warmth to it and the material of this vintage floor lamp does just that,” she says.

Shop the TV Room:

Maiden Home Leonard Sofa and Ottoman - 95' in Dew

The sculptural curves of The Leonard Sofa offer refined elegance and luxurious comfort. Slipcovered in linen for a relaxed, textural feel. Down-filled cushioning and a supportive seat provide luxurious comfort within a sculptural frame.

Maiden Home Mulberry Ottoman - Moss Mohair with Driftwood Finish

Design accent or comfortable seat? With its sculptural pedestal base and mohair plush top, this ottoman is both an elegant design statement and a cozy place to perch. Whether it's the counterpart to a cozy reading nook or an extra seat for your guest, this pedestal completes the look.

Step Inside Athena’s Newly Renovated Basement in Amagansett
Step Inside Athena’s Newly Renovated Basement in Amagansett

A Costly Mistake

One of her most costly design mistakes was painting the basement based on a color swatch at the paint store without bringing it into the space first to test a patch. “We had our painters paint the whole basement but it was way too white with a yellow hue,” she says. “It was a very silly and expensive mistake. After that, I got paint samples and tried them on the wall. I actually think you can push yourself and use a dark color in a small space that doesn’t have a lot of light because it has an adverse effect, making other areas feel brighter.”

Step Inside Athena’s Newly Renovated Basement in Amagansett

“I actually think you can push yourself and use a dark color in a small space that doesn’t have a lot of light because it has an adverse effect, making other areas feel brighter.”

— Athena Calderone

Victor’s Studio

Years of buying, renovating, and selling real estate together have educated Athena on the design elements needed for a recording studio from the specific type of insulation needed to the drywall that has more density to absorb sound. As far as the design itself, once construction was done, they needed to make sure the surfaces had a softness to them, and there were specific sound panels that needed to be inserted to prevent the sound from bouncing against regular drywall. “There are so many tricks you can do to absorb sound so it doesn’t bounce around,” says Athena. “There’s a lot to consider. It is a really interesting process.”

Step Inside Athena’s Newly Renovated Basement in Amagansett

FLOORPLAN

Step Inside Athena’s Newly Renovated Basement in Amagansett

The Source List

Contractor: North Haven Builders

LAUNDRY ROOM 

Tiles: Clé Foundry Flats Brick Tile in Sand

Flooring: Clé 12” x 24″ Terrazzo Tile in Mouse and White and Clè 24×24 Forage Terrazzo Tile in Mouse 

Wall & Ceiling Paint: Benjamin Moore Old Soul

Kitchen Cabinetry & Shaker Doors: D Drawer Base Cabinet Gs-Db12 from Wayfair

Cabinet Paint: Benjamin Moore Dark Olive

Cabinet Knobs: Kennedy Cabinet Knob 

Candlestick: Totem by Kim Ficaro

Artwork: Vanha Lam 

Vase: Vintage

Bowl: Vintage

Bronze Green Sculpture: Elliot Bergman from Deborah Pavillion

Refrigerator: Jenn-Air Rise 36″ French Door Freestanding Refrigerator 

Washer/Dryer: LG 4.5 Cu. Ft. High-Efficiency Stackable Smart Front Load Washer with Steam and Built-In Intelligence and 7.4 Cu. Ft. Stackable Smart Electric Dryer with Steam and Built-In Intelligence in Black steel

Bench: Skagerak Cutter Bench in Teak

Art: Armando Mesías from Galerie Ground Brooklyn

Rug: Beni x Athena Calderone, Broken Symmetry Periphery in Natural + Fawn

Floor Lamp: Vintage

Side Chair: Vintage Charlotte Perriand, Meribel Chair 1964

Accent Chair: Lulu Georgia x Sarah Samuel Sherman Ripple Accent Chair

Art: Aliyah Sadaf

Cleaning Products: Murchison-Hume Heirloom Kitchen Set

Laundry Products: Laverée Laundry Detergent

 

TV ROOM

Flooring: Clé 12” x 24″ Terrazzo Tile in Mouse and White and Clè 24×24 Forage Terrazzo Tile in Mouse 

Rug: Beni x Athena Calderone, Broken Symmetry Composition in Taupe + Fawn

Sofa: Maiden Home Leonard Sofa and Ottoman 95′ in Dew

Coffee Table: Vintage 1940’s Italian Outdoor Table 

Brown Vessel: D’Haene Studio

Ceramic Bowl: Evamarie Pappas

Stool: Maiden Home Mulberry Ottoman Moss Mohair with Driftwood Finish 

Wood Cocktail Table: Vintage French 1950’s 

Wood Stool with Mohair: Vintage French 1970’s (similar to Guillerme et Chambron)

Lamp: Vintage Ceramic Body (Vintage rattan shade purchased separately)

Wooden Stool: French 1950’s purchased in France at “Les Puces” Flea Market 

Chair: Sarah Ellison Huggy Swivel Chair 

HVAC Unit: Mrcool 9000 BTU Wi-Fi Connected Ductless Mini Split Air Conditioner for 250 Square Feet Sq. Ft. with and Remote Included from Wayfair

 

STORAGE ROOM

Surfboard Rack: Bamboo Vertical Surf Freestanding Rack from Wayfair

Black Metal Shelving: 77″ H x 60″ W x 24″ D 5 – Tier Wire Shelving Unit from Wayfair

Storage Containers: 14.5″ H x 17.8″ W x 23.6″ D White Plastic Tubs & Totes from Wayfair

 

POWDER ROOM 

Tiles:  Clé Foundry Flats Brick Tile in Sand

Sink: Memoirs® Stately 24″ Pedestal Bathroom Sink with 4″ Centerset Faucet Holes from Wayfair

Faucet: Kingston Brass KS4465BX Metropolitan Widespread Lavatory Faucet with Metal Cross Handle

Soap: Aesop Resurrection Aromatique Hand Wash

Mirror: Zara Home Large Irregular Mirror

Vase: Vintage

Art: Zane Taylor

Wall & Ceiling Paint: Benjamin Moore Old Soul

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