The only way is down: some (luxurious) ideas for your next basement project

Here’s a fun fact: If you combined the depth of all the basements created in London’s richest boroughs between 2008 and 2018, you’d be far deeper than the deepest point in all the world’s oceans. Looking the other way, you’d be high above all the world’s commercial flights. *

So if you’re looking to create a basement and wondering what you could use it for, London’s the place to look for your design inspiration. Here we feature just a few of the beautiful basements that have been built in our capital city recently, where the sky is definitely not the limit…

*The combined depth of the 4,650 basements created during the decade was 50,000ft. The Mariana Trench is 36,000ft deep, while flights tend to cruise between 35,000 and 42,000ft.

Basements on multiple floors

What's going down?

Intrigued by the burgeoning wealth of London’s property scene, Newcastle University’s Professor of Cities, Roger Burrows, undertook research into the city’s basement conversions. Raiding the planning portals of London’s wealthiest boroughs, including Hammersmith, Kensington and Chelsea, Wandsworth and Westminster, Dr Burrows compiled a list of so-called “mega-basements”. He found, among 4,650 basements created in those boroughs over the last decade, plans for:

  • 1,000 gyms
  • 380 swimming pools
  • 460 cinemas
  • 380 wine cellars
  • 120 staff rooms
  • 550 media rooms
  • 340 games rooms
  • 240 saunas or steam rooms
  • 60 underground garages (how dull!)

If that’s not extravagant enough, almost one in five basements were two-storey constructions while 112 were three storeys (or more) deep. Among the latter you could find car lifts, art galleries, gun stores and a panic room. One planned for a beach.

Trade association ASUC, which represents contractors who specialise in residential basement works, boasts some eye-catching basement designs on its members’ case study page.

Double-height basement with pool

This double-height basement includes a swimming pool, sauna, gym and cinema. The project, by Rackham Construction, was part of a demolition and rebuild of a 1960s multi-residential building, and also included landscaped gardens and access road.

Basement pool, by Rackham Construction

Basement: Break out the popcorn

Underground basement luxury

Basement above ground

A basement conversion providing additional structural benefit

A £750,000 refurbishment, extension and basement development of a Victorian house led to a modern, open-plan living space on the lower ground floor extending out into a compact walled garden. Croft Structural Engineers noted movement and water ingress during a site survey, stating, “There were significant cracks which one could place one’s hand into.”

The investigation revealed the building was sitting on soil filled with “soft and hard stops” which, according to Croft, may have been spoil from construction of the canal just over the road from the building. The new basement “was the perfect solution to prevent the building moving further.” So there was a structural benefit to the conversion as well as a significant practical and cosmetic one.

Large family home gets a little larger…

The Basement Design Studio had the privilege of creating this amazing subterranean world, featuring a true cinema, swimming pool, snooker room and glass-fronted wine cellar. This was a single-floor project that involved tunnelling under the existing solid concrete floors, which were underpinned with traditional structural methods. Despite the works required, the homeowners continued to live in the property while the basement was converted.

Pool and stairs in basement

Audrey Hepburn artwork in basement

Basement snooker room

Wine rack in basement

Up, down or both?

The Secretary of State for Housing, James Brokenshire, recently announced that Homes England would be investing in a programme to add living units made from modern methods of construction to the roofs of buildings in London. While our desire to build upwards continues, the appetite for digging down hasn’t gone away.

Many thanks to ASUC, Croft Structural Engineers, Rackham Construction Ltd and The Basement Design Studio for their help with this article and for allowing us to feature their projects and images.

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