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Basement Support Poles, What’s a Designer to Do?

12 AUG

basement pole

My husband and I decided to finish our basement this year for several reasons: we have two teenage girls who have outgrown their loft upstairs and needed another space to hang out with friends, we wanted additional space to entertain, and I needed a home office/meeting place for my interior design business.

For the almost five years we have lived in this home, our basement was an over 2,000 square foot area that went virtually unused except for storage of luggage and a rather undignified resting place for outgrown American Girl Dolls and Barbies.

basement 1
basment 2


We started the demo by taking out the nasty drop ceiling, tearing down a couple walls, and, of course, this revealed several red, ugly support poles. I mean, it’s not like we didn’t know they were there, but seeing them in the open of this expansive space, we knew they had to be addressed. But how?

basement 3

Like any decent designer, with a bit of insomnia, I immediately went to PinterestHouzz, and anywhere else for ideas at 3:00 am. This is what I found: plaster columns that looked like they belonged in Ancient Rome, expensive stone columns that would be okay in say a craftsman style home, but not ours, and the occasional palm tree disguise. We weren’t exactly planning on putting a Jimmy Buffet Tiki Bar down there.

tiki bar

I wasn’t going to give up! This was a meeting space for clients. It needed to show my creativity and design capability. Something boring or generic to hide these structural polls wasn’t an option, neither was getting rid of them.

Let’s make them an architectural focal point – the element in the space that is most unexpected, and yet looks so intentional!


So, I thought: why try to pretend they aren’t there? Let’s make them an architectural focal point – the element in the space that is most unexpected, and yet looks so intentional!

I was looking for a quartz countertop and custom cabinets for a small wet bar in our basement, that’s where I met Tim Helm of Helm Improvement.

tim helm

I told him my challenges and my ideas for creating an almost cage like form around the support poles made of horizontal, stacked, 2×4’s with a slight gap in between each board. After a few sketches, we had conversations about the right wood and how to make it all consistent. Tim was off to his shop!


These beauties showed up at my home pre-cut and stained. Tim and his crew had assembled three sides and simply had to connect the fourth side. No dust, no mess in my home! We were so thrilled with his work. He also built cabinets, floating shelves, a hand rail to compliment the columns (we had an old, flimsy one), and a shelf under our daylight windows where an old shelf existed that had sun damage and wood rot.

pole 1

When the renovation was complete, Manka Interiors hosted an open house. What were once steel poles that were a necessity but an eye sore, and reminded you that you were below ground, became the element that transformed a “basement” into another level of our home! Our daughters love having friends over to watch movies. It has been another place to entertain and our clients have the ability to see our design potential!

I can’t begin to stress how important it is to find great, reliable contractors in all fields of building and renovation projects. I have worked with all types, good and not so good. I now have what I deem as list of people that I would recommend to all Manka Interior’s clients.

Jenny Manka