COLONIE — When Connie and Tyrone Benton wanted to finish their basement and make more room for extended family, they thought it would be finished in a matter of a few months.
Due in part to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s going to take a bit longer.
“We are putting a bathroom in our basement and finishing the other half of the basement because I have my 100-year-old mother living with us,” Connie said. “The workload has increased and we needed additional help. So my sister-in-law has also moved in.”
The Bentons have lived in their three-bedroom home in Colonie since 1996, and while it’s undergone a few changes, this is a substantial project and one that’s taken a lot of patience.
“We started the project early this year hoping that it would take a month or two and then be done, but nobody anticipated COVID,” Connie said.
Part of the basement is finished, and it’s where her sister-in-law has been staying. However, they want to add a bathroom and finish the rest of it to make it a more comfortable space.
To tackle the renovations, they’re working with Marianne Clifford of Marianne Ashley Designs.
“We’re just doing what we’re allowed to do. We had to wait a while for the permit office to be open. For a while, they weren’t even [open]. Marianne and I, in the meantime, and my husband sat down and came up with the design, found the contractors we wanted. We’ve been doing little things along the way,” Connie said.
A few of Clifford’s projects have been delayed this year because of the pandemic. It’s caused not only delays in securing permits, but also delays in various supply chains, including countertop providers, cabinet fabricators and more.
Despite the disruptions, most of the time Clifford and the Bentons meet virtually via video calls. As they discussed the design of the basement, Clifford created renderings of the bathroom and some of the other spaces. In terms of design, the basement is a blank canvas, with just a few utilities to work around and plenty of space to be reimagined.
But before they could begin making changes, they had to complete one of the most time-consuming steps: cleaning out the basement. It’s something many have done during the pandemic while spending more time at home.
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“After being in a house for 24 years, you accumulate things. You don’t realize how much,” Connie said. As they cleared out the basement, they realized they needed outdoor storage space, and so they began working on a shed to put in the backyard.
When it comes to the basement renovations, they have to be extra cautious because of the pandemic. Each person who works on the project enters through the basement rather than the main floor of the home to reduce the risk of exposure, which is especially important for Connie’s mother.
“When we have the contractors come they’ve worn masks. We’ve been blessed to have no problems with that,” Connie said.
Clifford has been calling in via video when contractors arrive so that she can see what’s been done and help to direct the next steps. Usually she’d be there in person, but the video calls have been effective so far.
When The Gazette spoke with the family in August, they were still waiting on final approval from the town of Colonie on some aspects of the project, though contractors had started by creating a moisture barrier to help prevent mold.
The bathroom will eventually have a bright, beach-like aesthetic, matched by a hallway decorated with ombre peach colors, providing the effect of a sunset. The rest of the basement will have an exercise space and a laundry room.
“There’s a lot of really fun features in there,” Clifford said.
Before this project, the Bentons had never worked with a professional designer.
“We realized in going through it that we couldn’t have gotten the help that we wanted without going through Marianne, because there is so much to choose from for every aspect,” Connie said “It’s the mirrors that you want, the sinks, the counters, the vanity, the tub. There’re a zillion choices, and you don’t know where to begin and you have a certain look in your mind, but you don’t know how to put it together to get what it is you really like if you aren’t trained to do that.”
Of course, working together during a pandemic has added a few extra challenges and delays.
“Everything takes time. I’m just being patient. Thankfully, my sister-in-law is being patient, too,” Connie said.
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