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Builder Turns Rec Room into Adult Cave

What's your basement like? A bare storage space? A rec room where the kids bounce on old sofas between video games? Arnold Karp says there's a third option, one he calls "The Adult Cave."

The "cave" Karp's company created in a New Canaan basement won an award from the Home Builders Association of Connecticut (HOBI) for best special purpose room. The clients, a young married couple with children, wanted to transform their poorly finished basement into a place where they could entertain friends in style and comfort. On their wish list were a movie theater and a wine cellar. And they wanted a contemporary design to contrast with the traditional home upstairs.

Karp, a banker-turned-builder, started Karp Associates 20 years ago, learning his new trade from the ground up after persuading a builder to hire him. "I traded a closet full of suits for a closet full of jeans and khakis," he says, laughing.

Karp Associates tackles every project, whether it's a multi-million dollar mansion or a powder room renovation, the same way. "We use the team approach," he says, "so no details are ever missed."

His attention to detail, a relic of his training as an accountant, comes in handy when  estimating construction costs. "Proper budgeting is a lost art," he says. He guarantees that every project will be completed on time and within one percent of the agreed budget.

"We look at everything - and if the architect forgot to draw in the gutters or the front path, we add those to our estimate," Karp says, adding that clients appreciate knowing exactly how much a project will cost.

The New Canaan basement turned out just the way Karp's clients had hoped. A 12-foot floor-to-ceiling glass wall separates the temperature- and humidity-controlled wine cellar from a home movie theater  -- with a 110-inch movie screen. A custom acoustic shade, made from the same fabric covering the surround sound speakers, rolls down over the glass wall to prevent glare during screenings.

"We try to think of everything," Karp says. "It's part of our service."

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