Man transforms dusty basement into heirloom-filled ‘speakeasy’

Tim Herbstrith finished the basement of his south Minneapolis home and created a "speakeasy" decorated with repurposed family heirlooms. (Tim Herbstrith/TNS)

MINNEAPOLIS — Tim Herbstrith wasn’t planning on a major basement project. But one day, he went into the unfinished basement of his 1908 south Minneapolis home to take out an old alarm system and replace it.

“This basement was full of old wires, like an old phone line, that weren’t really doing anything, so I started pulling those out ‚” he said. “Then I thought, ‘I’m going to try to organize this basement.’”


While he was at it, Herbstrith decided to make the space usable. “It was a weird, musty unfinished basement with falling-apart concrete walls,” he said.

This also gave Herbstrith the perfect opportunity to dig out family heirlooms stored in the attic.

“I never wanted to use it to decorate my house because it’s not my style. I thought the basement could be kind of fun and the only place [it would work],” he said. “I wanted it to feel like a speakeasy or something like that.”

How it was created: Herbstrith patched the concrete himself, leaving other tasks, such as updating and adding electrical, to the pros. Next, he started to redecorate with family heirlooms, even repurposing some of the pieces.

“I turned my grandma’s wagon into a bookshelf and I made [my dad’s old] high chair the host stand,” Herbstrith said, adding that a porcelain rottweiler perched on the chair greets visitors.

He turned his dad’s bowling ball into a sculpture. “I spray painted a 3-foot-tall metal candlestick gold and then I took the bowling ball and I drilled a hole in the bottom of it where it sits on that candlestick holder before tying the shoes around the candlestick,” he said.

Finishing touches: Herbstrith furnished the space with pieces that family and friends no longer wanted or that were reused from other places.

“I’d find a [second-hand] piece for 10 bucks and I’d buy some rugs on Facebook Marketplace, that sort of thing,” he said. “I wanted to try to do this inexpensively and I’m trying to keep stuff out of the landfills.”

Total cost: $3,400, with the highest bills being electrical ($1,700), while the remainder went toward project supplies and décor.

The new favorite room: Whether watching television, listening to music or conversing, Herbstrith has spent plenty of time with family and friends in his newly finished entertainment space.

He especially loves his family members’ reactions when they first come over and the many conversations prompted by the décor.

“I’m very happy about that because what was all this junk, but very meaningful to people in my life, now has a place,” he said. “It’s something I wanted to do for a long time.”

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