Jul/Aug
2016

Remodeler's Corner: The King George Pub at the Bottom of the Stairs

Written by Bob Freund
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Contractor: Elias Construction, L.L.C.

Project: Lower Level Remodel.

Subcontractors: Bright Ideas, Dapper Surfaces, DeGeus Tile & Granite, Ferguson, Haley Comfort Systems, K&S Heating, Air Conditioning, Plumbing, Electrical, North Star Stone and Masonry, Shea’s Way Custom Cabinetry, Top Shop of Rochester

When Jonathan and Tricia Torrens-Burton crave a pint of foamy ale or a rousing game of darts, they always can frequent “The King George.” Their favorite pub is never more than a few steps and a few stairs away. Descending down stairs past the picture of the Union Flag, they enter their private pub, passing under the most British of cheers overhead “God Save The Queen.”

British Roots Grow in the Basement  

The King George fills much of the lower level in the Torrens-Burton home in rural Oronoco. The couple indulged British roots when, after a dozen years in their home, they decided to finish their walk-out basement. They figured “If we’re going to finish it, let’s do something different and fun down there,” Tricia says. 

The Torrens-Burton family has an authentic connection to the Queen’s realm.  Jonathan is a true Brit. Born in Southampton, England, he came to America 22 years ago and now holds dual citizenship in the United Kingdom and the United States. Jonathan returns to England every year to see his British relatives. “For him, England is home,” says his Minnesota-born spouse.

When they found remodeling specialist Elias Construction, L.L.C. of Byron through a friend in the construction industry, their lowest floor was used merely for storage space. During a five-month period from late 2014 to the following spring, the Torrens-Burtons and Elias Construction built the pub-themed room and a guest bedroom/bathroom.

COINING A BAR FOR DECORATION

The King George’s freestanding bar, the centerpiece to the pub, stretches 9 feet long and is parallel to another 9-foot wet bar, where drinks and food are prepared. The most unique features in the oakwood bars are the countertops. They gleam with hundreds of British and American pennies, all sealed into a bed of clear epoxy. From the right angle, a viewer can spot the Union Flag—the flag of the United Kingdom—drawn out in pennies. 

The King George is equipped for darts. An English-made dartboard hangs in front of a handmade corkboard, made of about 1,650 wine corks to protect the wall. Competitors toss their darts from a rubber mat, marked for distance from the dartboard, and they tally scores by hand at a nearby chalkboard, Jonathan says. No electronics here.

The in-house pub also evokes Britain with details for the eye and the ear. A large silver bell has an important role. In an authentic pub, “Ten minutes before they have to stop serving, (bartenders) will say ‘Last orders!’” and ring the bell, Jonathan explains. The bathroom door is labeled “WC,” short for “water closet.” Even the red, white, blue and grays in the walls echo the colors of the Union Flag, says Tricia, who painted and papered the walls.  

A portrait of Jonathan’s grandfather, Sgt. Arthur Torrens Burton of the 36th Ulster Division, British Expeditionary Force, and his citation for “gallantry and good work” under fire in World War I looks out from one wall in the pub. 

An outdoor patio was enlarged and repaved to enhance the interior project. Just outside the patio door stands an old iron bathtub, named “The Pub Tub.” When the camaraderie flows out into the patio, “We fill (the tub) with ice and put beer in it,” Jonathan says. The old-style tub is a hefty heirloom from Tricia’s grandparents. 

THE FAMILY TOUCH TOO

The Torrens-Burtons took the opportunity to carve out a complementing family room with a wide-screen TV and area sound system. A new fireplace contains a thin decorative brick named “English Pub,” Jonathan says.

The most complicated construction for the project involved removing concrete and reworking the plumbing for a new guest bedroom and bathroom, Elias Construction owner Mickey Elias says. In the new bathroom, Elias converted an antique dresser into a vanity supporting a round sink.

Much of what now is underfoot in the Torrens-Burton house also is new. The pub and family room floors were refreshed with smooth, colored concrete—in this case, a dark brown that looks almost like soil. The Torrens-Burtons also chose bamboo wood for new flooring in the main living areas of their home. “Bamboo has become more popular,” Elias said. “It’s a durable, hard product.” 

The couple began working with Elias in October 2014, and in just more than three months, construction began in January 2015. The Byron contractor featured the Torrens-Burton home in the 2015 Remodelers Tour sponsored by Rochester Area Builders Inc.  

“I thought it turned out gorgeous,” Elias says. It certainly is “one of my favorite basements,” the contractor says.

Bob Freund is a freelance writer based in Rochester.