See How a Dark, Dingy Basement Became a Cheerful WFH Spot on a Tight Budget

published Mar 16, 2021
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Before: Stairs leading to dated '70s basement with blue carpet

Small budgets can yield big changes, and this home in Des Moines, Iowa, is proof of that. Jessica Rae Lemmo of ALT Design Studio remodeled and staged the short-sale home, comprising three bedrooms and two bathrooms amid 1,021 square feet.

Built in 1959, the dated house needed a full renovation to update and brighten it. The dark and dingy basement, in particular, demanded extra attention. “This ’70s basement had seen its fair share of poker parties,” Lemmo says. “Walls wrapped in velvet wallpaper and plush blue carpet no longer plush or blue. It was clear that it all needed to go.”

Because of a strict budget, the team couldn’t afford many material upgrades, so they had to make do with the wood-paneled walls. Painting them with Pearly White by Sherwin-Williams not only brightened them but highlighted the vertical texture of the paneling, giving the illusion of height. “We were pleased with the brightness this simple design transformation added to the space,” she says. New neutral carpeting was also installed.

Another challenge was the fact that the basement was split into two small spaces by the central staircase. Making spaces feel more open is typically one main goal of a home stager, but Lemmo worked with what she had.

“We embraced this design challenge by treating them as two different uses of space,” Lemmo says. One side was transformed into a chic office, which many buyers are seeking these days as they continue to work from home.

Choosing the office furnishings was tricky, as a traditional desk and chair set would have overwhelmed and crowded the space. “Our staging expertise led us to this pro tip: Turn a console table into a desk,” she says. “Smaller-scaled furniture suits small spaces while maintaining full functionality.” The white desk matches the walls, and a modern black chair adds contrast. Meanwhile, a window behind the desk allows for natural light, a desk lamp provides task lighting, and the built-in ledge shelf acts as a perfect spot to display stylish accessories.

On the other side, Lemmo and her team decided to create a “drop zone” of sorts, where the homeowners could store shoes, coats, backpacks, and more. A wooden bench doubles as storage and seating, and the shaggy blanket on top offers warmth and texture — perfect for harsh Iowa winters.

Twin light fixtures on the ceiling marry both spaces, while the emerald green throw pillow on the bench is one of several pops of green placed throughout the space; others include books, a couple faux plants, and the stairs. There, the blue carpet was removed, and the treads were painted a mint hue — setting the stage for the fresh, clean transformation of the space overall.

“Once outdated with a side of scary, the basement upgrades were now bright and cheerful,” Lemmo says.