One Room Challenge

Before and After: A 1987 “Dumping Ground” Basement Becomes a Cozy, Inviting Hangout Space

published Jun 30, 2022
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About this before & after
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Before: Cluttered basement with beige walls and carpet

The best basements are cozy, practical hangout spaces that look, well, not at all basement-like.

It’s possible to turn a “cold, dated, dark, and dreary” basement, like Rachael Murray’s, (@ourdresseduphome) into a space that has style and storage and space to spread out and watch TV or read a book.

“After completing our main level family room update, we soon realized that our brand-new sofa was not the spot we wanted for our family movie nights or our young children’s friends and snacks!” Rachael says. “We knew that if we truly wanted to feel comfortable and excited to spend time in the basement, a few changes needed to happen!”

Rachael wanted to change the drop ceiling with mismatched ceiling tiles, the one fluorescent overhead light, the layers of carpet with beige linoleum underneath, the dated textured finish of the bulkhead and hallway, the clunky electrical box, and the trim.”Everywhere you looked, the trim and walls were damaged from years of use,” Rachael recalls.

Not only did the surfaces need sprucing up, but the whole space needed decluttering. “Because it was so uninviting, the basement soon because a dumping ground for unpacked boxes, items that hadn’t yet found a home in the remainder of the house, and any miscellaneous items that I just didn’t want to clutter up my main floors,” Rachael says. “It was becoming a disaster!”

She and her husband and her dad worked on the basement during the Spring 2022 One Room Challenge, though “from the day [they] took down the first ceiling tile to take a peek at what lurked above to the day of the final family room reveal was about six months of inconsistent weekend and evening work,” Rachael explains.

They removed the drop ceiling, added pot lights, dry-walled the ceiling and a couple of walls which once had ’80s-style panelling, sanded down and skim-coated the textured ceiling on the bulkhead and hallway, installed new LVP flooring throughout, then added trim and paint (Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace). “Probably the part that went the most smoothly would be laying the luxury vinyl plank flooring,” Rachael says, and she’s proud of her trim installation.

“I took the trim work into my own hands and learned to calculate the miter angles and cut and fit them myself,” she recalls. “I definitely relied on some assistance and guidance for the finicky finish work of getting them completely installed properly on the wonky, out-of-square walls in this home, but it feels pretty awesome to have made so much progress on my own!”

After the walls and ceilings were revamped, Rachael and family focused special attention on the media wall, where they mounted the TV and hid the cords and installed a floating IKEA BESTA console underneath. To the right of that, they created a slatted cabinet to conceal the electrical panel (painted Benjamin Moore’s Wrought Iron). “We built it in like a little closet with a single panel on hinges for access,” Rachael writes on Instagram.

She says it’s one of her favorite parts of the project — that, and “walking downstairs to a light, bright, stylish living area” now.

Rachael’s advice for anyone renovating an entire floor of their home? Know that it’s slow and messy! “Some projects drag on and on with very little immediate gratification,” she says. (In her case, it was the drywall.) But, she adds, don’t give up — the good stuff is right around the corner. Rachael suggests, as she did in her own redo, to “finish the guts of the entire space and then tackle the fun finishing and styling projects zone by zone.”

This project was completed for the Spring 2022 One Room Challenge, in partnership with Apartment Therapy. See even more of the One Room Challenge before and afters here.