Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Our basement renovation: the reveal!

Max isn't so interested in sleeping in his room anymore. Every night, he asks if he can sleep in the basement. It is his new favorite place, where he gets his therapies and plays, and he would happily move in if we let him. I wouldn't mind living there, either, because it is now the most nicely decorated part of our house, so Max and I will have to duke it out. 

We renovated the basement to make it more family friendly and create a dedicated space for the therapies Max gets six days a week. He's easily distracted, and so I needed an organized, non-cluttered, zen sort of area, with a little Lightning McQueen thrown in.



It took longer to complete than I expected and more money (a basic truth of any reno project), and serious patience (I almost lost it when I had to screw in a kajillion handles and knobs), but it was all worth it.

The paint is Sherwin-Williams in Friendly Yellow. Choosing the color was a workout—so many yellows! I wanted one that looked sunny, but not too much so that we'd get tired of it. Dave has this bad (or smart) habit of saying "Whatever you like, honey!" so the crowd-sourcing I did here really helped. We used the eco-friendly Emerald Interior Acrylic Latex line for primer and paint; the color is rich, it's washable, it has something in it that stops mold and mildew from forming and it's zero-VOC. That meant it had barely any smell when it went on, so none of us got nasty paint-fume headaches.

The floor is Mannington Adura Luxury Flooring Acacia in African Sunset. I did a lot of research on flooring, and this stuff is excellent quality and seriously good-looking. When I say, "It's vinyl!" nobody believes me; the planks, their color and the grain pattern truly look like wood. It cleans up fast when the kids splatter paint on it.  

Laura, a designer at our local IKEA, helped me choose the BESTÅ cabinetry for the back wall. She graphed it out on a computer, and I decided where I wanted the glass panels. The room isn't so big, and I figured having a few clear ones would open up the space. 

The paneled BESTÅ Vassbo doors fit in nicely with our traditional-ish decor.

We put Fintorp handles on all the BESTÅ cabinetry, easy for Max to grasp. (The stainless steel ones are discontinued, but they're available in black).

A lot of friends suggested getting a solid sofa, then accessorizing it. For a while I considered a white one, especially since the covers are machine washable and when I googled "IKEA white sofa" I found posts with people gushing about how much they love theirs. But the reality is, I am not the type to diligently pull off chocolate-milk-doused covers and wash them. Pinstripes hide a lot more stains and crud (and now, you probably have no desire to ever come visit me). 

This is the Ektorp Loveseat in Åbyn Blue. We got two of them—a sofa was too large for the room. The only problem is that they are so comfy the kids want to lounge on them and have movie night all the time. The red pillows are from Bed, Bath & Beyond and the patterned one that matches the curtains, an IKEA Emmie Kvist Cushion.

I would have never thought to combine a paisley cushion with a pinstripe seat if I hadn't seen it in the showroom, so don't be too impressed. 

It was Laura, the IKEA designer, who suggested I put full-length curtains on the rectangular windows that are only a foot high—they give the illusion of length.

I did get a white armchair, the IKEA EKTORP Jennylund Chair. Given that a cover is only $29, I figured I could deal with chocolate-milk (or worse) stains. That's a Kennebunk Home orange throw from Nordstrom.

IKEA Ektorp Foostool in Blekinge white (new cover: $19.99). There's storage space under the seat, handy for toys, books and hiding dirty laundry when guests come over. (Like I said, nobody's ever coming to visit us again.)

Finding a great desk was key; it needed to be solid and durable enough for occupational and speech therapy activities, with room for Max to grow. The chairs had to be comfy and give good support, because he sometimes slumps. 

Voila! The Carolina Large Table in White from Pottery Barn Kids, with Carolina Kids Chairs in Navy, has been awesome—and it looks nice, too.

Max loves sitting at the desk with his iPad. It has become his go-to spot for occupational therapy, speech therapy and music therapy—and he's really, really focusing.

I wanted Max to have a couple of different surfaces to practice writing on, so we went with the Chalkboard and Dry Erase Hayden Simply White Utility Boards from Pottery Barn Kids. Plus (center) the Pinboard, for hanging up masterpieces. 

Seeing Max write his name is a thrill every single time

Max insisted on having a basket for his BFF. They're from Pottery Barn Kids and they're called...Sabrina Baskets! Sabrina was rather psyched about that.

Max can now beam his speech app onto the TV via Apple TV; hearing "I want macaroni and cheese with ketchup" from a glorious 55-inch screen kind of blows his iPad away. We got the Panasonic VIERA TC-PVT60 3D Plasma HDTV, and it is the best picture quality I've ever seen—sharp, and colors really pop. 

 The TV's also thin and sleek (exactly what I aspire to in life). We haven't yet let Max watch Cars 2 in 3D on it because of the chance he would not leave the basement for the rest of his life.

I'm a little color-shy, why I called my friend Kristen over for perspective on what to hang on the walls. She introduced me to the wonders of Modern Digital Canvas, glorious images hand-stretched over a canvas that come ready to hang.

The Choti, a cheerful daisy on a milk-chocolate background 

The requisite Cars wall for Max (RoomMates stick-on decals)...

...and peace signs for Sabrina.

Lutron Skylark Contour Dimmer—perfect for Max because the slide control is easy to manipulate.

OK, so maybe HGTV won't be giving me my own show or anything, but I am proud of how our basement turned out. When I say to Max, "Mommy did this for you, do you like it?" he says "Eeeyah!" ["Yes!"]—and then he goes right back to playing Cars 2. 

Also check out: Our laundry room makeover—more exciting than it sounds, especially because it has inspired Max to do the laundry.

Thanks to IKEA, Pottery Barn Kids, Sherwin-Williams, Panasonic, Mannington, Modern Digital Canvas and Lutron for contributing items to our renovation.


  1. It's lovely! We are getting ready to renovate our basement into a play area for our kids. This helps give me some ideas.

  2. Replies
    1. Yes, Louise, because I need more playdates in my life!

  3. This comment has nothing to do with your basement, which is lovely! I read your blog because you make me laugh, and because I have two good friends who are mothers to kids with special needs and so I find the insight about your challenges helpful information. I also realized this past weekend that reading your blog has made me more at ease interacting with kids with special needs whom I don't know at all, as happened last week at the town pool. You and your family are really doing all of us (your readers) an incredible service!!

    1. I so love hearing this, totally made my day. Thank you.

  4. I love this renovation, it's just great! It makes me wish I had a basement!

  5. nice I want to come over to play in the basement it looks so fun

  6. It is absolutely lovely! If I had a basement, I would want it to look like that. I'm sure your whole family will enjoy spending lots of time down there. My favorite part is the wall color. It just looks so fun. We love IKEA too and have their Ektorp L-shaped couch--it is seriously my favorite thing in my house!

    Can't wait to see the laundry room makeover--since I spend a lot of time in mine, I told my husband I refuse to do laundry in a scary place, so luckily when we moved to our current home 4 years ago, the laundry room was already done and I liked it.

  7. Looks great! I love the cabinets, and girl, anyone who whips the cover off of a sofa the second something spills on it has way too much free time!

  8. The transformation was truly terrific!! So glad the kids have a great new place to hang out. You seemed to have chosen quality products.

  9. Ellen this room is AWESOME! When can I move in? LOL! What a great space, everything works so well together.

    Those Sabrina baskets are cool - now THIS Sabrina wants them too! :D

  10. Wow! This room is amazing! Love the colors and the fact that most of it is washable! I can't wait to see the laundry room!

  11. Looks AWESOME, Ellen. Love that room. I want to come and live with you! I know Max and your family will enjoy this space for many years to come. Thanks for sharing.

  12. I love the before and after shots. It totally makes me appreciate all the work that went into the transformation. I miss basement living. Here in Manila, (Philippines) very few homes have basements. I miss my basement because even if I had company over, I wouldn't worry because all of the kids' stuff would be contained behind the door to their playroom. Thanks for sharing Ellen!

  13. Looks great!!!! I wish my "after" would look as good as your "before"--we could use a makeover!

  14. This is absolutely gorgeous! I wanna live in your basement!

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Thanks for sharing!