This Toronto couple wanted to transform their partially finished basement into a big hangout for entertaining and for their kids to enjoy. Their wish list included a TV lounge, office space, a full kitchen and a full remodel for the existing 1970s bathroom. The creative team of Luca Campacci and Vinh Le gave them a clean, contemporary space, inspired by midcentury modern design and warmed by organic textures and colors.
Go Up to the Rafters Dropped ceilings are most commonly removed in basements because they often have the lowest ceilings in the house. This exposes the ceiling joists and beams, as well wires, pipes and ductwork, creating an industrial loft-like look. In this project from The Cousins, the ceiling’s dark color helps camouflage those elements.
2. Make a rug statement. This workspace, painted entirely white, is anchored by the bold purple carpet tiles set out in an interesting shape. Carpet tiles are a cost-effective option for basement flooring as they can be purchased by the box and laid out to separate a zone or add warmth to a bare concrete floor.
Workspace Workspaces are often hard to come by, and if you can designate a corner for one in your basement, you’ll be glad for it. Surprisingly, it doesn’t take much to create a bright and functional zone out of, well, nothing. 1. Furnish and decorate. This basement office room works so well because it really has everything you need. Again, this is essentially a raw basement that has been cleaned up with paint. Two collapsible tables are tucked into a corner to create ample desk space. An antique-style armoire and side table add hefty traditional elements that dress up the zone and offer storage. An area rug warms the painted concrete floor, and the bright task track lighting is layered with the warm glow of a table lamp. The pretty butterfly mobile finishes this space.
3. Leave it open. Another way to save some money in your basement bathroom is to skip the walls altogether. Here, a section of the basement is used for the bathroom, which is open concept. The shower is made out of a tiled curb with a curtain bar, giving it a modern look when privacy is not a concern. The toilet, not seen in this photo, is in a separate, walled-off enclosure behind the wall with the towel bar.
Build a Bathroom Adding a bathroom to your basement can be a worthwhile venture. In addition to being functional, it adds a lot of value to your home. But basement bathroom additions can be costly if you don’t already have the plumbing and drains roughed in. If you’re lucky enough to have this option, finishing it on a budget will be rewarding. 1. Just do the basics. This bathroom, which abuts one of the laundry rooms I’ve featured, is mostly unfinished. Creatively sectioned off with wood planks and paint, it proves that a bathroom need not have marble and high-end finishing to be warm, cute and functional.
Install cabinetry. The money saved on finishing flooring, walls and ceiling can often be better spent on cabinets in your basement laundry area. This basement is a new build, and the concrete floors are sealed, the stairs are painted a deep gray, and the ceiling is left exposed. There’s a clean white bank of cabinets with a countertop, adding storage and a place to fold. This technically unfinished space is inviting as well as practical. Additional cabinetry can be used for a variety of things, like storing dry goods, linens or out-of-season clothing.
Outfit a Laundry Room For many of us, basement laundry means a dark and dank place to toss the clothes in, pull them out and quickly run back upstairs. But this doesn’t have to be the way we choose to live. A little effort can convert an ugly space to one where you’ll want to spend time. 1. Get creative with paint and decor. This basement laundry is left nearly entirely unfinished, but with some creativity it’s become a clean and bright corner nonetheless. The exposed ceiling joists are painted a deep charcoal, the concrete floor is a fun red, and wood shelving and furniture add interest and utility. A throw rug warms up the floor, and what appears to be reclaimed wood boards frame off a private bath.
This space is actually a converted garage, but it’s not difficult to imagine it as a basement. This space, too, follows our formula for a comfortable basement living space. Left mostly unfinished, the concrete block walls and the floors are painted, and there is a focal point around the TV. Again, soft furniture and a large rug anchor the living area, and low-cost plywood is used to divide zones.
Establish a focal point. Go ahead and furnish your unfinished below-grade space as cozily as you would your upstairs finished rooms. A great way to do this is to furnish around a focal point. Here, the designer created a focal point of a bar and a shelving area with space for a TV, books and games. Graphic rugs and large, soft furniture and lighting bring warmth and life to the space. Note that this basement is, like the other examples, mostly unfinished. The ceilings are open, the concrete block wall is painted, and it appears the concrete floor is as well. Finally, the owner chose white wall paint. This room shows how this simple formula for a basement can form the backdrop for a cozy living space. The finished decorative and soft furnishing elements add the comforts that make the space feel homey.
Here’s a look at a fully buried, partially finished basement that uses the white paint trick to illuminate the space. This basement-turned-apartment is complete with kitchen, living, bedroom and bathroom zones. The white walls and open, white-painted ceiling make it bright and livable even when not much natural light breaks through.
This basement obviously gets a lot of natural light, thanks to the fact that it is a walk-out basement-style space. But a great way to provide the illusion of light and to add ceiling height is to paint everything white. With this room’s exposed ceilings and walls painted a crisp white, it’s hard to tell where the walls end and the ceilings begin.
Another unexpected and low-cost alternative wall material is an engineered lumber such as oriented strand board (OSB), typically used for subfloors or sheathing in construction. This unconventional choice is a creative, less expensive way to cover concrete walls and divide living zones. The key to using a material like this is to apply it to a large area (as shown in this photo) so that it’s clear that using it was an intentional design choice.
Ditch the drywall. A shot of this basement from a different angle shows that in the living area, the concrete foundation walls and floor of this 1920s house have been given a clean coat of paint. Paint is quite often the quickest and least expensive way to freshen and update a room. Another tip is to drywall only some areas of the room, as this photo shows for the wall where the bike is mounted. A limited use of drywall can demarcate spaces, add interest and keep costs down. In this remodel, a cool partition of corrugated metal offers an interesting alternative to more traditional walls.
The staircase was designed to take up as little space as possible while still complying with building regulations in terms of tread depth and riser height. “I wanted the space underneath to be useful, so there are two hidden doors that conceal the underfloor heating controls and the electrical fuse box,” Dadswell says. The simple powder-coated steel balustrade ties in with the windows and doors.
For the walls, Dadswell chose handmade Moroccan tiles from Mosaic del Sur that have a patchwork effect due to the variation of each tile. “They reflect the light beautifully but are quite difficult to lay,” she says. “I found the vintage shell pendant in a local antiques warehouse at the beginning of the build,” she adds. “It somehow survived nine months of being moved from rental house to building site — although I did spend a few hours reattaching shells once it was finally hung.” Kitchen cabinet paint: Mole’s Breath, Farrow & Ball
The cross-braced ceiling beams had been covered with a foot-thick layer of cork by a previous owner. “It was to keep the space really cold, as it had been used as an ice cream factory,” Dadswell says. “I wanted the space to feel light, so I decided to paint all of the ceilings throughout in a soft off-white.”
CEILING PAINTED RAFTERS AND CROSS BARS
Beams Above Soft gray walls, a beamed ceiling and a dramatic bar top make this home bar in Minneapolis a welcoming place to belly up. The ceiling beams, paneling behind the wine bottles and wood shelving are all by Manomin Resawn Timbers. Subway tiles on the back wall add a hip restaurant feel.
“We really liked the wobbly old staircase, but we could not secure it. Édouard made this straight staircase that leads to the sheepfold guest room,” Dupuis says. The original tiles had to be scrapped, unfortunately, since the floor had to be insulated.
5. Add a touch of whimsy with numbers. Painting your stairs using numbered stencils is an easy way to give your stairs a cheeky twist. Without the numbered steps, this staircase would definitely feel less playful and interesting. You can choose to line up your numbers on either side of your stairs or down the middle. Be sure to measure as you stencil each step to ensure the numbers line up. I recommend that you start from the top and work your way down to avoid any potential mishaps with wet paint.
Try a color trio. For a more dramatic effect, play with color. This bold color combination of black, white and green paint makes this staircase a statement feature. You will notice the color trio is also carried up to the wall with the use of green picture frames and black-and-white photography. The vibrant Kelly green is also repeated throughout the residence with decor accents like a bold green porter’s chair in the entry and green trellis-patterned drapery in the living room. When considering a color trio for your staircase, think about how the colors will work with the connecting rooms. This will keep it from feeling like an afterthought.
Here’s another take on the painted runner. This staircase, in a home in the United Kingdom, also has white sides, but the center is painted a soft gray, and this runner is much wider. This is a more subtle effect and works with the gentle color scheme of this white, gray and wood staircase and landing area. The approach also fits the style of this elegant home with a neutral palette.
4. Paint a runner. This staircase in a London home features a wood strip down the center of the staircase, with white painted on both sides of the staircase as well as the bottom riser. The paint job creates an effect of a natural wood runner making its way down the stairs. It’s a clever idea that has some humor to it — since runners are typically made from textiles, a wood stair runner would be an unexpected feature indeed.
Here’s another version of the same principle but with a staircase that has a contemporary design. The staircase’s treads and stringers are painted black, while the handrail stays natural wood. Here, the effect is that both the stairs and the handrail stand out.
3. Leave the handrail unpainted. What this staircase lacks in color it makes up for in style. The all-white treads, risers and stringer, or outside wall of the staircase, work with the white balusters to make a dramatic backdrop that lets the wooden handrail stand out. It’s a clever approach, since the handrail is a real-life version of the material depicted in the wallpaper: the woods. Wallpaper: Woods, Cole & Son
2. Make a rainbow on your risers. Or you can paint just the risers. This staircase adds a colorful, fun design feature to a room that is contemporary, streamlined and mostly white. (Another rainbow touch shows up on the London patio’s outdoor sofa.) If you decide to create a rainbow effect in your home, I recommend that you keep all your colors within the same tint (level of lightness) or shade (level of darkness or richness) to ensure a cohesive look. And make sure all the paints you use have the same finish.
Here’s another look at the same staircase, viewed from the top. The two colors of blue make a beautiful alternating pattern that is an attractive design feature.
1. Color the stair treads. This staircase leads to a fourth-story game room for kids, and the two colors of blue on the stair treads create a fun path to follow. By painting just the treads and leaving the risers white, the effect is colorful but not busy.
Cheerful hand-painted patterns, also by Leonesio, adorn the staircase, which leads to the second-floor bedrooms.
In the bathrooms, where materials such as concrete and tadelakt (a waterproof plaster that’s permeable to air) were used, it was important to install lighting that would both flatter the user and expose the beautiful shades of the materials. Here, Schievink’s favorite color brightens the gray concrete and gives the bathroom a cheerful feel — yet another benefit of bright colors.
Was the choice of orange in any way affected by his nationality? “Well, as you know, orange is the Dutch national color, named after the royal family, the House of Orange-Nassau,” Schievink says. “But the use of striking colors has been common among Dutch designers for more than 10 years. Just check out a designer like Edward van Vliet and you can spot the Dutch heritage in my design.”
To warm up such a big space with its rough, concrete texture, Schievink used soft textiles in reds and oranges. “It is good to match concrete flooring with luxurious materials such as velvet or silk, which distinctly contrast with the cold floor,” he says. “Then add a lot of cushions, as well as hides from reindeer and other animals.” Schievink used proven techniques to divide the large, open room. “The easiest one is what we see here: using carpets. They create different islands in the room and one immediately feels that this section is the living room. I adore using room dividers and folding screens. They are trendy at the moment, and you can find them at any auction. For the kitchen area, I used the long table as a marker and placed it in the same direction as the work areas.”
The interior, with its bare concrete walls and open floor plan, wasn’t the easiest to decorate, but Schievink has never let that kind of challenge get in the way.
Drive-In The vintage Coca-Cola machine is a piece she’d kept for more than 20 years and adds to the authentic feel of the concession stand. The barrel houses a custom popcorn stand; when they are popping, they place the wheelbarrow underneath to catch the popcorn. When it’s done, they wheel it out into the theater so that everyone can dig in. A cabinetmaker created the candy display cabinet, which Stier-Johnson had outfitted with glass. Behind the counter there is a mini kitchen. She found the Chevrolet sign at a local antique mall, along with the horseshoe welcome sign and the other taillight sign just outside of the concession stand area. The red refrigerator plays off the colors of the Coca-Cola machine and the Chevrolet sign.
Drive-In Weber Design Group, Inc. Save Email Another barn detail Stier-Johnson wanted to incorporate was a hayloft, so she had the builders add a shelf here for real bales of hay. The welcome sign is made of horseshoes. To give the theater even more of a drive-in feel, she designed a concession stand for snacks.
Drive-In Of course, the most striking element in the room is the turquoise Chevy pickup replica. Originally, Stier-Johnson had wanted to use a real rusted vintage truck that she owned, but she realized it was too rusty for comfort. So, instead, her builder found a man who builds cars for NASCAR, who built the pickup from the molds of an original truck and added a real salvaged part or two. She selected a 1968 Chevrolet C10 stepside pickup truck. “I love turquoise, and I used it all over the rest of the house, so the color choice was a no-brainer,” she says. The taillights are incorporated into the audiovisual system and can be kept on when wanted. Behind the back windshield is a faux dashboard and steering wheel painted on the wall. One more detail worth noting: the North Carolina replica license plate that says “VIA WI.” This represents the family’s move from Wisconsin to North Carolina. Moviegoers can flip down the tailgate, lie down in the back of the truck and stare up at the starry outdoor patio lights overhead. To the right of the truck, there’s a “pizza bar” for laying out casual meals. The light overhead is a repurposed old truck radiator. Next to that, Stier-Johnson de...