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Our basement makeover is finally complete and has resulted in a home office/den that is neat, clean (somewhat), water resilient, all for under $4,000. Here are some things I learned after my husband and I revamped our basement.

Lesson 1: A basement is a great place to experiment with a new look.

Suzanne Dimma pointed out in a recent blog that it's far more exciting when the individual rooms in a house are approached with their own unique decorating personality: not every room requires the exact same materials and palette. This Belgian-farmhouse look is a bit austere for a heavily used room, but it's practical in a basement. I took a chance with the floor and it's turned out to be my favourite thing. I was worried about the frank fakeness — it's vinyl — but this can stand up to future flooding and looks real (it is cold though, so a rug was a necessity.) 

A giant bookcase lines one side of the room (not surprising for two journalism grads). I loved Morgan Michener's April 2014 DIY which involved backing bookshelves in fabric. So I combined that with something I had seen in an earlier version of House & Home: Colette van den Thillart's dining room from the December 2012 issue.

Colette's laser-printed, photo-realism quartz wallpaper on velvet turned her Toronto dining room into an exotic grotto, and I was completely slayed. I thought why not use a combo of Morgan and Colette's ideas for the back of bookshelf?

I found this geo-stone look wallpaper that was in a neutral colourway and pasted it to a sample board. The results? It makes everything in front of it look epic. Too bad it made the maple bookcases look anemic.

Trying to decided between two paints for the shelves, I posted an impromptu poll on a blog and the winning choice was Farrow & Ball's Mole's Breath, a warm, smoky grey with plenty of drama. 

Lesson 2: Test a trend. 

I am not a grey person. I wasn't sure whether I loved the grey paint I chose for the bookshelves, or just the fact that it's a big trend colour and I had been seeing it in the magazine (Rona Collection's Taupe, an almost exact match, was called out as one of our trend colours in the January 2014 issue). To find out whether I could live with it, a sample board was crucial so I could see the shade against the floors, wainscotting and stone of the fireplace. The warm neutral added the right amount of richness, and the glossy finish looks freshly painted, I love that.

Of course I keep an exhaustive library of back issues of House & Home (doesn't everybody?). It's the original source of inspiration, long before Pinterest popped up.

Lesson 3: Don't let a room become a dumping ground for memorabilia.

Take the time to reevaluate what's on your bookshelves — not everything stands the test of time, while some items are still a joy to behold (I didn't even know we owned a rare 1936 issue of Alice in Wonderland, look how pretty it is).

Lesson 4: No one wants to spend time in a neglected room.

In addition to my home office, there was an antique desk that could be used for some (bad) sewing projects, and even a spot to do yoga, but I didn't want to spend time in an outdated space filled with odds and ends doing those activities. The busy woodwork and clutter just wasn't conducive to concentrating, but here's how the honey-pine corner of my office was transformed with paint.

The linen sheep-print fabric adds some life to the neutral scheme and makes a home office a bit fun, while concealing glass doors to a workshop behind. I just wish my desk always looked like this...

A textured basket for, ahem, fitness equipment that doesn't see the light of day, and an earthy pouf add a warm, handmade touch that's inviting.

 

I've decided that flood was the best thing that could have happened to this room. It made me take a hard look at the things I was saving, and created a soothing space to unwind... or work, or maybe even, work out.

See a gallery of editors' basement renos here.

Photo sources:
All photos (except #3) Wendy Jacob
3. House & Home December 2013, photography by Virginia MacDonald

Author: 

Wendy Jacob

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