Before {and} After: a Basement Closet Renovation

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This winter break was filled with work, work, and more work. Just kidding. We did plan on doing a lot of work this break to pull off this long awaited transformation, but there was a lot of game playing, festive activities, goofing off around town, movie watching, and general lazing in between. Now that we have made it to the 'after' of this project we are more than ecstatic that we pushed through and put in the time; our neglected, box-filled basement is beginning to turn into the family room it is meant to be.

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The basement used to be a separate apartment that was rented out. It has its own entrance from the backyard, a bathroom, kitchen, and laundry area. And as you can gather from the 'before' image, it was pretty hideous. Prior to moving in we got the floors re-finished. We had to get rid of that horrible painted salmon concrete before we started filling it in with boxes. I've always wanted an industrial concrete floor and this was my chance, so we got a concrete overlay put in (check back for a post on that whole process later on). Here are some of the drool worthy images I used for inspriation.

The double mirrored closet just wasn't doing it for me, so I planned on tearing it down and building a wall to wall bookcase for the library Matt has always wanted for his much beloved book collection (the third row down from top, yeah that's mine, that's all I got). The books that didn't fit in this case ended up on a vintage library cart I scored a while back. 

I digress, back to the project at hand. So I had a few designs in my head and ended up mixing a few of them together to come up with this final incarnation. My office needed to be part of the equation, and I hadn't had a clear vision that made me happy and inspired yet, so I decided to merge it into the bookcase. My main goals for this area were for it to be clean and minimal, modern, asymmetrical, and built in. I wanted all of our different sized books to have their own snug little cubbies, as well as spaces for visual breaks as to not be too overwhelming and cluttered. After I figured out the exact measurements I took off my gloves, put on my directors hat, and handed the rest over to Matt. I wasn't able to help build it as much as I would have like to (I was hoping to be able to learn a lot from this), but he totally pulled it off on his own and really did a magnificent job. 

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One of the problems we ran into was how to hold up the right side of the shelving above the desk while keeping the space below untouched. I didn't want any kind of legs protruding off of the desk interrupting the workspace, and I didn't want any visual break in the negative space above. We ended up creating brackets out of plumbing pipe that we used for the desk legs (and also for our breakfast nook table). It ended up working out perfectly.

In the end we couldn't be happier with the result, and it has really helped to kick the rest of the basement renovation into high gear. I now look forward to going downstairs to work in my office amongst all of Matt's little friends.

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Tips: paint beforehand. Better yet, spray paint beforehand! Painting all the nooks and crannies after it was installed took FORever. We threw on the Nerdist Podcast and just went at it (for three 5 hour stints in a row).

If you're a Podcast addict like me check out some of my faves here.

Cost: less than $300 for all the wood, drywall, primer and paint, screws, and pipe. 
(what blew me away is that I have seen similar set ups, without a desk, going for almost $8000....whaaat? that's insane)

Time: on and off for 3 weeks

  Images: alysha findley

Before {and} After: the Breakfast Nook

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The breakfast nook was a fun labor of love. I can't tell you how many hours it took of staring and re-designing in my head it took. The 'before' picture is the styling from the open house, so that is as before as before can get. Here are some of the images I used for inspiration to design around black and white checkerboard floors.


Let's begin at the beginning. The red paint on the walls, although not horrendous, wasn't the style I was going for so it had to go. I could've gone with a retro theme but rather wanted to create a modern industrial farmhouse feel. And besides that, the red is actually lead paint over very old wallpaper which had completely warped, pretty huh? 

I had gotten the house tested for lead before the renovations began so that I could move on in a safe manner. Believe it or not out of the whole house the kitchen had the most positive lead results (great! where all of the food is). So, being as insane as I am I went and took a lead renovation course, and after eight hours and a written test I became an Certified EPA Lead Renovator. Now, I felt confident and knowledgable in how to deal with the areas in my home containing lead.

From what I learned in the case of the wallpaper it would be much safer to cover it than to take it down, so I decided to plank the walls (tutorial to come). It only took a few days and about $100 worth of wood and nails.

I went back and forth a million times deciding if I wanting to build a booth or have a three-person bistro table. I wanted it to be casual and intimate but still elegant. I ultimately ended up combining the two ideas and built the current table for the space out of a slab of quartz and plumbing pipes (tutorial to come).

Next I moved on to the seating. I built the industrial schoolhouse bench, got the blu dot knicker chair I had been coveting, and added the schoolhouse chair I discovered at a flea market. 

I then bought some modern silver and white fabric for some no sew curtains and lastly got the pendant light and switch installed. Voila the nook is DONE! Phew, re-living that was exhausting.

Stay tuned for the Before {and} After of the rest of the kitchen. It comes chock full of tutorials like painting a chalkboard fridge, planking a wall, building open floating shelves, and building a kitchen island with a butcher block top!

More Posts on the Kitchen Renovation:

Images: alysha findley