Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Before and After: Downstairs Family Room


When I first saw this room there was a upright piano against one wall and a lone office chair. The entire area seemed dark and forbidding.

I visited the house several times before we decided to buy it, and each time I would almost recoil at going downstairs. The blinding white paint atop a blackish chocolate brown running into a golden yellow only made the room even less appealing to me.

The carpeting was a olive green, and faded in places.

Jeff, Bernie and Rachel LOVED the three sided fireplace on first sight.
I wasn't so sure about it, or anything else in the room for that matter.

The two white cubes overhead seemed to offer little light. Thankfully it was a walk-out basement, with the exits visible from this room, otherwise I'm sure I could not have handled being in it at all.
Right off the end of the staircase was another dark basement room, with a single small window up high. That room had a wild graphic of Bob Marley, and the two rooms seemed to be in a conspiracy together to be a place where no good was likely to have been done.

Soon afterwards I discovered that under the white and blackish paint was real wood paneling...knotty pine paneling to be exact.
I decided it would be a snap to strip the wood and change the room into a true '50's style "rec" room, with homey honey wood tone creating a natural feeling, and a cozy place to enjoy a winter day with the family enjoying sports on TV and a roaring fire.

Stripping the wood was NOT a snap after all; all the stripping products I tried would not work at temperatures under 50 degrees, and they also required good ventilation while using as well.

Since opening the window for ventilation immediately let all the heat out of the room while I was working in January, I couldn't keep the room temperature above 50 while the outside temperature was near freezing.

The stripping pictured above was the end result of several full days of work. Call me a quitter if you want. I knew when I was beaten and when it was time to give up.

We had scheduled new carpet to be delivered, and so we hurriedly painted the wood a totally neutral color.

Our furniture was still in Houston, and I had no way of selecting a paint color to harmonize well with our furniture for sure, so I defaulted to a rather blah beige, with a bolder blah beige for the trim work. Think of band-aid beige and you will be close.

Blah as it was, it was a real improvement over the white and black duo tones of before!
Up came the old olive colored carpet, and a shuffle board court was revealed!

So cool, so 50's, so fun...yet the fun could only be imagined now: the 1954 basement had been finished with asbestos tiles. The only safe thing to do was to cover up the shuffle board court again with new carpeting to prevent the asbestos from being scuffed and becoming airborne.

(Our next door neighbor had just finished scraping his basement clear of the same kind of tiles, tossing them into piles and then carting them out by hand about a year ago. Upon learning that the tiles had been asbestos, he merrily exclaimed "I'm a dead man!" He is an absolute kick to be with and has all the best building tools and gadgets that any man could want. Isn't that what everyone really needs in a neighbor? A sense of humor and good tools. Perfect!)

Back to our story: So in went beige carpet with flecks of green and rust that I hoped would work with our furniture.

The single windowed room looked much brighter with new carpeting, that was for sure.

It seemed much bigger too!
We moved our apartment furniture in (an IKEA couch, a borrowed recliner, a folding card table and two chairs) and settled in downstairs to wait for upstairs to be finished and for our furniture to arrive.

For all of February and much of March, this room was where we lived. It wasn't an easy time. Every spare moment was spent painting somewhere in the house. With a refrigerator in the garage, and no place to cook, we ate simply and got through each day dreaming of when all this renovation would be done.


Our furniture arrived at last.
I'm really not crazy about the paint color, but family wide opinion holds that the overall effect is quite relaxing. To liven the place up a bit, I switched out the matching toned couch pillows for a brighter collection.

It seemed quite odd to have such massive furniture in a space with such a low ceiling after having it all in a 12ft tall room for years.

But it works. I put the mirror that formerly was in our bedroom above the couch to reflect the light coming in from the sunroom.

The old hunting print at the foot of the stairs had been in my parents home for years.

Later Mom gave them to me, and now they fill the space at the foot of the stairs perfectly.

It took several tries to get the furniture arrangement to work. I wanted the couch to face the fireplace square on.

From the couch you can also get a glimpse outside through the sliding glass door in the sunroom.
Bernie wanted to make sure he could sit comfortably in his big chair and see the television easily. The enormous coffee table had to take on a new role if it was to stay in the room...and so for now it holds up the TV.

Above the TV are several collages that Bernie created to record our family raising years.

The single window gives us a view of our neighbor's roses and also of passing cats. The area between our houses seems to be a major cat thoroughfare. Thank heaven for the wide windowsill where our cats can monitor all this feline traffic!

(The ground outside is actually only about two feet below the windows base.)

Once we decided our former kitchen chairs were too formal for our upstairs area, they either had to go or fit in down here. I've set up a small game table between the chairs that can provide extra seating if needed.

The room will never be very bright, but I had a sea of lamps to use from our huge living room in Houston.

After a few thinks and re-thinks we got the former office furniture settled in downstairs. We had intended to sell the set, but it was easier to move it in (with a LOT of help from Laura) than to deal with moving it to a consignment shop or answering calls from potential buyers.

In the end the office furniture actually looks pretty good down there! A bit more formal that we'd like, but what the hey, it holds our paper files and whatnots in style.

And what is that on the fireplace?
I thought you'd never ask.
It is an assignment from an Advanced Textile Design course I took as part of my Home Ec. degree at Oregon State University (GO BEAVERS!) over 33 years ago.
I wove the piece using a pheasant skin as inspiration, and demonstrated design, surface texture and color placement using advanced weaving techniques. It hung up once for evaluation and then was never hung again.
As I was milling through boxes I came across it, and hungry for yet more color in the room, I patted the woolen piece onto the bricks, where it stuck neatly and securely, like flannel upon flannel.
It will be easy to lift off when we want to have colorful crackling fire come autumn.
But for now, Bernie and I both are enjoying having it around.
It is different, unexpected, and brings me back good college memories.
(If you click on the picture you can also get a good view of the unusual brick and mortar color combination. It was another reason why I hesitated to paint the room a more interesting color!)
The downstairs room is warm in winter and cool in summer, being deeply insulated in the earth. Bernie enjoys retreating down there to enjoy watching TV, and we both agree the fireplace is very nice to have crackling while we snuggle together on the couch.
Ultimately the room could hold many more people than our living room; yet the one time when that option would have been useful, no one was inclined to leave the party crush upstairs.
Still, I can imagine having friends and family using this room, and perhaps one day several generations will be found enjoying an evening of food, games and good conversation together in this room.
In the meantime, it is a room I don't use too much, much preferring to be outside or in a room with a better view.
For a basement room though, I think the room really turned out quite well.
But I'm still on the hunt for better overhead lights.
PS: A big HAPPY 31st Birthday Laura! You don't look a day over, um, 20something?
I love you more with each passing year, and am so glad that you are my daughter!
I wonder what new adventure are in store for you this coming year of your life.
Whatever they be, may you always be BLESSED!


Vicki said...

Decorating a basement is sooo tricky. You did well, however! I think it looks like a room that I'd happily spend time in. After living in all of these homes with tall ceilings, it does look a bit odd to see big furniture in a room with 8-foot ceilings.

Oh, happy, happy, happy birthday, Laura!!!

Lovella ♥ said...

Jill. and Bernie did an amazing job with the basement. The space is cozy and perfect for cold winter nights.
The textile assignment is so you .. I love that you hung it up. . .it's amazing what memories are found in things found in boxes.

Happy birthday to Laura. .she is such a great girl . .and I know how proud you are of her.

Islandsparrow said...

Wow! what a great make-over. It looks like a lovely cozy room.

Happy b-day to your girl!

Sara said...

Your room looks very comfortable and welcoming! How cool that the wall hanging actually sticks to the bricks like velcro!!

I'll go say Happy Birthday to Laura on her blog....and to think, you and I were learning all about how to care for newborn babies at the same time. My son was 31 on Friday.

Virginia Rigby said...

What an amazing redo of your home! I have been fascinated watching the transformation. I especially love (no, make that LOVE) your kitchen! Way to go, girl!.

Happy Happy Birthday, Laura!!! May there be so many more in your life.

Ladygrande (Texas Marie) said...

Lovely, relaxing space --- I just love what you and Bernie have done to the house. You have made it a wonderful, gorgeous home.

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

Now that looks mighty cozy...and like the perfect place to relax in.

I thought...she have a daughter that old?...and then I remembered how old my kids are. Yikes! Happy Birthday to your daughter!