Before: No Guests AllowedJeannine, Patrick and their two young sons have lived in the same big, beautiful home for more than five years. The house's many rooms were tastefully decorated in a traditional style, with one glaring exception: a dingy basement family room that was such an embarrassment they declared it "off limits" to guests.
The room's troubles included sadly outdated furniture, minimal storage space and a Liberace-inspired fireplace that was too flamboyant for its drab surroundings.
The couple wanted an elegant family room to match the rest of their house, but they also wanted a casual space where they could entertain, play, watch TV and move around without tripping over books and toys. So I made the forbidden trip down the basement steps and geared up to combine elegant and casual in one large, multifunctional space.
After: All Are WelcomeI decided on a rich color palette of chocolate, green, raspberry and wheat for this redesign. I painted the walls a light linen shade that provides a soft backdrop for the entire room. I then selected fabrics that complement the traditional feeling of the home's upstairs and also give it a relaxed downstairs feeling.
I chose floral-printed draperies that included all of the palette's tones and then chose a relaxed, embroidered wheat-colored fabric for the blinds and pillows. I used the other tones to add warmth and spice to the furniture and accents.
Then it was time to tackle the room's organization (or lack thereof). I decided to create four main areas: a media and storage center, an activity area for the boys, a seating lounge for entertaining, and a snuggle-worthy fireplace nook.
That meant required an abundance of cabinetry would be needed. I started by installing an entire wall of "problem-solving" cabinets to showcase the room's window, hold the family's large television, and act as storage and display space.
I then got to work on a second wall, which I turned into a play area for the boys, complete with a long activity table, pin boards for photos or artwork and shelves for toys.
Next came the seating and entertainment section. I scrapped the family's dilapidated furnishings and replaced them with a variety of new pieces, including a straw-colored sectional sofa, striped chairs in chenille damask and a kid-friendly ottoman that provide the perfect balance of chic and informal.
By this point in the redesign, the basement's "ornate fireplace problem" had been successfully solved. By taking the "heat" off of the overly decorative structure with the other finishes, fabrics and furnishings, the fireplace was no longer the sole focal point of the room.
All of this work needed to be showcased, so I added some fashionable lighting to brighten up the space. I put up two sconces over the fireplace for ambiance, hung a beautiful lantern-like pendant over the seating area, added some picture lights in the kids' area, and put in some accent lighting on the main cabinetry wall.
After adding an abundance of accessories--games, pillows, lamps and artwork--the once-dreary basement was complete.
By mingling distinguished finishes and fabrics, comfortable furniture and sophisticated cabinetry, the space got a new "casually elegant" style, with a fireplace that finally looks like it is right at home. Jeannine and Patrick can now remove the barrier at the top of the stairs and declare their basement entertainment-worthy. How divine!
(Interior decorator Candice Olson is host of Home & Garden Television's Divine Design.)