Before & After: Basement Storage Becomes a Game Room!

March 23, 2020

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This post is sponsored by Lowe’s Home Improvement.

My sister, Andi, just transformed her basement storage area into a bonafide game room in one of the easiest, most budget-friendly DIYs we’ve ever featured on this blog.

The room went from this:

To this:

Here is her truly inspiring story:

We moved into our first house last October. We live about 10 minutes away from Chris and Julia, in a mature neighborhood with mostly rambler style homes built in the ‘50s. Enough work had been done to it throughout the years, it felt dated. We easily pictured quick improvements once it was ours. One of our favorite spaces from the beginning was the finished basement. It was just so much more house! It felt like a big bonus room — with florescent lighting, which was the first thing to go! Recessed lighting was installed and it instantly felt more bright and fresh. But it was still a very beige room. Beige wood paneling and tan wall-to-wall carpet. The basement was too warm. Julia helped me to choose a cooler paint color for the paneling, and our drab basement started to come back to life.

 With new paint and lighting we stopped calling it a “basement” and promoted it to an “entertainment room.” We divided it into three sections: David’s play area, TV/couch space, and…*drum roll* game room! We’re avid board gamers. And when I say we like playing board games it’s so beyond the world of Monopoly, Clue, or Yahtzee. Our perfect Saturday night is hunkering down for a lengthy board game with a lot of laughs, stone-baked pizza, and a side of strategy and competition. *wink* (Fun fact: my husband, David, actually curated the CLJ gift guide of boardgames last Christmas which will give you a glimpse into our recs!)

Our entertainment room came with a wall of varnished wood built-ins with bad hardware and weird cubby shapes. One of the cabinets was outfitted for a record player, and had vinyl slat storage underneath. It was very Mad Men but lacked all the glam that makes Mad Men cool. You know? Our built-ins also have this bar that comes out in front, and I can just picture it with ashtrays and holiday cheese balls back in the day. We went back and forth over whether we should paint the built-ins to lessen the eyesore, or knock them down all together and install side by side bookcases. Now felt the perfect time to tackle our spring to-do list at home. Thanks to Lowe’s, I can happily say giving the built-ins a new coat of paint, hardware, and knocking out its weird geometric center shelves, kicked-off such a dramatic transformation!

We’re safely staying home, not taking unnecessary trips to the store, and I’m here to tell you — As you take on your next paint (or general room refresh!) project, you can find the materials you need online at (If you’re comfortable with curbside pickup, that’s available, too.) Painting cabinetry and updating décor are quick indoor projects you can take on at a budget-friendly price point – with a ton of bang for your buck.

Once I found this inspiration photo, we made the call to knock out the middle shelves, and paint the built-ins a moody dark blue-grey. Our winner was Valspar’s “Night View”. So many paints come with primer now, so I didn’t know what steps, if any, I would have to take before painting the built-ins. Julia explained that because it’s varnished wood, we don’t necessarily have to sand it (thank you!), but we can use a deglosser. After a deglosser, we would need to prime, and then paint. (This beast of a beauty took two coats!) After one night of priming nooks and crannies and doors and corners, my right arm was so sore! (I’m amateur, remember?) It felt like a lot of work, and built-ins didn’t even look good yet. They just looked white-washed and patchy.

The next day I went for it with my best friend who came to help, and it was the most satisfying color to paint. These brushes and these roller covers made all the difference. The hardest part was painting dark spaces inside cabinets, in a room that doesn’t get enough light as is. When all the painting was done, our first Lowe’s home decor pieces arrived the same day and I could barely wait to put a faux plant and bowl on the shelf. Yes, the terracotta bowl is a planter! I just loved that orange pop against a dark blue gray so much. Hardware arrived next, and all of the sudden our space started feeling so elevated.

We had two musts for the game room: comfortable upholstered chairs for our heavy-hitter games — I’m looking at you “Mansions of Madness” — and a table that would extend to seat more people when needed (that’s when it’s a party!). I love how our new slate blue chairs hug your back and make you want to hang out all night. Our table seats six comfortably and extends to seat eight if needed — which is great because one of our favorite game purchases are expansions (Some of our favorite games sell “packs” to entertain even more people).

We loved the charm of the built-ins once housing a record player, and the custom vinyl storage they had for it — so we got this Victrola Record Player, Radio, Bluetooth genius contraption that we’ve already played David’s Oasis records on. It was such a moment.

Julia is an OG when it comes to putting an area rug on top of wall-to-wall carpeting, and has taught me well. Our NuLOOM area rug brings in all the right colors for our room. Blues, tans, and even some punchy corals. We hung an Allen&Roth mirror on the left wall to make our game room feel more spacious. It works.

Let’s talk about the pendants for a minute… they’re kind of spaced far apart. An electrician hung them a couple months ago before we had any furniture, or even a vision in place. We knew we wanted the space to eventually be a game room and to have pendants above a table. That was what we knew. We also figured our electrician would know better than us where to hang them. *shrugs* Turns out, they’re a bit off. Extending the table did help them feel a bit centered, but honestly changing the spacing of them is just not a bridge we’re going to cross right now. We’re too thrilled about the latest edition to our entertainment room.

We look forward to a time when we can have everyone over for game night — hopefully soon. But for now, we’re focused on our two-player and three-player collection, just the right size for our small family.

(PS. You better believe I want you to sound off your favorite board games in the comments! What have you been playing at home?)






Area Rug (8×10)

Terracotta Bowl

Wall Mirror

Faux potted plant

Cabinet knobs

Striped basket

Large basket

White vase

LED Picture light

Victrola Record/Bluetooth Player


Andrea Bradley de Ahedo is a stylist and commercial photographer who recently moved to Idaho after living abroad in Monterrey, Mexico to be the Visual Media Producer for Chris Loves Julia. She loves foraging for unique spoons and bowls for her ever-growing prop collection, and shooting flatlays for days. She feels most at home when she is traveling with her husband and toddler son in tow. You can check her out on Instagram at @andiandreastudio.

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What do you think?

  1. Wonderful job and I know they will have lots of special times in their new play/game/hangout room. Want to add some more item to your game room to make it more beautiful!!

  2. Jillian says:

    Looks so AMAZING!! I am drooling over those built-ins! Both houses we have ever bought are from the 60’s and I am so obsessed with cool and eclectic built-ins from that era! Amazing what a coat of paint did to yours- I am swooning over the record storage! Well done!!!

  3. Cecilia says:

    Love the space transformation! Curious what the basket is for? Is it meant to be functional for something? Or just decorative?

  4. Vanda says:

    Love the colours and built in treatment so much. Maybe another pendant in the middle?
    We work in gaming, our current favourites are:
    Brass Birmingham. (Get the deluxe) I’m on my 40th play ????
    On Mars (we love Vital Lacerda designs)
    Stone Age (anniversary edition)
    Scythe but get the airships “winged gambit” expansion.
    Annnnd Wingspan :)

  5. Ricki says:

    This turned out so good! I love the way you’ve styled the shelves with art, games, plants, etc.

  6. Amanda Panos says:

    Looks great! Love the color…really spot on for the space. However I think the chagrin against the electrician is ill placed. You didnt know where you wanted the lights and you expected the electrician to guess correctly. Designer oversight on that one!

  7. Anna says:

    You have a great collection! We love 7 wonders…we bought the expansion as we have 7 kids… Pandemic is on my NOT NOW list as that game already freaks me out….but my husband did egg them the new Pandemic Legacy for Christmas. I, personally, love Caverna because you can “farm and garden” etc and build your dwarf cave empire, that’s totally up my alley. We got Splendor this Christmas and it’s a shorter but fun game! I told the kids to get Ticket to Ride out this week for “geography ” and the same 4 kids have played it 3 days us in a row in between baking cookies and bread. The girls have really been enjoying Man Bites Dog but I’ve not even played that one. Love the beautiful new space!!! ♡♡♡ @aframe.abode

  8. Agnes SEO says:

    It looks like an awesome place to spend time with friends and family, nice job!

  9. Sheri says:

    This post was inspiring! For those of self-isolating, it’s nice to be able to dream of projects we can do in the future. I’m really a novice at home reno so I learn so much from these posts. Like I never would have noticed that the pendants were too high. That’s probably something that is more noticeable in person, sitting at the table or just with a more experienced eye. I also like to challenge myself to think of things I might try differently. With the mirrors, I’d hang above the molding and maybe put three in a row. It’s so fun to see projects like this and then try and make them our own. Oh and no board games for me! LOL. Did want to mention that using a headlamp would help immensely with painting the dark corners of the built-in. I wear mine to do so many tasks including cleaning in darker areas of the house! Thanks again for sharing your project with us.

  10. KC says:

    It looks soooo good! I love those slanted shelves on the ends! Did you paint the hinges on the cabinet doors? These look like our kitchen cabinet doors and we’re stumped on the hinges.

  11. Kerry says:

    Lowe’s has picked a worthy partner in CLJ, as I’d have *never* thought to shop them for decor, but the pieces you’ve used really speak to me and I will now consider them a source! Enjoy your game room~

  12. Mary Lou says:

    You’d never know she’s not an old pro at this diy thing. Totally nailed it!

  13. Elizabeth says:

    You guys have been nailing it with these lowes makeovers! I LOVE this one. My partner and I are also huge board game fans. I’ve been struggling to figure out a way to store & display all our games (they are sadly stacked on the ground of our office room right now). I love how you styled some of them like books. It looks like the key here is deep bookshelves, especially for the games with wide boxes.

    For a game rec–we’ve been loving Tales of Arabian nights and machi koro!

  14. Anna says:

    Have been wanting to bite the bullet and turn our little basement into a full on game room and this is just the inspiration I needed!

    Gotta chime in with my favorite games as well because if you like Mansions of Madness then you truly are a board gamer haha (one of my top games for sure)

    Murder and Deception in Hong Kong (hands down favorite adult group game)
    Splendor (great 2 or 4 player game)
    Kings of Tokyo
    Scythe (more expensive but awesome. definitely worth it – kind fo like Catan but with choices)
    Fox in the Forest (great 2 player strategy card game)
    The Mind
    Sheriff of Nottingham (fun bluffing game)
    Europe edition of Ticket to Ride
    Dead of Winter (another great 2 or more player game)
    Paris Connection (quick paced game of strategy and economics – best with 4-6 players)
    Bang! the Dice game (great for 6 players)
    Betrayal at House on the Hill (you’ll never play the same game twice and you’ll also never know who will end up as the traitor – so fun, we play every halloween)
    Five Tribes (great as 2, also fun with up to 4)
    Onitama (quick 2 player game – like a simpler version of chess, great for older kids too)

  15. Angela says:

    We are loving What Do You Meme!

  16. Danielle says:

    this is gold!! we are big game players in our house. We have a second pantry we use to store them but it isn’t close to anywhere we actually play them. I love this idea and am brainstorming how to do something similar-thank you!

  17. Laura says:

    Awesome transformation!

    Settlers of Catan (and all the expansions) is hands down the best board game out there. Then 7 Wonders; we have 5 kids, so everyone can play!

  18. Amira says:

    I think this transformation is perfect! Every time I try to put an area rug over wall-to-wall carpet, the rug gets wrinkles that you can trip over. Do you recommend a product to help with that? I can’t seem to get it to stay in place.

  19. Sally says:

    A huge improvement – although I did quite like the quirky geometric centre shelves!

    Maybe simply installing a third pendant in the middle would be the easiest fix?

  20. Lyda says:

    Cool!! Looks great!! We’re doing a couple of virtual, live game nights with friends this week. But, actually, I’d love to know what 2-person games you guys really enjoy? I feel like my hubby and I could use some new ones and it sounds like you would have some good recommendations. :) Thx!

  21. The dark blue was such a good move! Paint is so miraculous and transforming a space ????

  22. Kimberly says:

    Love this transformation and it makes me want to transform our kids playroom that they’ve outgrown to a game/homework room… especially since we are homeschooling until May and doing everything on the dining table is just not cutting it. My husband would kill me if I attempted to do something like this now (buying new table/chairs is not the best idea when our financial status is uncertain right now), but would love to see a price/budget breakdown of this transformation like how you guys usually do for your posts. Even though Lowe’s sponsored it I’d love to see how much it would’ve cost! Thanks!

    • Chris Loves Julia says:

      Totally understand, Kimberly. All of the products and materials for this blog post came in just under $3,000. We know that’s a big ticket during our state of lockdown. But we hope you find inspiration in one piece of this transformation or another. Paint is relatively inexpensive and packs the MOST bang for your buck. (You might even have some lying around!)
      Chris and I are also using this time to Pin favorite design ideas and projects. When this is all over, we’ll all have a long list of projects we want to tackle! Wishing you and your family health and safety —

  23. Anna says:

    Based on the games you guys have, I would ~highly~ recommend Bunny Kingdom and Wingspan. For something more serious, I love Terraforming Mars.

  24. Brittany says:

    Those chairs look so comfy for gaming! My boyfriend and I have been playing a lot of Codenames Duet, Forbidden Island, and good old-fashioned cribbage. Still haven’t beat him in Patchwork yet…and I love Ticket to Ride.

    • Andrea Bradley says:

      Fun fact: I played Forbidden Island and Patchwork as apps before boardgames! Ticket to Ride is the new classic!

  25. Sheila Roos says:

    This game room turned out amazing. Love it. I am so happy for your family to have a beautiful extra space to hang out in while we all live the homebody life.????

  26. Leena says:

    Stunning transformation!!

  27. Veronica says:

    I love what you did with your space! Such a quick and affordable transformation. Quick question, how high are the table lights hung from the table?

    • Chris Loves Julia says:

      Honestly, they’re too high and far apart. We’d like to see them hanging a little closer to the table, between 30 and 36 inches. But, we’ll help Andi tackle that in phase two!

  28. Veronica says:

    I’m extremely put off by some of the verbiage in this blog post. It’s nice your sister tried something new and pushed herself out of her comfort zone to paint cabinets, but to call the post “truly inspiring” when she was given all her materials by Lowe’s and the nation is going through a national emergency with thousands of people dying, I’m not sure this should be considered “truly inspiring”.

    Also – why would the electrician know where to hang the pendants? He is not an interior designer. This is your home, you should be the one telling him how you intend to use it and the size of the furniture you are putting in place. There is no need to blame the electrician for the poor planning of the homeowners.

    • Chris Loves Julia says:

      I understand, Veronica. And we’re certainly sensitive about this global pandemic. “Inspiring” is subjective. Andi was looking for an inexpensive way to fix up her space, as so many of us are. We are encouraged by her results!
      We’re also proud to partner with Lowe’s, a company that has donated more than $25 million to COVID 19 relief efforts.
      Finally, you’re totally right! Andi didn’t know that electricians need direction! (Hence her shrug :) We thought this was a helpful detail to share since we’re all at different levels of DIY and home improvement. There might be others out there who didn’t know that these guys need more instructions.

      • Tamara Johnson says:

        Long time follower here. There are absolutely people out there that don’t know you have to give more direction to tradesmen. I found the post refreshing! It gives the beginner DIYer a simple project they can tackle without too much intimation and even highlights some beginner mistakes (the lights). I LOVE the CLJ home and all of its projects but they are on such a larger scale than a lot of us can implement. That’s what made this one so relatable. And BTW- great response. *wink*

  29. Caleb says:

    Quedó espectacular!
    Increíble como puede cambiar tanto un cuarto de juegos, muchas felicidades!

  30. Karmen says:

    Conocí ese sótano cuando Andi y David recién se habían mudado a Idaho…. no puedo creer que es el mismo !!!
    Felicitaciones por ese gran cambio… me enamoré del nuevo aspecto…..

  31. Anastasia says:

    What a difference a coat of paint makes!! Our game table is now serving as an office table while working from home. We like lots of games but I think Pandemic is a favorite that is particularly appropriate right now!

  32. Kal says:

    Could we have another list of your favorite games (maybe more serious gamer type games)? Hadn’t heard of mansions of madness before. This space is beautiful ❤️

    • Andrea Bradley says:

      Oooo Mansions of Madness is so fun. It’s in the heavy weight category for me. Can take 3-4 hours. It plays with an app, with soundtrack and everything. Its cooperative and suspenseful! My husband and I have different favorites, but I love: Azul, Castles, 7 Wonders, Ticket to Ride Europe, and Bang!

  33. Diane says:

    Beautiful transformation! Well done.
    We also LOVE games. Here’s our favorites:
    (We are a family of 4, so most of these are great for 4 or less…)

    Family games:
    Archaeology: The New Expedition
    Battle Sheep
    Builders:The Middle Ages
    Port Royal
    Sushi Go Party
    Word on the Street (older red box version is better)

    2-player games:
    Blokus Duo

    Kids games:
    Beep! Beep! (for kids but quick fun for adults too)
    Dr. Eureka
    Enchanted Forest

  34. Kiera Chambers says:

    We love games. Having teenagers and their friends over we need to keep the games exciting. We like Forbidden Island, Carcassonne, and Bohnanza to name just three.
    Bohnanza (a card game about trading/planting beans) was our ‘gateway’ game into non-traditional gaming (ditch Monopoly and Life), we’ve been playing it for almost 20 years (I was pregnant with our daughter when we discovered it) and every.single.time we introduce someone to the game they buy it! We’ve sold well over 50 of the game to family and friends over the years!

  35. Veronica says:

    Huge improvement and affordable! I am wondering how high are the lights from the table? Thanks in advance

  36. Patricia says:

    Love it! Looks wonderful. What a great cozy multi-use space.

  37. Jennifer says:

    Any tips for keeping a rug in carpet from moving and pushing up? I am struggling with this in my bedroom. I feel like I have to weekly pull the “lumps” out. I love the transformation! Such a beautiful space!!!

    • Chris Loves Julia says:

      This is a toughie. I want to tell you that after a while, the rug settles down. And it does! For the most part. However, sometimes the way we traffic rugs over carpet causes them to “change” their shape. I’ve used carpet/rug tape and rug pads with great success.

    • Allison says:

      Thicker rugs work better. We have a thick wool rug over shaggy carpet and it weighs down the carpet and stays in place. I’ve never had a lump and it doesn’t move an inch (the bed is on about half of it so that helps).

  38. Anne Marie says:

    Gorgeous transformation!! We love Ticket to Ride including the Europe edition, Cover your Assets, and Azul!!

  39. Kaitlyn says:

    I’ve always wondered what to do with the exposed hinges. We have cabinets that we want to paint, but unsure if we should paint the hinges or leave them metal! I see here you painted – is there a best practice?

    • Chris Loves Julia says:

      It depends on the quality of the hinge: If it’s kind of old and dingy, go ahead and paint it — especially if you like the monochrome look. But if you’re investing in hardware, painting over it can actually shorten the life.

  40. Mara says:

    LOVE IT!!! Chairs are such a splurge, I’ll have to keep an eye out for that shape. They look comfy!

    • Chris Loves Julia says:

      It’s a great shape — and agreed: These are pricier. But you can find some really good buys, especially if the priority is “comfy game night chairs.”

  41. Allison says:

    Any games created by Chris Handy are greatly loved in our house. Pack O Games are some of our favorite!

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We believe we should all love where we live.

We’re a couple of homebodies, working to uncover the home our home wants to be. And we’re so happy to have you here. 

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