Before And After: Our Basement Family Room is Finished!

August 8, 2016

We believe we should all love where we live.

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Before and After days are always fun around here, and this one is especially sweet since we have been working on our family room in the basement for at least 8 months, a surprising amount of time when I went back to see when we started. Now, we’re calling it done (for now, I just can never really say a room is 100% finished) and I have a slew of photos to share with you. Like, remember when it used to look like this? 

Before And After: Our Basement Family Room is Finished!

Probably not, that’s from right when we moved in. But you might remember it looking like this for almost 3 years:

Before And After: Our Basement Family Room is Finished!

Little baby Faye is trying to distract you from that old fireplace we revamped for less than $100 and the fact that there used to be a trampoline in our basement. (It’s now outside and the girls love that I can jump on it with them.) Now, the same angle looks like this:
Before And After: Our Basement Family Room is Finished!

There’s something for everyone down here now and we’ve been spending so much time playing, lounging, chatting, reading, playing the piano, swinging! Although I used to think the wide open space that used to be our basement was perfect for the girls to run around, now that the room has order and function and, you know, furniture, it’s amazing how much more we use this space–all of us, but especially the girls. I think there might be an analogy in there somewhere.

Before And After: Our Basement Family Room is Finished!Before And After: Our Basement Family Room is Finished!

We have a few different kinds of toys in the house. The really big things like the slide, playhouse and trampoline are now all outside, which is actually a very natural and normal place for them to be. Then there’s the dollhouse Faye got for her birthday (it’s such a hit among both girls) and the teepee which sit out in the open since they are used daily. The stuffed animals–“stuffys”–that aren’t among the 6-10 chosen to accompany a child in bed that night are stored in baskets. (The ones consistently at the bottom of the basket I am making stealth plans to donate asap. So many stuffed animals!) And then there’s the smaller toys, like playdoh, markers, shopkins, littlest pet shops, legos, play food, little people, blocks, doctor’s kits–all the normal toys kids have–have a home in the industrial drawers shown above (note: they now also come in black and they look incredible). We ended up buying two of the chests, more so that it would look balanced on the span of wall, but I’m so glad we have the storage now. I still haven’t labeled the drawers, but I’m amazed at how easy it has been to keep things organized and cleaned up.

Before And After: Our Basement Family Room is Finished!

Even Faye can carry a drawer over to the table herself and play–three cheers for that. When we first laid out plans for this playroom/family room, we thought of incorporating a slide, but over time, those plans were tamed when we decided to keep the fireplace after all and we sprung for more storage instead. But no one over here is complaining thanks to the simple swing we DIYed a few weeks ago. It’s the highlight and cherry on top. It adds a little whimsy and a little something different and Greta invites her friends over to show them thee swing all the time. It will be especially nice when the weather gets colder, too.

Before And After: Our Basement Family Room is Finished!Before And After: Our Basement Family Room is Finished!


Before And After: Our Basement Family Room is Finished!


Before And After: Our Basement Family Room is Finished!

But it’s not all about toys down here. We really wanted this to be a family friendly space and, as we have said before, parents are a part of the family, too. So creating a place where Chris and I could enjoy as much as our children was really important to us. A big U-shaped sectional (the Ainsley from Interior Define) divides the room and is large enough for all of us, plus some friends for a movie night, too.

Before And After: Our Basement Family Room is Finished!

Ditching the fluorescent light for recessed lighting and lamps and pendants over the play table, painting the walls Simply White by Benjamin More and replacing all the carpet with this low-pile one with a small pattern really modernized and brightened the whole room–making it feel a lot larger. Although we didn’t demo any walls for this renovation, we did add one!–kind of. Since Greta’s room is right behind the wall where we planned to hang our TV, we actually built a second wall and filled the space with sound-proofing material to cut down on noise transferred to her room. We’re happy to report, the extra effort has been 100% worth it. Chris and I have been able to take advantage of watching our favorite shows without waking the girls.

Before And After: Our Basement Family Room is Finished!

Before And After: Our Basement Family Room is Finished!

Adding the planked built-ins not only framed our tv in and provided media storage, but it also seriously dressed up a wall that you might not think twice about before.

Before And After: Our Basement Family Room is Finished!

Here’s the same angle today:

Before And After: Our Basement Family Room is Finished!

The way our home was designed, it has the same square footage upstairs and downstairs, so our family room (plus, storage room–the door behind the tent seen below leads to that) downstairs is a very similar size to our living room, dining room, kitchen upstairs. One setback we ran into with this room was while we were installing the recessed lighting. We planned on adding cans to soffited portion of the ceiling, too, but unfortunately it was filled to the brim with duct work. That ceiling was a challenge all around. But, knowing its purpose helped us come to terms with it. With no way to light this side of the room overhead, we hung a double sconce on the wall and painted it a rich, warm green-black–Valspar’s Vintage Frame. 

Before And After: Our Basement Family Room is Finished!

A few people have wondered, “If you were so concerned about that half of the room not being as bright because of the lack of recessed lighting, it seems odd to paint the wall so dark.” Valid. However, if a room or area or wall is shadowed, painting it white or any super light color will make it read as dingy. White paint needs adequate lighting, whether natural (best!) or overhead light to really shine. Knowing this wall wouldn’t have easy access to either of those things, we embraced the shadows and love the depth this wall adds to the whole room.

Before And After: Our Basement Family Room is Finished!

Here’s how this wall looked before:

Before And After: Our Basement Family Room is Finished!

And now:

Before And After: Our Basement Family Room is Finished!

The piano was Chris’s Great Grandmother’s and it’s a really special piece in our home that we’ve been waiting to find the perfect place for. It has moved from the living room to the reading room, but it feels perfect right here. Chris comes down and plays on Sunday mornings and it fills the whole home. I love hearing him play and Greta has started taking an interest, too.

Before And After: Our Basement Family Room is Finished!

We’re very, very happy to have this space and to have it done. So happy we got cable for the first time in 6 years because, hey, that couch is calling our name!


Wall Color, Benjamin Moore Simply White; Accent Wall Color, Valspar Vintage Frame; Built-ins color, Clark+Kensington Chalk; Carpet, Stainmaster Medford in Fizz; Area Rug, Skyline from Rejuvenation; Sectional, Ainsley from Interior Define; Throw Pillows, Studio McGee; Arteriors Coffee Table; Table; Chairs; Pendant Lights; Toy Storage Chests; Dog Painting; Round Mirror; Lamp on Toy Storage; Globe; P-L-A-Y Letters (spray-painted gold);  Swing; Curtains; Bamboo Blinds; Guitar Hangers; Shaggy Pouf; Piano Bench; Letter Board; Black and White Floor Bin; Blue Dipped Basket; Doll House; Teepee; Double Wall Sconce; Plant Stand–TJMaxx, Engineer Prints (Ribba Frame from Ikea), Curtains; ; In the Built-ins: Dwell Studio Black PyramidsKai Samuels Davis “The Beginning” Print; Black and Copper FigurineNubby VaseSmall vasesCement vase with lid; Kai Samuels Davis “After The Storm” print; Shallow Baskets; Faux banana leaf plantGlass boxWhite Urchin; Brass Geometric ObjectFaux succulentCandlesticksCeramic Elephant


DIY Shiplapped Built-Ins: Finished and Styled! / A Playroom Update: Lighting and RugAn Unexpected Source For Playroom Storage + A High/Low Option!Bringing Wall-To-Wall Carpet BackTips For Choosing Wall-to-Wall Carpet in a Modern, Family SettingHow To Make An Outdated Fireplace Insert Look Like A Million BucksA Peek Into our Toy Storage in the Playroom / A Custom Sectional for Downstairs at an Attainable PriceOur New Sectional from Interior Define / How to Make an Indoor Swing!DIY Pom Pom CurtainsDisguising Air Returns With Paint! / All The Playroom Plans! / Tips for Making Engineer Prints Look Their Best



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What do you think?

  1. Gretchen says:

    This place s beautiful and nearly exactly what we are looking to do as a media room addition. May I ask, what are the full dimensions of the room?

  2. Lionel says:

    Hello ,

    we have a project for transforming our own basement into a grand piano room, and we have to deal with a low ceiling.

    I’ve been looking for inspiration all over the web, your project looks really stunning ! the idea to paint the rich black wall because you could not use recessed lighting on this side of the room is brilliant :-)

    Could you tell what is the height of the room on both sides ?

    Thank you for sharing your inspirational creativity !

    • Chris Loves Julia says:

      Hi! The ceilings were 8 feet, maybe just a little under. Good luck with your piano room! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Chelsie says:

    Hi! I came across your post on Pinterest. Can you tell me the color Ainsley couch that it in the basement? Thanks in advance!

  4. Laura O’Shea says:

    I love the cabinet with all the drawers! Please tell me if I can have one too. I would love to get one like it and I don’t see it mentioned

  5. Mer says:

    Hi! Just came across your blog. The love large kid photos. Can you let me know where you had those printed? I love how they turned out.

  6. Molly says:

    I love how this room turned out! I would have never thought to put a piano in the basement, for some reason it seems weird, but it fits perfectly down there!

  7. Maria says:

    Hi! Looking to purchase the same sectional, however the Pebble Weave in Dove on the website looks darker than the ones on your pictures. Just wanting to make sure I get the same color you have. Thank you!

  8. Alex says:

    What are the dimensions of this room? We are adding on and planning for a ‘great room’, family room space.

    • Chris says:

      Approximately 25×15.

      • Rebecca says:

        I just came across your website and I’m in love. Debating doing out basement tho we would have poles in the middle so don’t know if should end there or extend it and make a larger room. Could you tell me the size from tv to back of sofa and then from back of sofa to end of rom.

      • Chris says:

        The whole space is about 25 feet – approximately 12 feet to the back of the sofa and 13 feet from there to the back wall.

      • Rebecca says:

        Thank you for getting right back to me!

  9. Heidi says:

    Hello! Curious about what fabric you got the Ainsley sectional in? It’s perfect (and seems kid friendly?)


  10. Stacy says:

    Why didnt you bring your faux wood tile down through the basement instead of carpet?

    • Chris says:

      Too harsh and cold. Since it’s a basement with cement floors, we would have had to run in-floor heating underneath all of it, which is both expensive to install and run. Carpet is cozy and affordable, and we love how it looks.

  11. Sarah says:

    Hi! I love your style and this room! When we were looking for wall to wall carpeting we surfed the web to find examples of the samples we liked. We loved the Medford and after seeing it full scale in your room we were sold. However, after just having it installed, we’re really not happy with the way the seams lined up. I was just wondering if you had any problems with seams during your installation? Not sure if this is a function of the carpet being hard to match, or the installers poor craftsmanship. I would love to hear if you had any issues and if you might be able to share an image of your seams? Thank you for your time!

    • Julia says:

      Our installers did a really good job on the seams–they are undetectable, but they said it was the most difficult carpet they ever installed because of it.

  12. Ashley says:

    Also, can you share the height of your basement ceiling?

  13. Ashley says:

    We are finishing our basement and deciding on led recessed lights and can lights. Can you please share the exact type/kind of recessed lights you used? Thank you!

  14. erica says:

    Hi, A couple people have asked and i’m curious as well – do you know the dimensions of the room?! I’m trying to covert a 20×20 garage to have the same layout/feel. Thanks!!

  15. Jennifer Barger says:

    Hey! What are the dimensions of your room? I love the layout and I’m hoping it could work for our bonus room. My challenge is that we have two entrances to the room – one from the hall and the other from our back stairs.

  16. La'Tasha Williamson says:

    Hi! I love the room, is the link to the table the same one you have. The color seems off a bit (dark taupe) .


  17. Amy says:

    Hi! Just came across your blog. Love your design style! Can you tell me about putting your subwoofer in a basket in the basement family space? I’ve been thinking about doing something similar with our tv components and sub in our living room but my husband is fighting me on it. TIa!

  18. Sunny says:

    Dimensions (autocorrect)

  19. Sunny says:

    hi love the basement, would love to do a similar project. mind if i ask the damsons of this room


  20. Lindsey says:

    I love this room, especially the pictures of your girls on the wall. I’d like to do something similar in my living room. Can you tell me the dimensions of the pics and where you got the frames? Thanks!!

  21. Erika L. says:

    What color is the trim? Thanks.

  22. Rachel says:

    I really love your couch and I’ll be ordering the same style. I was curious about the fabric you chose and how it’s holding up? I really like the color you chose :)

  23. Tina says:

    Love this room! Looking to buy the same carpet. Now that it has been 6 months, how is the carpet wearing? Any issues?

  24. Madeleine Rowan says:

    Love this transformation, very inspiring for our own current family room upgrade. Do you guys wear shoes on the carpet downstairs? Curious whether the light color holds up in high traffic spots. Thanks, love your site!

  25. Rollan says:

    Chris and Julia,
    I totally love your sectional down in this room. I’m looking for something similar, but without being able to go to the showroom, one of the most important aspects of it would have to be the cushions. Would you say these were on the firmer side or plush side? I’ve been looking for something more on the oversized/plush feeling. But not too soft where you are sinking in the couch, but plush enough that it makes you want to just sit in it all day! Thanks in advance if you reply.

  26. Jon says:

    Julia, can you explain how you installed the shelving on the bookshelves? Thanks.

  27. heather says:

    My husband and I are wanting to do something similar in our basement (media center), and we were curious what you did with all your speakers. Do you just have the one sound bar below the TV? My husband is wanting to do a projections screen, and all I can think about is all his speakers! I want them hidden and out of sight! Curious how you deal with designing/styling around speakers…

  28. Michelle Milbourne says:

    Sorry-another question-how low and how far apart did you hang your lights above the table?

  29. Michelle says:

    I’m in love with this look and how functional it is! I want to mimick the play area for my 2&5 yr old!!

    I love this table but it’s out of stock everywhere! Any idea where to get a similar one that’s affordable?

  30. Ashley says:

    Do you have any tips or a tutorial on adding recessed lighting to a basement ceiling?!

  31. Sarah says:

    You know what? I thought I was over my dark wall cravings, but it’s so perfect here! Thanks so much for explaining the thinking behind it too. This room is gorgeous and I love that you’ve thought of the whole family.

  32. Haleigh says:

    This looks beautiful and is serving as major inspiration for my family room renovation. What is the source for the Great Indoors print? Great job guys!

  33. Denise says:

    What a stunning space! So well planned and designed! I’ll be coming back to this when we’re ready to update our basement. As always, well done!

  34. Alana says:

    Beautiful space! Thank you for sharing! Love the couch… did you special order it to have a chaise on both sides? I don’t see that option on the company website. Also, which fabric did you choose?

  35. Liz Lawrence says:

    This is amazing! And will serve for much inspiration in our basement! Thanks for sharing! I am wondering about “The Hound” dog art that you linked to etsy. The one available in the shop seems much smaller than the one you have. Do you mind to share the dimensions of yours? Thank you much!

    • Julia says:

      I ended up getting a stretched canvas one (I believe the largest one they offer) on their site. I believe in the Etsy description, they link to their actual site for more options:

  36. Lori says:

    I love this room!!! You did such an amazing job making it perfect for your family.

  37. olivia says:

    nice work. however, i wish you’d post real photos of the kids actually playing, with toys and books around. this looks too staged, far beyond what a real ‘life-in-a-day-with-two-kids’ look like. the photos look cold, not warm and cozy for me.

  38. Caeli says:

    I love it! I didn’t see a source for the wooden side table next to the piano and under the plant…where is that beauty from?

  39. Kelsi says:

    Seriously perfection. Such a dreamy basement. You guys have a gifted eye for greatness!

  40. Tammy C. says:

    Love the finished basement! Did you clean the air return prior to painting? I have an old style wall heater that hasn’t been cleaned in ages and I’m ready to tackle it. I’ve considered a qtip and alcohol or simple green, but there are so many individual slots I’m afraid to get started. Any ideas??

  41. Stacy says:

    Beautifully done! Should give you years of enjoyment.

  42. Arielle says:

    Your photos look lovely.

    (P.S. I enjoy listening to your guys’ podcast on the way home from work :)

  43. Ann C says:

    I love it all. The sofa, table, built ins, EVERYTHING! My question is why you didn’t put the tv where the dog picture is and have the sofa facing both the tv and fireplace? I’m sure with all the other planning you did you have a very thought out answer. I just can’t figure it out! Thanks for sharing.

    • Julia says:

      Good question. There’s two reasons. When you walk into the room, it’s from that long hall (the stairs are to the left looking down the hall). And I don’t like walking into a room facing the back of the largest piece of furniture–the sectional in this case. Seeing the sectional sprawled across the room felt really welcoming. Secondly, the speakers and TV facing away from the stairwell and hall was really important so the sound wouldn’t carry all the way up the stairs or in the bedrooms down the hall.

  44. Nikki says:

    Such great inspiration! I’m trying to figure out a layout for our upcoming basement Reno…is your sectional touching the wall on the one side?

    Thank you :)

  45. Alison G says:

    Very nice transformation. In looking at the photos, the dark wall and the black throughout, maybe the frames on the girls pictures would bring black to that corner and tie in with the rest? Just an observation. Painting that wall dark, made the space. Really smart.

  46. Shelby says:

    I love it all. Functional but beautiful at the same time. And that couch looks divine!! My favorite is the planked wall and shelves. Trying to find a place to do this in our home! :)

  47. Jackie says:

    What are the dimensions of the table? Thoughts on making it convertible into a ping pong table? I’m currently figuring this project out for myself and I bet you’d come up with a great idea for what to use as the net to make it look stylish/decorative/attractive.

    Anyway, – this room is awesome. It all looks super beautiful. Congrats!

  48. Kristen says:

    Your basement looks amazing!! I love how you made the space beautiful and functional for your entire family.

  49. Ginger says:

    love your work!

  50. Emily Brewster says:

    What a beautiful room! I love seeing the transition each room makes.

    I teach Kindergarten and I’m looking for ‘reading buddies’. If you haven’t picked a place to donate the stuffed animals I would love to have them in my class. I live in IF and can travel to get them ?

  51. Emily says:

    Gorgeous! I love everything about this! That dark wall is a great idea, with the light colors contrasting it is great. This is a great space to have as a family room. I am determined to finally have our basement become useful space!

  52. Tanja says:

    Chris and Julia – amazing amazing amazing. I love your family room. Where did you get the metal play letters? I want them.

  53. I can easily see how it took 8 months – that was a lot of work! What a transformation. In my opinion, the dark wall makes it. And I love the dog artwork!

  54. Jen says:

    This may be an odd question , but something I have been struggling with in my home lately. What kind of light bulbs do you use? We have been trying to switch over to all LED lightbulbs, but the specific type is giving me trouble. Some looked fluorescent, some have an orange glow, what gives you the most natural looking light possible? Thank you so much

    • Julia says:

      These are our absolute favorite bulbs.

      • Nicole Orrell says:

        Run (don’t walk) over to Home Depot for your Cree Bulbs. I was just there and they were $1.97 each!!!! Whaaaat! ?
        I would always suggest that you support a blogger with a click and buy, but I’m sure C&J wouldn’t mind this suggestion since it is such an amazing deal!

      • Julia says:

        I’m on my way!

      • Kimberly says:

        I’d love a post on light bulbs – for lamps, for recessed lighting, various rooms, etc. I’m totally confused about what bulbs serve what purposes, and which ones are better/worse for various things (tasks, overall lighting, warming a room, etc.)

      • Lindsay says:

        Are these STILL your favorite bulbs? I have had such a hard time with LED looking like a warehouse. hate it.

  55. Jenn Freeman says:

    This post (as always) came at the perfect time. I was debating whether to paint our bedroom dark or white. It does not have any direct sunlight, has been a shade of off white and just feels dingy!! So dark it is! The basement is so amazing, the tv built ins are one of my favorite things you guys have done!!

  56. Bethany says:

    Oh man. Gorgeous! I think you nailed it with the idea that it should be enjoyable for kids and adults. And may I ask where you enter this room? I don’t know why I’m thinking this, but I envision the entrance through the door behind the teepee.

  57. We used to live in a basement apartment a few years back, and your space reminded me of it – although yours is, of course, much nicer because ours was pre-furnished (read: brown and ugly). Anyway, so many ideas in this post – from the large scale photos of the kiddos to the guitar wall art (been wondering what to do with ours…), I can’t wait to finally finish our own remodel and start incorporating these ideas into our own space! Oh, and that shiplap wall…….. I’m not even a fan of shiplap, but oh, it’s so beautiful and functional and pretty much the epitome of perfection. XO

  58. Carol says:

    This space – like everything you do – is fantastic! Thanks for sharing!!

  59. Stephanie says:

    I love it! Awesome use of space and I enjoy how it functions for your family! I also really like the dark wall. I really enjoyed how you explained your paint color choice for the lighting issue in your basement. Would you recommend painting the walls a darker color (medium gray?) in a basement where the natural light is scarce? We are currently drywalling our basement and we do not have gorgeous light streaming through our teeny tiny windows. I have to pick a paint color and it’s driving me crazy!!!!!! Also, where are your
    basement stairs located?

    • Julia says:

      We only have one window in this huge room, but recessed lighting added a lot. If you can add recessed lighting, I’d stick with a light, warm color. If you can’t, a medium color would be nice with warm undertones.

  60. Kristen says:

    How do you get your snake plant leaves to stay straight? Mine keep falling over! I can’t believe how much light you get in this room! Hardly looks like a basement. The after is incredible!

  61. Christa says:

    Looks great! Curious how you added recessed lighting, did you have to rip out the whole ceiling?

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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. 

HI! We're Chris + Julia

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