Our Dramatic Basement Family Room Makeover

September 17, 2020

We believe we should all love where we live.

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We have a long-standing relationship with DIY, and love rolling our sleeves up and making it happen. 

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Last week, we got word that our sofa line with Interior Define was going to be on sale later this month and they would love new assets to promote the sale. Cue us frantically squeezing in a basement family room paint session to make it look its best.

The truth is, we have been meaning to do a family room makeover for quite some time–and ordered most everything for it back in March (check out the initial mood board here!), but this deadline was just what we needed to light a fire. Paint and a few accessories worked wonders–again!

You can see in the before (above) everything was kind of all one color. The walls and ceiling blended into the carpet and even the sofa. The biggest standout in the room was the orange-y wood trim! Haha. Overall, the room lacked depth. It actually gets a good amount of natural light during the day (for a basement anyway), but the wood shutters blocked so much of that and painting it white wasn’t going to convince anyone this was a light and airy room.

Remember my tip? Don’t paint a room with low natural light WHITE. It will just look dingy. So we did the opposite and painted it almost black.

The color is Greenblack by Sherwin Williams. We did the walls in eggshell and the trim and doors in the same color but semi-gloss. It’s a striking mix and the color has a beautiful greenish-blue tint to it. It’s hard to capture on camera, but in the photo below you can kind of see how it looks in contrast to the black TV.

Also, yes, we still have some cord/outlet moving to do. The previous owners had the TV hung VERY high, so when we add trim to the walls down here (that’s the plan eventually!), we’ll be sure to move it then.

Besides painting the walls really dark and the ceiling white (our basement ceilings are 8′ so we are painting all the ceilings down here white–we did the same in the guest room!) there there were a few things that really took this room to the next level. We had the sectional, rug, ottoman media cabinet–all the furniture. But this turned into an accessorizing game. We made a short video of our styling tips!

1. Never underestimate the power of lamps. They will MAKE YOUR ROOM and at night when they are all glowly, you will feel more relaxed and happy. You just will! They create a mood and an intimate moment and I love to layer at least 2 into every room. Here, I was so happy to finally use the one I thrifted earlier this year on one end of the sofa.

And the floor lamp we had here on the other end. The mixed vintage and modern style tell the whole story of the room (and the house) and I love the balance and asymmetry and table lamp + floor lamp bring.

2. White curtains, hung high and wide, saved the day. By hanging two panels on each side, spanning most of the window wall, we were able to help make the small look so much larger and really soften the room. I love to use curtain clips for easy open and close and the brass just POPS against the dark walls. I linked the exact curtains we used below because they are the best ready-made I’ve found.

3. No room is complete without art and I wanted to do something more modern here, since I leaned traditional in other elements. A couple years ago, I got these abstract gesture drawings that I cherish! They have been hung a few places in our home but I think they REALLY shine here!

The white against the black walls. The modern against the traditional lines. The floor the ceiling application feels so fresh!

It feels playful and boundary pushing and a little unexpected–all good things in my book.

4. Do you want your pillows to stand out or quietly contribute? Besides paint and curtains, the only thing I ordered for this makeover was pillows. Our previous ones weren’t selected specifically for this space and they were very contrast-y and attention grabbing. I really wanted a more soothing color palette that quietly contributed (in a big way!). A supporting character, instead of the star (and you know, supporting actors get Oscars too)–which we’re trying to make the sectional, remember?

We mixed a lot of patterns in textiles in this room–the rug + plaid ottoman + 7 different pattered pillows–all that could look crazy if they weren’t all in a subdued color palette with varying pattern sizes. Instead it looks interesting and collected. We’re so thrilled with how this quick makeover turned out!


Wall Color: Greenblack by Sherwin Williams
Art (old from Etu Home)
Charly Corner Sectional in Vintage Plush Sisal
Hans Pillow Cover
Dorian Pillow Cover
Deliah Pillow Cover
Saraya Pillow Cover
Minerva Pillow Cover
Ellen Dotted Pillow Cover
Pillow Insert
Ottoman (no longer available from Shoppe Amber Interiors)
Rug over Carpet Carpet Pad
Leather Accent Chair
Throw Blanket
Floor Lamp
Side Table
Curtain Rod
Olive Tree
Media Stand
Mirrored Tray (similar)
Rustic Bull
Habitat Book
Hide and Seek Book
The Nature of Home Book

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What do you think?

  1. Mae says:

    Your room is amazing! I do have a question on the Charly sectional. What size did you go with for your space and how do you know how big or small your sectional should be for a space?

  2. Kendra says:

    Very similar to what I have planned for our future family room! Very cozy! Just wondering the dimensions of the room???????????? Struggling to fit our very comfy couch from our old house into the space. But think it could work well with a layout like this

  3. Susie H says:

    Is your door color the same color as the walls?

  4. Serena says:

    When is the sale starting at Interior define? I’

  5. Sara H. says:

    Love it! I do have a question though-if your windows were typical basement rectangular windows (1/2 the size of yours and closer to the ceiling) would your window treatment still apply or would you do something else? Also, would you still go as dark or maybe a mid-tone grey? Thanks Julia! Love your style!

  6. April Werts says:

    It turned out beautiful! Amazing how you can completely transform a room from ho-hum to stunning. When you paint the ceiling a different color than the walls, like in this room, what color do you use for the ceiling?

  7. Carrie says:

    Wow. Great work. Can you give us any more details about the upcoming Interior Define sale? Like when it starts.

  8. Rose Moynier says:

    Good morning!

    This room is so gorgeous(every detail) and I was able to prove to my husband painting dark actually open the room up(keeping ceilings white).

    We are looking at Charly for our den area to replace RH sofas that we love but don’t love the feathers poking out(ugh).

    What cushion fill do you have with your Charly?

  9. Stephanie from San Diego says:

    Wow, the tip about hanging the curtains to make the window look wider sure works! Before I watched the video I thought you knocked out the window and built a larger one. Beautiful work as always. Drooling!

  10. Heidi says:

    This is gorgeous. I want every TV room in my life from now on to be dark.

    Would be great to see some alternatives for the large ottoman! I normally only see them in French linen type stripe patterns, but the plaid makes for a nice elevated cozy rustic.

  11. Julie says:

    This is a little thing, but I really appreciate your description about using pillows with more subtle details that “quietly contribute.” Thank you for sharing that new perspective!

  12. KB says:

    Amazing job with this space! I am planning to go dark in our basement and you’ve inspired me to also do the trim! Question on the doors though- do you just paint the one side the dark color to match the room? What about closet doors? TIA!

  13. Ellen says:

    I can’t believe that’s the same window! It looks huge now! I really love this room, it’s so cozy and comfortable but also with a touch of sleek and modern — just right.

  14. Wow! It looks amazing! Enjoy many happy hours there…

  15. Eleni says:

    The makeover is stunning! I always love your pillows. Do you have a link for the block print one? I didn’t see it above. Thanks!!

  16. Caroline says:

    Absolutely stunning! Such good taste! Curious to know your opinion, my basement is small two rooms aprox 13×11 each, no windows, the basement stairs is what separate a room from another, love the color you painted the walls, would it be too dark to paint dark like yours? Thank you.

  17. Eleni says:

    Hello, the makeover is stunning! I didn’t see a link for the block print pillow. Do you have one? It’s so cute!

  18. Hayley says:

    This somehow feels like the most CLJ room in the new house so far! Looks fantastic.

  19. Khali says:

    I’d love to know the room dimensions. Would you consider sharing?

  20. Sarah says:

    THIS ROOM IS STUNNING! I can’t believe you pulled this together last minute. You are so talented!

    Did you do the white or the ivory color for the curtains?

  21. Valerie says:

    I love this! Where can I find the post you did recently comparing throw pillows at different costs?

  22. K. Archer says:

    I think is is gorgeous! I love your house. You made beautiful choices. I enjoy seeing your house evolve.

  23. Leslie says:

    You have done it again, yet another inspiring space. Thank you for sharing.

  24. Taylor says:

    The room looks great. I was excited about the pillow covers becauseI am 100% on board with the quiet contribution angle, and I’ve been looking for similar. However I was disappointed when I clicked through the links and they are all (except the Ellen, which is $88) over $100 each and many close to $200. I have children aged similarly to yours and would love recommendations on a less-expensive way to achieve this look. Thanks for any ideas.

    • Julia says:

      We share SO many pillows at different price points and we’ll be sure to share more soon. But I would suggest designating a pillow/accessories budget when working on a space. Maybe it’s $150 total for everything! But set a budget for yourself so that you can give yourself the freedom of purchasing accessories. They do make such an impact! And Etsy is a great source!

  25. Angie says:

    Love, love, love the color! Dark colors are my favorite! How do you transition from a dark, or dramatic room to a lighter or different color room or space? Could you share pictures of the room transitions?

  26. Deb Trnka says:

    I absolutely LOVE THIS and it it now my inspo for the basement remodeling in the middle of. I’m making it a music room /studio for my son who can’t go away to music school now ????. My question is… In the first pic you said not to paint a low ceilings white or they will look dingy. But then you painted yours white. What did I miss or is my phone not giving me the full info? ????

  27. Erin says:

    Wow! Fabulous job, as always.

    Question on the Charly: It looks like the seams on your cushions are in the center, but online it doesn’t look like that. Is that something that comes with a cushion fill option? Or changes based on the fabric?

  28. Julie S says:

    I love it! You really made something great out of what seemed to be a blah room. I’m glad the ceiling is white – really helps bounce the available light and not feel like a total cave. Have you seen Room For Tuesday’s basement makeover? It has a very similar feel, though with dark curtains.
    The only change I’d make if it were my home is replacing those throw cushions with 3 or 4 larger ones. I’ve found on my sectional it makes for less stuff in the way of lounging with similar visual and practical impact. Apart from that, I totally want to crash there!

  29. krystle says:

    So fun to see this art in this space verses where it was in your last home! Turned out so nice.

  30. Susie says:

    Love it. Question: we are trying to decide on a final size for egress windows in our basement. What size is your egress window?

  31. Laura Bervig says:

    This is an incredible makeover!! May I ask what size the pictures are behind your sofa?

  32. Cassie says:

    This is EVERYTHING! So beautiful, the perfect place to cuddle up for a movie or just hang out. Now where can I paint a dark room like this in my house…..haha!

  33. lindsey says:

    I love it so much! You always seem to nail the paint colors. The ones I pick out are never warm or dimensional enough!

  34. Cynthia says:

    Where are the doorknobs from? The look lovely!

  35. Valerie says:

    Wow. So inspiring. I’ve been wanting to change up our basement family/play/school room. This is beautiful.

  36. Loralei Price says:

    Thank you! On your recommendation I ordered the curtain rod and matching curtain rings and just received them yesterday. I love the color! And the price is pretty good too!

  37. Kiana says:

    Such a beautiful, relaxing, grown up room. I think the thing I love the most is that you showed it shot at night. I’ve been reading design blogs forever now and I’ve never seen anyone’s home at night. You really showed, without having to say it, how lamps and ambient lighting make a space complete. Thank you!

  38. Christina Schmiesing says:

    Took my breath away with this one!

  39. Leslie says:

    This is STUNNING! I love how the art looks against the wall color, but did it hurt your heart a little to hang those precious pieces with two blocked by the couch? Did you consider only hanging two? I know how much you love them so it would have been hard for me to block the view of them.

  40. Emilie says:

    I say this every time.. but this might be my favourite room yet! I could stare at the window wall and the art wall all day. But am also SO into the black on black wall/TV situation! I never thought I would like the look of a big TV on a wall, but I have all the feels about that tone on tone look. Wow. I don’t have a TV room but when I do, she will be this colour.

  41. Lisa says:

    This is beautiful. Question: with lamps how do you deal with cords? I hate pushing furniture against the walls but all of our outlets are on walls so we end up with cords dragging. Not ideal with 2 kids. Thanks!

    • Julia says:

      we ran an extension cord under the sofa and plugged the table lamp into the outlet by the window

    • Julia says:

      For the table lamp, we actually ran an extension cord under the sofa and plugged it into the outlet by the window!

    • Melissa says:

      This was going to be my question too! I like having lamps but the dang cords are always a problem. Even if you happen to have a floor outlet, it limits how you can arrange your furniture. Why are battery-powered lamps not more of a thing?!?

  42. Julie says:

    That curtains trick! You’d think it was a picture window now! I just can’t get over how bright it looks! Amazing!

  43. Emmy Blakely says:

    Do you have floor outlets? It’s the one thing I asked our builder to do that they denied, and I’m so bummed to not be able to have any lamps in my living room. Any genius suggestions?

  44. Lauren S says:

    I have this sectional (LOVE!) and always wondered what to do with the pillows that come with it. I see you just kept 2! Looks great!!

  45. Caroline K says:

    Love this! Taking so many tips for my basement Reno in process, especially paint colors. I just ordered your Charly sofa last week, so bummed to hear I missed the sale by a few days… don’t suspect they would honor a further discount would they?

  46. Jennifer says:

    Love this! Do you know the artist for those gesture drawings? I know they are old from Etu Home, but I would love to track down the artist!

  47. Marcia Wilson says:

    Love it. I wonder what it would look like if you had done the ceiling also. I would think that it might have expanded the space and made the furniture seem like it was floating.

  48. Dawn says:

    Looks incredible! Super curious about you process to paint the smoke detector. We have a black ceiling in our living room and that’s the one thing that bugs me. I was told painting it would make it ineffective so if you’ve found a way to paint it and have it still work, please share ????

    • Julia says:

      You can just take the cover of and spray paint it! Still works great

      • Jen says:

        As a licensed member of the building professional community, I am alarmed to see this reply. I have seen buildings fail inspections because the smoke detectors were painted. All of the manufacturers that I can think of say specifically to not paint, though some have it printed on a sticker that unfortunately gets removed. Painting can restrict or change how the original unit was UL tested and found to be up to safety standards. While I have no doubt you can get this smoke detector to go off, you have changed its effectiveness. In this particular instance, a non-painted smoke or carbon monoxide detector would virtually disappear on the ceiling.

        Please don’t use your influencer position to tout unsafe practices. There are manufacturers that make black smoke detectors (Simplex is one), they just aren’t as ubiquitous in the home improvement stores. I was prepared to look the other way when I noticed it in the picture (though you only appear to have only painted one unit, not the one over the door) but my moral and ethical code will not allow me to stay silent when you tell a reader that they can paint it.

      • Grace says:

        Very respectful and informative answer. I did not know that about smoke detectors and it’s good to know they are sold in black. It’s great a read a comment that is so informative and has the safety of others at its core.

        Thank you for taking the time to enlighten and inform. It could save someone a lot of hassle (and potentially prevent a disaster) to now know that a) don’t paint safety detectors and b) they cam come in different colours so it’s a win-win for safety and style.

        You could have easily not posted anything at all, but I am glad that you did. The more you know.

      • Grace says:

        Also, beautiful room makeover. I usually never comment, but well done.

      • Top Commentor says:

        It’s so nice to have someone from the hall monitor community weigh-in on this subject. This is an A+ example of virtue-signaling. Bravo!

      • Grace says:

        Smoke detector safety is really important stuff. This blog had their own first hand loss of a home from a fire, and as such they should be advocating for proper fire safety to their readers (because they are influencers and that comes with a certain level of responsibility to be a good influencer).

        If you had a fire and the inspectors noticed that you had messed around with the detectors I imagine there’d be consequences. And worst case scenario, if there was a fire and the alarm did not go off due to your actions because it was painted, that would be such an avoidable tragedy.

        I was really sorry to read about the cabin fire and this blog should know more than most that house fires can hit anyone. Everyone should have proper and in good working order smoke detectors in their homes, and giving advice that goes against the warning printed directly on the device is dangerous.

        It’s the furthest from virtue-signaling as you can get — it’s really important stuff and it is a matter of life and death and people should be properly informed.

        Whether you chose to go against the warning or not is up to you, but it’s important to know that it is not advised to paint over the device. It’s very helpful information to know that there is no need to paint it anyway and that they can come in black because we usually only see the white ones.

      • Cara says:

        Wow! I’ve never thought about looking out for the safety of others as virtue signaling but thank you for enlightening us. Bravo to you! Geez

  49. SARAH says:

    Wow! This turned out amazing, great job!!!

  50. Mel says:

    This is INCREDIBLE!! Excellent job!
    I feel like I want to paint my family room this colour now!!

  51. Bianca says:

    I can never believe how much bigger windows look when you hang the curtains like that! Looks like a whole new window! This room turned out awesome!

  52. Tarynkay says:

    I love how the black tv just melts into the almost black walls. I’m sold, I now believe black is the best color for a tv room.

  53. Melanie says:

    Hoping you’ll link the rug pad for over carpet you liked as I came to the site searching for the one you liked. lol

  54. Blake says:

    So beautiful! I’m learning so much from you about paint color choices for different spaces- thank you!

    When you paint ceilings white, is it the same white that you used on the walls in the house, or is it a more pure/brighter white, and always eggshell finish?

  55. Ooh, this is so good! In a way, it reminds me of the gorgeous master in your previous house when it had the dark walls — the color, upholstery, floor lamp, curtains). Do you ever find yourself, intentionally or unintentionally, giving a nod in your current home to spaces you’ve loved from your previous homes? (Maybe it’s a question for the Love Letter? ????)

  56. Kate Firestine says:

    It’s a stunner – as always! You always manage to come up with something a bit unexpected and it inspires me to think outside of the box for my own spaces. Thank you for sharing this beautiful space!

  57. Nancy says:

    I love a good knock-down-wall DIY but this transformation was so simple (yet impactful) it gives everyone hope that they can transform their space with just some paint and styling tips. Incredible!

  58. Meg says:

    Everything you guys do is MAGIC!

  59. Jen says:

    WOW WOW WOW!!! What a transFormation!’ Love it!

  60. Maya says:

    How does it look a million times brighter now that it is BLACK?? Amazing job, guys!

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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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