Monthly Archives: April 2016

Basement Playroom – Final

The basement playroom ended up being a huge transformation if only because covering the tile made the room look entirely different. Here’s the final reveal.





The art on the back wall here includes a color wheel wreath from Land of Nod, a weird print of an animal on a bicycle from IKEA, and a sasquatch drawn by my brother-in-law. We also added the overhead fan. (I was told not to move the train track on the floor in the right corner of this photo because it was a “masterpiece.” I don’t like to stand in the way of art.)




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We covered the ledge with Kallax storage shelves from Ikea, which turned this entire wasted wall into useful storage. We can come up with a different solution when the kids are older, but for now it prevents them from jumping to their doom every day. We used black shelves instead of white solely because we already had two black ones, and it was not worth the money to buy four new shelves just for the sake of color. Also, my boys treat furniture the way wild apes might if they encountered laminate pressboard in their native environment, so there’s no point in dropping dollars on furniture. (To wit: The couch down here was inherited from my parents for the low, low cost of free.)






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The cork board in the art corner here was a project we completed for the kitchen in our old house, and we moved it to the play room to display the kid’s work. Full instructions can be found here.





The print next to the door is from ArtStar, which is a great Web site that promotes affordable, collectible art.


The Little Collector portion of the site is entirely devoted to kid art, including this portrait of Fisher Price Little People. Every adult who walks into the room asks about it. Some find it hilarious; others find it to be “dead-eyed.” I love it.

The other piece of art that I really love in the room is hard to see in the shots because the frame is so reflective, but it’s the patent drawings of Lego minifigures. Available from Patent Prints and Eye Catching Patents.






Basement Playroom – Stage 3

The ceramic floor tile made the room feel cold and unwelcoming. Unfortunately, it also wrapped up along the wall to act as a baseboard, so it would have been unnecessarily complicated to rip it all out. (Guess how I know–Andy removed one of the baseboard tiles and it took half the drywall with it. Plan aborted.) Our solution was to add traditional baseboard on top of the tile along the wall, and to use FLOR carpet tiles on the floor.

I found this pattern (Fall in Line-Jade) of FLOR tiles on sale (marked down from $13 per tile to $8.49 per tile), so I got a good deal. (Also check the outlet page.) The wall colors were inspired by the stripes in the FLOR tiles.


I love carpet tiles for a kid’s room not only for the pattern and color, but also for practical reasons–when the kids inevitably spill, we can replace the affected squares rather than scrapping the whole carpet or living with gross stains.(Be sure to buy more tiles than you need for just this purpose. We have an extra box in reserve.) As an added bonus, FLOR is an eco-friendly company–more than 50 percent of the materials in the carpet are made from recyclables.

The carpet tiles come with instructions on how to place them so I won’t belabor it here, but essentially you need to start in the middle and work your way to the walls, so that you’re making cuts along the walls and not in the middle. Because this room was a large rectangle, Andy worked his way in a cross pattern, like so.

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You can see the improved baseboards in this shot, as well as the cuts that still need to be made along the walls.

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And here it is with the cuts complete. For some reason, it did not occur to me to move all of this crap out of the way before taking the photo. Realism.596


Basement Playroom – Stage 2

While the wainscoting work was going on, we also painted the basement walls blue and green. It’s a kid’s playroom so we had license to go a little bananas with color.  Nobody is inspired to play Halloween dinosaur ghost* in a beige room.

*actual game played by my children at least once a week.



The north and south walls are Meridian Blue by Benjamin Moore.


The west wall is painted with Shades of Spring, with yellow Banan-Appeal in the window wells to reflect the minimal light that comes in.

Just a note here because I don’t think I’ve mentioned it elsewhere–we used Benjamin Moore Natura throughout the entire house because I insisted on using zero-VOC paint. It’s odorless and there’s no subsequent off-gassing so it’s much healthier for your indoor environment–especially important for rooms where kids are going to spend a lot of time. We used low-VOC paint in the past that was a gummy nightmare to apply. Not so with Natura–it goes on like a dream. There’s my pitch. Use it.


We left the east wall white so that we could decorate it with a stencil. We found a circle stencil pattern and used the wall colors from the other three walls. Here’s how it turned out:


The problem, of course, is that it looked incredibly stupid. Wah-wuh. So we scrapped that idea and my mom and I scoured wallpaper books looking for a pattern to complement the already painted walls. (Nothing like designing backwards.) We found this one:


It’s supposed to be hung vertically but my mom had the idea to run it horizontally along the wall.

Here’s the result:


Good save.

Basement Playroom – Stage 1

We weren’t sure what to do with the bench seating along the left side of the room. It probably worked well for resting between billiard shots, but it was a waste of space for our purposes. Also, the kids kept walking along the top and launching themselves onto the tile floor. We’re not made of ER co-pays, so we had to cover the ledge–at least until our kids outgrow their positions as President and C.E.O. of Bad Decisions, Incorporated. (They will, right?)

So as a refresher, here is the original look. (And no, that’s not the ghost on the right. This isn’t Three Men and a Baby. It’s just Andy’s shadow.)


The first thing Andy did was gleefully rip out that weird brown carpeting on top of the ledge. The right portion of the seating opened into a deep storage cabinet, revealing a complete human skeleton. No, just kidding. It only contained a retro boom box that had probably been sitting there untouched since the addition was completed in 1988. We had a quick Billy Ocean dance party and then added it to the donation pile. (The boom box, not Billy Ocean. He’s a timeless treasure.)

Andy replaced the top of the ledge with new plywood to keep the surface even. Then we had to figure out what to do about the tile that was everywhere in the room. All those grout lines had kind of a TRON effect. It would have been really expensive and a huge mess to replace them, not to mention that every time we remove something, we uncover four more problems. (I think that was Jay-Z‘s original lyric —  “I’ve got one problem and then I find four more” but it didn’t rhyme so he scrapped it. He was so frustrated that eventually he had 99 problems and history was made. That’s a true story I just made up.)

Our solution was to cover the tile along the ledge with white wainscoting. We painted the wainscoting sheets before they were applied to the wall, and then Andy attached them to the tile with a combination of glue and liquid nails. Here it is in progress:

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The tile already looks less overwhelming just with this portion covered.

Basement Playroom – Original

There’s a standard unfinished basement under the original portion of the house, but when the previous owners renovated in 1988, they added an extra basement room. (The addition room is a few feet lower than the original basement to allow for more head room.) They used it as a billiards room; we are turning it into the playroom.

Here’s what it looked like originally:


We added the heat source in the corner because the room does not have its own heating. This is a garage heater with a built-in thermostat, so it turns on automatically when it gets too cold in the room. It was the most cost-effective solution and much safer than having space-heaters within reach of the kids.


This square really puzzled us when we bought the house, but we later figured it must have been the support for a dart board. Or they just really liked the look of random squares.


This is the dart board after Andy took a sledgehammer to it. The whole left side of the room had this bench seating, covered with brown indoor/outdoor carpeting.


Here’s additional seating, with the odd little drop-off behind the door. (The two steps you can see outside the door lead to the unfinished part of the basement.)


Here’s a view of the right side of the wall after Andy removed the pool cue holders from the wall.

In its original form, this room was cold, dark, and very mustardy. We fix that.

Kid’s Bedroom 2 – Final Robot Room

We had a robot-themed bedroom in our old house, and I saw no need to scrap it just because we moved. So here are the before and after shots of the robot room, which our 3-year-old son loves.




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The dresser on the left was inherited from my parents and painted with Rustoleum Kona brown. Here’s a better photo of the retro robot prints over the dresser.







Bedding from The Land of Nod—including robot duvet cover and shams and orange blanket and shams. The Mr. Robot Pillow available at Branch Home. (The creases in the bedding are courtesy of my son, who would not stop jumping on the bed before I took these photos.)

The decals above the bed are available on Etsy in many color combos.

We created the initial above the bed ourselves. I bought the letter from, which allows you to choose a variety of fonts and sizes. (This is Cooper Black.) We painted the edges of the letter orange, then set it down on robot paper from Paper Source. We cut the paper to approximately fit the letter, sprayed it with repositionable spray glue and cut the excess paper away from the letters with an X-acto knife. (For more full instructions and photos, click here.)





A bargain print from and a pennant created by my mother-in-law complete the reading nook, which also includes bins and a chair from Ikea.

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The wall behind the door includes this custom coat hook. I commissioned Andy to make it because I couldn’t find any I liked. It was super easy — measure out the dimensions of wood you want (he added a routered edge, mostly because he had a new router he wanted to use), then add vinyl decals and hooks.


And here is a fun little surprise in the closet. The robot decals came with two bonus monster decals, so I put them in the closet. When our son says he has monsters in his closet, he’s right. When he says he can’t go to bed because his room is “full of bees” — well, he’s full of crap, but he gets high marks for ingenuity.

Kid’s Bedroom 2 – Stage 3

I was looking for a piece of furniture for this room and liked the cubic bookcase from Land of Nod. I did not, however, like the $299 price tag.


Instead, I found the Nornas sideboard at Ikea ($169 when I bought it; now $179) and decided to stain it to match the furniture I already had for the room.379

Here are the stained pieces as they dry:381

And here is the completed piece, which includes two more cubes of storage than the Land of Nod model, for $120 cheaper. Done.


Kid’s Bedroom 2 – Stage 2

The next steps included painting the walls (we went with Benjamin Moore Blueberry), adding overhead lighting, and replacing the windows. (The windows in this room did not fit the frames correctly and there was a full-on breeze coming through both of them. The room is at least five degrees warmer with the new windows in place.)

Here’s a photo of the white trim, blue walls, overhead light and new windows with Prairie-style grids.





Kid’s Bedroom 2 – Stage 1

The first step was painting the trim white. This bedroom had many of the same issues as the other bedroom we already renovated–the trim was comprised of mismatched pieces and stain finishes. Painting the trim was the best solution, but we kept the doors in the original wood stain.

After the walls had been patched, we removed the doors and painted the trim. It was boring, but we caught up on Serial. This bedroom will forever remind me of Adnan. (Seriously, what of the Asia McClain alibi?) Here are photos of the painted trim, pre-wall paint.

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