Westland Basement

Oh, basement, how you have been the bane of our existence!  Ever since we bought the house, we've had dreams of a finished basement, seeing as it would virtually double the living space in our home.  And yet the basement was the original source of many of our problems.  At one point, it had been finished.....with very cheap and ugly materials, but still finished (with the same cardboard-thin paneling as upstairs, and some sort of carpet).  At some point after being foreclosed, a pipe burst down there, probably flooding most of the basement.  The water got shut off, and someone tore all the carpet out (leaving the damp padding though, thanks).  This is the state we first saw it in.  Long story short, after lots of drama the bank fixed the plumbing and we were stuck to deal with the rest.  After about 3 years of letting it sit, we needed the space desperately enough to get to work!  We gutted most of the existing basement, only leaving the exterior walls, and started from scratch. 

BEFORE                                                             AFTER
(hopefully coming soon!)

Keep scrolling for the whole kit 'n kaboodle...

Mmmmm, faux brick and cardboard wood panelingStraight ahead at the bottom of the stairs was presumably the living room and yes, the full bar.  The nasty full bar.  Complete with beer tap and a sink (that wasn't to code, as it turns out).

And let's not forget the faux windows and the faux fireplace.  You've probably noticed that the word "faux" gets used a lot here.  That's because EVERYTHING in this house was cheap and fake (and in most cases, not done correctly).  The fireplace was originally functional, but the "chimney" (that went out into the backyard) had, at one point, been removed and filled in with dirt.  So alas, it did not vent anywhere (except back into the basement I suppose). 

Also note that a bunch of the ceiling panels were missing, and many were damaged from the water leak.  Don't you love that the ceiling covered half of the windows (the real windows, not the fake ones)?  The bar surround actually obscured 2 of them completely.  Talk about dark and dank!

Here is the view from the bar area.  You'll have to excuse all the dust particles:

Next to the bar/living area was was the laundry area and behind that was the bathroom (waaaaay back in the corner).

Inside the bathroom was a hallway (weird, I know), and more faux crap.  The toilet was so crammed into the corner (you know, behind the awesome hallway) that you would hit your head on the wall when you tried to sit down/stand up.  Genius.

Le sigh.  And then the demo began.  Because there had been water leaking down there, the first thing we did was to tear out anything porous that might grow mold.  ALL the paneling was torn out, along with the drop ceiling.  We also scraped up what was left of the carpet padding (with drywall knives actually.....turns out they worked quite well for this).  Gross.

Then we said goodbye to the glorious bar because, really, how often were we going to use it anyway?  And it took up SO much space!

Aaaand then we said goodbye to the fireplace too, because, really, how often were we going to use it anyway?  (deja vu)  Pretty much never, since it didn't vent to anywhere.  Even though it was pretty, it was totally useless and took up that whole corner.

I seem to have a thing for sledgehammers.  <3
You must be wondering what we did with all that rubble.  See those buckets?  Yep....we carried them one by one out to the back deck, and then eventually on to the dump.  Yee-haw!


Once we had destroyed just about everything, it was time to put it back together again.  By this time we had started a small business on the side (because, you know, we didn't have enough to do already), so we sucked it up and paid a friend/contractor to come and frame out the walls.  We could have done it ourselves, but it would have taken us a year.  This way it was done, and done right.  Here are before and after diagrams to give you an idea of the layout and where the walls moved to.  Basically we created a storage area in the back of the basement, enlarged the living area, made the bathroom and laundry area smaller, and took out a weird little closet thing along the side of the stairwell.

BEFORE                                                                                         AFTER

Once the walls were up, we worked on lighting.  The ceilings are a decent height for a basement (7' high), but we wanted to maximize the space, so we opted for all recessed lighting.  Our plan is not to finish the ceiling, but instead to paint it all black - a la Starbucks and other industrial spaces.  We've found that it makes the ceiling essentially "disappear" behind the lighting, and hey, it's cheap!  :o)

Here is our electrical plan:
(the colored dots are pot lights, O=outlet, and S=switch)

I'm proud to say that I wired every.single.one of those pot lights myself!  (And apparently I have a thing for blue long-sleeve t-shirts.)

After all the lights, outlets, and switches were installed, we added insulation to the new wall areas.  We also bought sheets of styrofoam insulation to put at the top of the walls, in between the trusses of the ceiling.  These will be painted black along with the ceiling to create a visual "wall" instead of the empty recessed space that was there before.

Then it was time to start drywalling.  After blowing through a regular box of drywall screws on 2.5 pieces of drywall, we realized we needed more supplies.  So we bought the largest bucket of screws I have ever seen.  25 pounds worth, to be exact.  It's a lot of screws!  We also discovered a magical thing called a drywall screwsetter.  Let me tell you.....this thing is amazing!  Without it, we had trouble controlling the depth of the screws in the drywall.....this thing sinks them to the perfect depth every time.  Not sure how we lived without it before!

With the help of my brother, we eventually hung all the drywall.  Then it was my turn to start mudding.....and mudding.....and mudding...

I was about 3/4 of the way done, when one Sunday afternoon I walked downstairs to discover....

Ruh-roh.  It had rained hard earlier that weekend, and somehow the water got into the house.  After some investigation, we realized that it didn't come up from the drain, but rather through a spot in the wall.  And as much as it hurt us to do it, we had to tear down a sheet of our newly-hung drywall.  *sigh*  After we removed the insulation, we found the culprit -- a small crack in the foundation wall from floor to ceiling.  See it there, to the left of the 2x4?  Not big, but apparently enough to let some water in during a heavy storm.

We decided to buy some cement patching compound to fill in the crack, and then put a new sheet of drywall up.

Next we fitted the windows with masonite panels to give them a finished look (these will eventually be painted)...

Before                                                           After

...and peeled up all the old floor tiles.

With the drywall finished, the next step was priming and painting the walls and ceiling.  Since the basement had been rather neglected by us for a couple years, we first had to give the ceiling a good scrub, and wipe down all the walls.  We're pretty sure that this was the ceiling's first cleaning since it was born in 1958.  See the nastiness on that sponge??  Yuck!

Before                                                            After

Trust me when I say it was gross.

Once the ceiling was clean, we needed to prime it.  A while ago we had purchased a Wagner power paint sprayer for just this very task.  So we took it out of the box for the first time, poured in some primer, and tried it out.  Thank goodness we tested it on some cardboard first....it sputtered and clogged and generally did not work.  At all.  We spent over an hour fiddling with the darn thing, and then another hour cleaning it out when we finally gave up.  We went to Lowe's to get some advice on what to do, and the guy told us that the sprayer was really not made for latex paint.  Hmm, that's funny, because the guy who sold it to us specifically told us that it would work just fine with latex primer and paint.  {eyeroll}  Figures.  So we ended up returning it, and renting a professional power sprayer!  Now THAT was a cool tool!  I sprayed all afternoon and evening, coating the walls and ceiling with primer, and then covering the walls with plastic to paint the ceiling back. 
It was exhausting!  I thoroughly appreciated my white marshmallow suit, though, because there were paint particles EVERYWHERE by the time I was done.  All over the walls, floor, my shoes, and my hands/forehead.  Good thing those shoes were pretty much worn out anyway...  :o)

The white ceiling was nice and bright, but unfortunately showed every crack, splinter, imperfection, and stain in the ceiling (and there were lots of imperfections).  The black paint made everything disappear.  Magic!

Next we painted the walls a cool gray.  We exchanged the crappy Wagner power sprayer for a power roller instead -- what a huge difference, it worked incredibly well, and made the job so much faster!

Then we installed baseboards and "crown molding" (the upper molding is actually door/window casing) and put in two doors - one for the pantry area, and one for the laundry room.

We thought the doors were white, but ended up being more of an ivory color compared to our super-white trim, so they needed to be painted as well.

Eventually we got all of the trim installed, spackled, and painted....

....just in time for carpet!  Although we had originally thought we would get gray carpet, we decided it would be too much gray with the walls, and instead opted for a neutral light beige color.  It has a cool linear pattern to it, and kind of looks like a different color depending on which direction you view it from (that is a piece of the same carpet laying on top, just turned the other direction.

Love it!  The carpet is from Lowe's (it is called Belfast, and the brand is Bella Vita). 
By the way, we painted the poles black so that they would flow seamlessly into the ceiling.  The painters tape outline is our future sectional....had to make sure it would fit in the space!  🙂

I wanted to have a fun mix of patterns in this space, and opted to paint a tone-on-tone pattern on the largest wall in the room - the one directly to your left when you come down the stairs.  At first I wanted horizontal stripes....but then decided I wanted something different and unexpected.  So I chose a harlequin diamond pattern.  It's definitely bold, but I think it has a certain elegance to it (either that or a circus feel, ha).  :o)

I found a trick online to prevent paint from bleeding underneath the tape, and it worked like a charm!  After taping, you first paint the edges in the original wall color to seal the tape to the wall.  Then you paint your new color on top (after the first coat dries, of course), and peel the tape off before the second coat fully dries.  The result is perfectly crisp lines!

Just need to finish painting the last 8 diamonds!

Eventually I finished painting the diamonds and caulked all the trim.  And then the fun part began....decorating!
Our sectional arrived, and I found the perfect lamps for the space.  We also got a large cube bookshelf from Ikea for behind the couch.
 Next we ordered one individual chair to fill the space between the couch and door, creating a nice u-shape seating arrangement.  The chair is ivory leather, and has an awesome diamond stitch pattern that mirrors the accent wall perfectly.  The bonus is that the seat actually lifts up for storage underneath!  The white chair legs are a bit ugly, but we'll paint those a darker color at some point.  (The taped square on the floor was for a potential coffee table.)

We needed a solution for our media components, as we plan to run the cables from the tv up and over the ceiling to the little corner behind the couch/lamp, and keep all of our components there.  I discovered these perfect little tables from Crate & Barrel that are stackable, and perfect for a media tower -- plus they come in yellow!  Since there are 4 individual tables, it gives us more flexibility down the road if we want to change the layout or if we move to a new home and no longer need a tower.  :o)  We don't plan to use them as a coffee table, but I snapped a pic of them all on the floor to show what they actually look like individually.  We've also been stocking up on fun accessories for the bookshelf.

And here are the tables stacked into a corner tower (those wires will eventually be secured to the ceiling):

I had a really hard time finding a coffee table for the space.  The "perfect" table was a mere $1700.....*gulp*!!  And just about every other table I found was so HUGE.  Doesn't anyone make tables for small spaces anymore?  One day I decided to search Craigslist, expecting to be disappointed....and I was wrong!  I actually found several viable options, and ended up purchasing this brass beauty.  I know it's brass and a little ugly, but it's the perfect size and shape, and some spraypaint should turn it into a quick fix.  Needless to say, it was nowhere near $1700...

After sanding the metal frame and a quick coat of primer and silver spraypaint, voila!

Even though the basement is carpeted, we toyed with the idea of having an area rug to help define the "living room" space.  I ended up finding the PERFECT rug to coordinate with our gray/yellow scheme.  It is by Amy Butler, who makes these amazing and beautiful prints (for fabrics, and now rugs).

I happened to be browsing in Home Goods one day, when I stumbled upon the most perfect chairs.....gray and yellow zebra!  Yowzers!  Even though I really had no practical place to put them (yet), after dreaming of them for a day or two after that, I decided to bite the bullet and get them.  They have awesome nailhead trim.....so swanky!

Next we finally began to work on the other end of the basement.  We planned to have a wall-to-wall desk built from laminate counters (that we bought cheap at the Habitat Re-Store).  Unfortunately there are no progress pics because our friend's Dad installed them for us as a favor -- thanks Mr. Rothert!  We used desk legs from IKEA to support the front of the counters, and the back is attached to the wall.  We got three drawer units (also from IKEA) that work great for storage under the desk....the best part being that they are mobile and we can take them with us when we eventually move.  And it turned out that the zebra chairs worked great as office chairs!

The next issue we needed to address was storage.  In a perfect world I would have installed upper and lower cabinets for the desk area, but since we didn't want to invest that kind of money into the house, we needed a more cost-effective solution.  I found that Lowe's and Home Depot both sell unfinished cabinets that are pretty darn cheap (even cheaper than IKEA).  The smallest upper cabinet was only $35, so we got 3 of those to "anchor" our upper storage.  I primed and painted them the darker shade of gray that was used on the diamond pattern, and then gave them a coat of poly and some simple black handles.

We bought some white melamine shelves along with an adjustable bracket hanging system, and mounted everything to the wall above the desk.  It's so nice to finally have room to store things!

Next up was the island.  I had been wanting a craft island for a long time, and was lucky to stumble across 3 great IKEA cabinets in the "as-is" section one day.  I  bought a 4th one to complete the set, and we turned them into an island.  We bolted the 4 cabinets to each other, then screwed a piece of plywood to the bottom, and bolted heavy-duty casters through both the plywood and bottom of the cabinets.


Now we have to figure out how to get a nice counter for it on a budget....

Over on the office side of the basement, hubby has been busy installing a little server rack.  We also moved his "computer workbench" downstairs for him to work on PCs and other electronics.  Can you tell he is an IT guy??


And, of course, when someone works with computers, there seems to be a natural obsession with having the largest amount of screen square-footage as possible.  So when he decided he needed triple widescreen monitors, there was no stopping him!  The only installation problem that arose had to do with placement.  For maximum support (24" monitors are rather heavy), the screens really needed to be mounted into studs, but the studs did not align on-center with the desk space we were using.  We ended up buying a 1x8 board that we screwed into the studs, and then mounted the monitors onto the board.  They're definitely not falling off the wall any time soon!  And let's just say that manly squeals of delight may have ensued once triple-monitor-euphoria was achieved.  :o)

We still need to go back and paint the board gray so that it blends with the wall a bit more, but in the meantime, someone is very happy with a plethora of monitors to look at.  :o)

Next, we finally went back and addressed the lighting issue for the bookcase behind the sofa.  I wanted the bookcases to be lit so that we didn't always have to rely on the overhead lighting in the basement.  Surprisingly, the only bookcase lights I was able to find were at IKEA.  The crappy thing was that being an IKEA product, they aren't exactly high-end.  They have to be plugged in, and cannot be hard-wired like we originally wanted.  Our solution was to wire a set of outlets to a switch, and then plug the lights into that outlet so that they can still be controlled by the wall switch.  Now that they are installed and wired up, they add an awesome element of mood lighting to the basement!

Eventually we got back around to working on the office side of the desk.  I had painted a third cabinet for above the desk, only to find that the door and base cabinet rubbed together when the door was opened/closed, so it was rubbing the paint off the cabinet.  Lovely.  I ended up having to sand down the cabinet where it was rubbing, and then re-prime, paint, and poly that portion.  Eventually it went up on the wall!  We then used the same adjustable bracket system to hang shelves between the cabinet and the server rack.  While we were at it, we got that 1x8 board painted to match the wall, and now it blends right in