Before and After: A Dark, Cluttered Basement Gets a Bright Makeover for the Whole Family

published Mar 5, 2022
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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many facets of daily life, including people’s relationship to their homes. Rooms that once served a single purpose might now do double or even triple duty as spaces for work, play, and rest.

For Lindsey Mahoney of Building Bluebird, that room was the basement of her family’s house. “It wasn’t until quarantine last year that we discovered its true, untapped potential,” she says.

During the initial shutdown in early 2020, Lindsey cleaned up the basement, which had formerly been used as storage, to create “a space for the kids to run wild while stuck at home.” The makeshift playroom was a hit, and Lindsey became inspired to put “a little more focus” into the space. “I didn’t want it to feel like a dark, unfinished basement,” she remembers, so she and her family invested in a few key updates to make the space feel brighter and more cohesive.

First, Lindsey built out two walls to create a utility room, which instantly made the basement feel more finished. “It hides all of the mechanical systems for the home,” she says, “and it’s large enough to be used as a storage room, too.”

She then hired electricians to install can lights and additional outlets in the walls. Her family had previously used extension cords throughout the entire basement, so adding wall outlets “completely elevated the look.”

The biggest thorn of the whole project? The basement’s ceiling joists, which Lindsey was determined to spray-paint black. It took three days of spraying and left Lindsey’s neck so strained, she had to get it readjusted at the chiropractor. “If you’re spraying an exposed ceiling, look into renting an industrial sprayer!” she advises. “I’ve been told that I could have cut my time in half if I’d gone with a larger paint sprayer.”

When it came time to put the basement back together, Lindsey divided the space into four “zones” with distinct purposes: a TV and gaming area, a ping-pong zone, a workout corner, and the aforementioned utility room. “We use our workout area every day,” she says, “and it is so nice to have everything in one place without a bunch of toys scattered around us.”

Lindsey is proud of how the basement turned out. The whole project took two or three months, but the process was totally worth it, she says. “I was able to create essentially 1,500 additional livable square feet that are utilized by our family every day. I love that you can create a beautiful space by shopping your own house and using what you have.”