Before and After: A Boring Basement Gets a Treehouse-Inspired Makeover

published Apr 24, 2022
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About this before & after
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Before: Mostly empty basement with tan walls, tan carpet, and cardboard cutouts of pop culture personalities (blurred)

If you’re lucky enough to have a spare room in your home, you know how easily it can go from bonus space to dumping ground for things that have no other home. That’s especially true of basements, which can often feel like a black hole of belongings since they’re so far out of sight.

That was certainly true at Tina Fratello’s (@fifthcornerhome) house, where the finished basement had become a bit of a stuff trap. “We had dreams of using the basement as a media room, and maybe creating a kitchenette and gaming room in the future,” Tina says. “Three years into living in our home, though, and it had become a dumping ground for anything and everything. No one went down there… mostly because you’d need to send in a search party to find them.”

Boxes, furniture, and leftover party supplies — including life-sized cutouts of athletes and actors for Tina’s husband’s 40th birthday — crowded the area. Tina decided it was time for a change, particularly since she has a two-year-old at home and wanted to create a place for her to play during cold winter months.

Tina signed up for the fall One Room Challenge to keep her on task, so she was able to complete the total transformation in under eight weeks.

“The first step was to make sure this playroom didn’t feel like it was in a basement,” Tina says. “So the inspiration to create a treehouse themed playroom was born.”

Tina’s “treehouse” started with a painted a mural on the walls to capture the feel of being surrounded by sky and leaves (dreamy!). One that was done, Tina created birch trees from pool noodles, aluminum foil, masking tape, and paint. Overhead, she wallpapered the ceiling with an ornate patterned paper.

To give the windowless basement area the illusion of natural light, Tina added reclaimed windows to the walls that frame “views” of painted scenes from “The Sound of Music” and “Mary Poppins.” Even though they don’t let in any actual light, pendant lights overhead — DIYed from dishes and outfitted with wire-free puck lights — bring the brightness.

Finally, Tina built her tree trunk using brown paper and paint, adding a swing on the limb (securely screwed into to the stud beneath) to finish off the look. Now, what used to be an all-beige storage corner is an imagination wonderland.

“The biggest challenge during this whole process was finding the way through each project,” Tina says. “I knew what I wanted the end result to be for each one, but wasn’t sure how… so lots of experimentation and late nights were in store.”

But all that effort was well worth it. “The very best part of the after was the “wow!” from my daughter when I revealed her playroom on her second birthday,” Tina says. “Beyond that, I’m genuinely so proud of the whimsy and imagination that is held in this space.”

For anyone else embarking on a kid-friendly play space, Tina has some advice: “Embrace all of the “wouldn’t it be cool if” ideas and try to figure out a way to make it reality,” she says. “Don’t cut your creativity short by assuming you aren’t capable of making it a reality one way or another.”

Inspired? Submit your own project here.