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One Room Challenge Week 1: A Basement Remodel

by - Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Are you ready?? The day is finally here... it's the official start of the Spring 2020 One Room ChallengeTM (ORC)! I'm so very excited to be joining this round as one of the 20 Featured Designers and sharing our basement remodel, many DIY projects, and amazing sponsors with all of you. A big thank you to Linda of Calling It Home and Media Partner Better Homes and Gardens for having me in the group.

If you're new to Rambling Renovators, welcome! My name is Jennifer. I'm an e-Designer and social media strategist and I've been writing this blog since 2007. I live with my husband and daughter in Toronto, Canada in a centre-plan, colonial style house that we've infused with the fresh traditional style we love. We DIY all our renovations and have a fondness for architectural details, built-ins, and classic decor. Click to see some of our past ORC Before and After transformations: 

one room challenge before and afters, bedroom remodel, bathroom remodel, small guest bedroom, living room remodel


If you're unfamiliar with the ORC, it's a biannual event where 20 designers (and anyone who wants to sign up as a guest participant) are challenged to makeover a room in six weeks.

But this ORC promises to be unlike any other. The timeline has been extended to eight weeks instead of six weeks, many more people are joining in and taking advantage of being at home, and we're all dealing with curbside-only pickup or online purchases for everything from sandpaper to sofas. And, given the current economic climate, we're aiming to do a more budget conscious basement remodel. Expect to see a lot more DIY projects and reuse and repurposing of items we already have. Despite the challenges, I can't wait!

Basement Layout

I shared a few weeks ago that we'll be remodelling our basement. Basements tend to be awkward, tricky spaces but have huge potential when done right. We're lucky that the basement was finished by previous owners but the good ceiling height and ample lighting aren't enough... it's time to improve the finishes, add functionality, and create a beautiful space for our family. Today, I'll be sharing the basement remodel layout (and the many basement floor plan options we considered!)

But first, let me remind you what we're working with:

basement remodel, basement layout, basement ideas, one room challenge basement

The basement is a good size with 7.5' ceilings and recessed lighting throughout. When you come down the stairs, you land in this area. To the right past the bifold doors is our unfinished laundry room. To the left behind the blue door is our coastal craftroom which we renovated in 2018:

basement craft room, coastal craft room, basement built in, craft room organization
basement craft room, coastal craft room, basement built in, craft room organization

This craft room gives you an indication of the look we're going for for the rest of the basement space. While our main and upper floor are more formal and traditional, we want this basement to be casual, bright, and infused with a coastal vibe. Our basement is going to be that breezy escape where we can spend time as a family.

basement remodel, basement layout, basement ideas, one room challenge basement

Straight ahead is the main living area which measures 11'x20', the same footprint as the living room above. We've kept this side open for Chloe's Legos and dollhouse. Sadly, Chloe just turned 11 so her doll playing days are just about over. Time to make way for something new.

basement remodel, basement layout, basement ideas, one room challenge basement

The other end of the room contains our entertainment zone. We only have this one TV in the house so this area gets a lot of use for movie nights and family time on my vintage PlayStation 2, lol!

basement remodel, basement layout, basement ideas, one room challenge basement

Because the fireplace is in the centre of this narrow room, it's forced us to cluster the seating and TV to one end. It feels cozy and good for viewing, but the room does feel imbalanced. We are also less inclined to use the fireplace as its not really visible from the rest of the room with the armchair placed in front of it.

fireplace remodel, stone fireplace makeover, basement remodel, basement layout, basement ideas, one room challenge basement

Let's talk about this fireplace for a second. It works intermittently (it definitely needs to be serviced), looks dated, and the stone is not our style at all. Those protruding stone shelves? They're an eyesore and a hassle to decorate around.

So where do we begin? As with all my designs, I start with determining the function of the room. You can have the prettiest room, but if it doesn't work for the way you live, it will always feel terrible!

Finished Basement Ideas

Basements tend to be bonus spaces where you can incorporate functions not found in the rest of the home. You could create a basement bedroom, a basement workout room, a secondary kitchen, a craft room, a place for gaming and teen hangouts. It's a chance to let your imagination run wild and create a dream space.

Who uses this room? What needs does it serve? How do you want to live and feel in this space? Those are some of the initial questions I ask my e-design clients when we assess their space. For our basement, our wish list was clear:

  • An area for TV viewing
  • A spot for game night or hanging out with friends
  • Space for overflow dining during family parties
  • An updated fireplace that is a focal point in the room
  • More task and ambient lighting
  • A kitchenette with a fridge for drinks and counter space for popcorn making
  • A bright, open coastal feel that works with the existing craft room 
And let's create this all within the ORC timeline of 8 weeks. Totally doable, right?? ;)

Can I help you design your next space? Reach out!



Basement Design Ideas

Once I determine the function of the room, I start to work on the space plan. You can see that the existing basement layout is inefficient, with lots of dead space. How could we use this space more effectively? How could we create a focal point in the room? Could we make the room multi-functional and do more than just provide a place for movie nights?

basement remodel, basement layout, basement ideas, one room challenge basement

In this post, I talked about the free online tools I use to design a room. I used the Icovia Room Planner to test out dozens of floor plans. Here's a few I considered and I've indicated the pros and cons of each:

basement remodel, basement layout, basement ideas, one room challenge basement

basement remodel, basement layout, basement ideas, one room challenge basement

basement remodel, basement layout, basement ideas, one room challenge basement

basement remodel, basement layout, basement ideas, one room challenge basement

basement remodel, basement layout, basement ideas, one room challenge basement

Unlocking The Plan

So many plans, none of them a good solution. But then... have you ever heard the term "unlocking the plan"? Occasionally when designing a room, you'll discover one change that is like the magic key. By making that change, other changes follow and you end up with a better and more effective design.


basement remodel, basement layout, basement ideas, one room challenge basement

For us, we unlocked the plan when we decided to extend the wall behind the sofa by about 2'. This small yet mighty change would allow us to:
  • centre the sofa on the fireplace
  • move the conversation and TV viewing area to the middle of the room
  • use one side of the room for a games table. We could also use this space for overflow dining for family parties
  • create a kitchenette at the opposite end of the room
These changes would not only improve the functionality of the room but also the visual flow. Picture yourself standing at the bottom of the stairs looking towards the table with a pendant hanging above it. Or imagine the full-width kitchenette wall. New cabinetry, a drinks fridge, wall sconces... it would be such a pretty sight! And, of course, this room would give that tired fireplace a chance to shine.

To make this plan a reality, we've got a very long To Do list over the next eight weeks. As the start of the ORC was delayed we have started on some of the bigger items so I'll be sharing "pre-recorded" content. We've done almost all of our previous ORC projects in real time in six weeks but this one has been different... the goal remains the same though: to have a gorgeous, finished room perfect for our family!

basement remodel, basement layout, basement ideas, one room challenge basement


Next week, I'll be sharing the design scheme. In the meantime, follow me on Instagram. I'll be sharing the work we've done, sneak peeks at the some of the materials and finishes, and talking about the DIY problems we've encountered along the way. There have already been some challenging ones ;)

19 other Featured Designers are also sharing their projects today. I hope you'll click over and check them all out! Let the fun begin!!


A Glass of Bovino | Beginning in the Middle | Beth Diana Smith | Clark + Aldine | Coco & Jack
Deeply Southern Home| Design Maze | Dwell by Cheryl | Erika Ward | Home Made by Carmona
House of Hipsters | Hunted Interior | Kandrac & Kole | Kate Pearce | Katrina Blair | Liz Kamarul
Veneer Designs| Rambling Renovators | Renovation Husbands | Studio Plumb | Media BH&G

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