Basement Makeover: From Cellar to Media Room

Admit it. You come here for inspiration and transformations. And that’s why I love you.  🙂

basement makeover from cellar to media room

Well, you are in for a TOTAL transformation today. We recently finished the renovations on a basement in a 100 year old house. In houses that old, it’s not just a basement…

It’s a cellar.

I’d be honored if you pull up a chair and enjoy this beautiful reveal and story of a total basement makeover. When this family moved in, the basement was the logical place to store the Christmas stuff, the leftovers from the construction projects, and the boxes that didn’t get unpacked after the move. And yes, sadly, there were pictures and keepsakes down here, too, in bins front and center in this picture, as well as all along the left wall, where we had water coming in. That’s just what happens with the kid’s schoolwork and old pictures in many families. You know I moved those upstairs and out of harm’s way as fast as I could!

basement clutter before

Two days of organizing only took us so far.

basement organizing- before renovation


There was still artwork from the old house in the back left, still boxed, that had no home. Tons of Christmas decorations on the right. And, you know… stuff. Not to mention, one of the windows was essentially open to the elements all the time, because that’s where all the plumbing, electrical and other utilities was coming in the house.

Plus, we had water issues going on, and in the worst places, including the crawl spaces, the outside access stairs, and right behind the electrical panel. That all had to be fixed before we could do anything. Those dark stripes on the wall and dark spots on the floor are all water.

basement water problems


The boiler, A/C unit and water heater were out in the open, of course. The one remaining window had been boarded up. And see that board next to it on the wall? That was hiding a bunch of holes right through the basement wall from previous utility work, also letting in plenty of water. Even with the existing French drain, even if the family hadn’t wanted to reclaim this space, they would have needed to fix all of these issues before long.

basement makeover window

Because the space was long and narrow, we had to work with things like centrally located ductwork, a narrow staircase, and an immovable support pole right in the middle of the room. See it below, holding the fire extinguisher?

basement stairway

I won’t bore you with the long list of planning, construction and landscape work that went into fixing the inside and outside issues. The architect, construction, waterproofing, HVAC, sound and AV, and landscaping companies were all great to work with. Over several months, we saw it come together.

The architect drew up plans including a tiny powder room tucked into the space next to the stairs, working around the necessary pole. Each of the utility areas were blocked off into several large anterooms. And the family heeded my call for a large storage area at the back of the room, to allow enough space for seasonal storage and enough room for utility workers to maintain the house’s systems when needed.

basement bathroom framing

There are definitely two kind of people in this world. Those who are looking at these framing pictures, trying to guess what this space will become, and those who are itching for the after pictures already.

Are you ready to see the basement makeover, now a gorgeous teen hangout and media room?

As you enter from the upstairs, you’ll see that we removed the parged plaster layer on the staircase wall to reveal the natural stone wall. The stone was re-mortared and sealed, and I am completely in love with it. This might be my favorite design choice of the whole project. The stairs were completely rebuilt and carpeted, with finish trim added make make this as nice as the rest of the house.

basement stairs for basement makeover

As you turn the corner, you skirt the outside of the new bathroom, and enter the main living space. Remember that awful post that seemed to be right in the middle of everything?

basement makeover entrance

We could call this the bat cave, if it weren’t so soft and cheery. Those double doors behind the sofa hold another one of my favorite parts of the project, which I’ll explain in a bit.

basement sofa and living area


The design was built around a modern grey palate, with dark and medium wood tones to keep it warm, and an abundance of LED lighting to keep it bright. There’s only about 12 feet width, so we made the most of it with sectional furniture and a large industrial coffee table, made for sitting on, propping feet up on, holding a whole pizza pie, or easily moving out of the way for dance parties. (Teens, remember?) The multi-colored rug is intentionally bright and random colors, to easily hide spills. The media wall has plenty of storage for snacks and media, books and nail polish. (Teens, remember?)


basement media center

Below might be my favorite view of the basement, showing how large and comfortable it turned out to be. The bathroom is right past the kitchenette, and the two utility rooms are beyond that. See that lovely floor? It’s waterproof laminate, and it’s gorgeous. Even if they have a flood down here in the future, that floor can take it.

basment makeover sofa and media room

The kitchenette is just right, with a popcorn maker, mini-fridge, microwave and bar sink. We’re still working on mounting the microwave where that outlet is above the sink. I probably shouldn’t have told you that, but even a gorgeous project like this often has tiny details that need to be completed.

basement makeover kitchenette

Thanks for reading this far. I know this was a long article for a large project. As usual, I want to move in! What about you? Do you have a favorite part of this basement makeover, or maybe a question? I’d love to read your comments, below. And if you are a pinner, please Pin to one of your inspiration boards. Everyone knows someone with an ugly basement, right?

basement makeover pinnable image

Ready to see the amazing bathroom and storage spaces in this basement makeover? Go ahead and click for part 2.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Kara Raudenbush

    Heartwork Organizing,

    Any suggestions on how we can we do this on a “no budget” budget?

    1. Darla

      I’m all about low-budget projects, but this definitely had a budget attached. However, I can tell you that the big bang for your buck items here are paint and color choices, lighting (which was a small budget item but huge to how the space feels), and layout. Those are the big keys to designing any space, and they are all affordable or even DIY changes that you can make. If you have a makeover project you’d like to tackle together, please let me know.

  2. Ceil


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