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Hi friends! I’ve started a brand new remodeling project in these recent months: turning a totally unused basement into a functional apartment. Take the before tour and see what inspiration I’m using for the renovation below!
Real estate can be a little unpredictable (source: Captain Obvious). This time last year, it didn’t even occur to me that in 2023, we’d be living in a 600-square foot basement apartment as a family of three. Life comes at you fast, right?
I already covered the story of how we got here back in the posts announcing selling the house (parts 1 and 2 here), but for those that need a reminder: our cousins John and Amy spoke with a realtor in April 2022 about the valuation of their home. More curious than anything, I guess you would say? I knew from checking real estate websites that my beloved “Goldilocks” home had appreciated in value since 2009 when I bought it, so I couldn’t help but wonder the same about what it might be worth. We started running the numbers. After multiple renovations, finding a life partner, starting a family, etc., was I finally ready to say farewell and find a new challenge? It wasn’t until we went on vacation with family and saw how much my son enjoyed the coast that I realized I WAS! My home here in Atlanta sold in a single weekend (much to my shock… I was so proud that the work I did on my home was so loved by a new family!). We hadn’t yet found our new home, so we needed to look for a rental to tide us over. The same cousins who got us started down this path just so happened to have an empty nest, so they offered us their basement as a temporary living option while we did our house hunting.
Our cousins John and Amy have been so generous to us over the last two years (Amy has spent night after night at my house when Ellis was a preemie, going through health issues, and as he’s started to grow), so it’s going to be hard to say goodbye. And in the meantime, we’ve wanted to repay their kindness by remodeling the living space we’re occupying (which will allow them more space to enjoy in the future, plus give more square footage ready for guests when they have family visit… perhaps even us someday when we move out and come back to see them, ha!).
It’s been over a decade since I had an opportunity to film and photograph the true “before” area of a place I’m moving into! You could say it’s a quick little tour, but then again, it’s also only 624 square feet of space to begin with.
The design plan:
As you can see, there’s quite a bit of older furniture down here that isn’t being used. John and Amy gave us free rein to do whatever we wanted with them except for one of the desks that belonged to Amy’s father. So, we have been having a lot of fun with making a perfectly cozy space for myself, K, and the little one. We moved out most of the furniture you see here, but I’ve got some clever reuse projects in store for all of the bookshelves I found. If there’s time, I’ll also rehab the other furniture and sell it off to pay for more rehab materials.
Basement Apartment Mood Boards
Since I’m designing such a small space, I want to keep things within pretty much the same color palette everywhere (light wood + neutrals, leaning toward desert pink). I had a 5-gallon bucket of paint from the old houses’s exterior makeover, which happened to be a perfect creamy color for our clean slate: Sherwin-Williams Shoji White.
From there, I went to town on one of my favorite parts of design: mood boards! I actually really love making them (would you want to see more of these? I never ask about it but if it’s something you’d like to see more of this year, let me know and I’ll share ’em). For the looks, I’m heavily inspired by 1) making no- or low-budget improvements 2) Japandi style (that’s a mix of Japanese wabi-sabi and Scandinavian hygge styles, which involves minimalist, clean lines, neutral palette, cozy vibe, a few black accents, natural elements like light wood and stone, perfectly-imperfect, etc. and 3) Desert boho (boho in general tends to be more maximalist in style, but I want a stripped-down version to stay more on the decluttered side). And, provided that I can still keep them all alive, my plant collection will need some grow lights to keep them healthy until we can move to a place that has windows!
Additionally, I plan to make three different zones for our use: a living room/lounging area with a media wall (which John can later enjoy for watching sports), a mini kitchen space, and a cozy bedroom. Since I’m working with an extremely tight budget, any chance to reuse furniture, leftover paint, and scrap wood is the name of the game!
Living Area Inspiration
Almost everything from the living area is existing furniture and decor from the house: our gray sectional, my hairpin leg coffee table, plus our TV and curtains from Ellis’s nursery. We had to get rid of the living room rug (it was too far gone in toddlerhood to free the stains), so we brought in the one from Ellis’s nursery. The only big purchase we made so far other than flooring is a modern fireplace/space heater to get us through the winter, and I am SO GLAD we bought it! It has come in handy so much. I will have a separate post for you all about the media wall I also built using two bookcases I found in the basement. I’m pretty proud of this one because I’ll never look at plain old bookshelves the same way ever again!
What I’m calling the “kitchenette” will be made of two massive bookshelves already existing in the basement, two new base cabinets, a cobbled-together countertop made from inexpensive materials, and a faux backsplash… stay tuned to see this one! I’m still working on it so fingers crossed it looks as good in person as it does in my head!
With the bedroom area, I’m hoping to focus on projects that I can actually take with us when we move. Things like making a channel tufted headboard, refreshed linens, and making over a piece of furniture that belonged to my grandfather (it’s nothing fancy, just an old bookcase, but it has sentimental value). This also involves building a wall and a doorway to separate the sleeping space from the living space, so our biggest project will actually be drywalling. I plan to add some fun Japandi-inspired door trim and a simple wall niche though.
So there you have it. In the next post about the basement, I’ll start from the ground up and talk about the install of the LVP flooring. Come prepared for an in-depth tutorial and video, but I promise this install is so EASY that it’s almost fun (provided that you have knee pads). Not all LVP has to be gray and ugly!
New House Tour Pages!
And since this is technically a whole new house project (this feels like a long-awaited graduation!), I have subdivided the House Tour page into the various projects we’re working on (and in preparation for our NEW house, which I hope to be posting about soon if we find the right home!). So all of that will go on a refreshed set of Tour pages that break down house by house, rooms, source links, etc. I’m working on getting these pages in tip-top shape, but you can check in on them here. Basement tour is newly added with all of the before pics and video! There’s also a section for Ruby’s Revival and house tours I get invited to, such as the 2020 HGTV Dream Home (two more tours coming in that category!).
Buuuuut, I also need to play catch-up with some of the old house (it’s still weird to refer to it as that!) projects. In the next two posts about the house, we’ll talk about how I installed window shelves and how to dress up hollow core doors with some trim. A little goes a LONG way and there’s a great tool you may not know about yet that I’ll show you how to use. More soon! If you want to stay on top of everything and get notified, be sure to subscribe to my email newsletter (it’s free!).