The Big Reveal: Basement Edition

I said that we’d decided to upgrade the basement playroom as the girls’ main Christmas gift, mostly because we were interested in doing it eventually and they hadn’t given us any ideas. At one point I’d asked J what present she’d like if she could have some sort of fabulous fantasy, and she said that she’d like to make over her room. So, we decided to give the girls a bit of flexibility so that they could have the fun of deciding what would go where. We bought a cabinet suitable for holding a tv, some new shelves, a pull-up bar, a swing hammock chair, two cool new lamps, some decor items, and paint swatches to show that we were willing to repaint, and we basically piled it all into the mostly-cleared out basement.  An aunt’s gift was cute personalized throw pillows and Grandma and Grandpa provided a new blanket and a family gift of an X-Box (360, on sale because it’s officially outdated), so those worked well with the plan, too. The girls already had bought themselves a variety of turquoise seating over the years, because if it is a fun turquoise home item, the girls want it. Oh, and we lucked out, because Santa Claus delivered us a new tv for the living room. And then he moved the old tv downstairs. And then he hooked both tvs up for us. That man is amazingly magical.

I was honestly a little worried about how this gift would go over. There was not much else the girls were getting, so if they weren’t thrilled, well, Christmas was just going to be a bust this year. On the morning of the 23rd M told me that she’d dreamed we’d gotten a kitty, and I was like, “It’s-not-happening-it’s-not-happening-it’s-not-happening.” But I’ve said that about other things, just to throw them off the trail, and then they’ve gotten those things, so I wasn’t sure if they were convinced.

The girls always write a note to Santa, and Santa wrote back, and this year he explained that he’d brought the tv because he knew that their parents were doing something special in the basement, so that was how we got them to go downstairs and investigate. And then, man, I wish that we had videotaped it, because they both girls were much more excited than we expected. J shrieked repeatedly while running around the room, and M covered her mouth with her hands and turned slowly, looking dazed. They were psyched.

We wanted to get the room together asap, so the girls got to work quickly on choosing a new paint color that would go with the turquoise. Cute W and I kept reminding them that we had almost no natural light. The sunny yellow had worked well for all these years, until the girls started accumulating clashing turquoise furniture, and we were a little worried that we’d turn the place into a dungeon. Pretty quickly they settled on purple, and I eased them to the lighter end of the spectrum. These were the finalists:

paint samples

. . . and our winner was the lightest of these, the third from the left. We were amazingly efficient and got the room done in one day. So here’s a virtual tour. You walk down the stairs and look right:

new lamps and shelf and pillow

The white shelf with baskets is new, from Lowe’s, and on top are two LuvALamps, which you can find at Colonie Center. My friend C tipped me off that J had admired the ones at her house. I wanted at least one lamp down here because guests sometimes sleep on the futon, and they need a reading light. Between the lamps is a really cute “Follow Your Arrow” homage to Kacey Musgraves that we found on Etsy. One of my challenges was to find cultural stuff that both the girls like and that are cool but also positive messages. For example, M & I love Divergent stuff, but J hasn’t read those books yet, while Hunger Games and Taylor Swift stuff are great, but I was worried that my fickle children would think that they were a little too overdone. We were going for slightly less obvious choices and things it hadn’t occurred to them to want because they didn’t realize that they existed. Oh, and you can see the end of the futon with one of the cute new personalized pillows. . .

pull up bar

. . . and now, the other end of the futon with the other pillow, and one of the most sought-after items: a pull-up bar. We’ve been wanting a pull-up bar for ages, but our house isn’t very cooperative. Most pull-up bars are made to fit in doorways, but our old-fashioned doorways won’t hold them. Years ago, Cute W bought one and gave up on hanging it, and then the girls pooled Target gift cards to buy one more recently, but we couldn’t hang it. For the last week or two before Christmas, J said, “The only things I really, really want for Christmas are a pull-up bar and some chocolate.” So Cute W did some major research and finally found something that would work. Yes, if you are an adult who pulls up vigorously and high, you can hit your head on the ceiling panels, but it works. The red poster is “Keep Calm and DFTBA [Don’t Forget To Be Awesome]”–Cute W often reminds the girls DFTBA as they head out to school. And, when M saw it, she said, “Wow! Did you have to special order that?” The answer is no: there’s actually a whole online DFTBA shop.  The girls had already acquired the springy chair and poof chairs in their quest for All Things Turquoise.

Look a bit more to the left and you’ll see the super-awesome hammock swing, which we all really like.


The girls have often admired hanging chairs in catalogs, but this one is much cheaper, at less than $40, plus the colors went well with everything else. Once they saw it, they reminded us that they’d been drooling over similar swings while we were window-shopping during a camping trip over the summer. Yeah, okay. . . I’d completely forgotten about that. Farther to the left is the American Girl doll area, which is still going strong in our otherwise grown-up-looking playroom.

And, this is the last picture to complete the circle–the space to the left of the American Girl stuff (you can actually see the Bitty Baby changing table), and the rocker is right next to the stairs to go up again.

TV cabinet and rocker

Our “new” tv from the living room is sitting on a fabulous cabinet from Target. The tv cabinet was a tough one, too, because you need a substantial piece of furniture to keep your tv secure, but most substantial pieces of furniture look too grown-up for me, much less for this room. We were actually standing at Target weighing our options when I noticed a little occasional table in turquoise. I mourned that it just wasn’t steady enough to hold a tv, and oh, wasn’t that too bad, and that’s when we realized that some of the items in stock came in other finishes online! Oh, happy day!  This was mere days before Christmas, but it miraculously arrived in time to be assembled (hooray for Cute W) in time for Christmas morning. Of course, this particular turquoise table clashes with the turquoise of the rocker when they’re so close together, but I wasn’t in charge of arranging the room. The rocker/ottoman is the faded denim one, with the addition of some fabric from JoAnn’s that I hot-glue-gunned into place. It looks much nicer this way, and it really wasn’t too hard to do. It helped that I was pretty much ready to throw the rocker away, so I didn’t feel like I could “ruin” it. The doorway here leads to the dress-up clothes, blocks, craft supplies, and other fun stuff, which is no longer cluttering up the main room. There’s also a Leslie Knope poster: we all love Parks & Recreation and Leslie Knope/Amy Poehler, who is, as the poster says, “A Pawnee Goddess and Freakin’ Awesome.” And, above the rocker, there’s a phases-of-the-moon poster that’s an annual gift from Grandma & Grandpa.

So! It was a huge success! The room is definitely more of a hangout place than ever before, and it’s a pretty good workout room, now, too, because there’s plenty of space, a pull-up bar, and the tv in case you have workout DVDs. It gets a bit chilly, so we have a space heater, but I predict that in the summertime heat, the whole family is likely to gravitate downstairs just to hang around. It also felt good to get things that everyone can use and share for a long time instead of the kits/toys/supplies that are sometimes popular and sometimes completely ignored, or things that are fun once for a few hours, and then it’s over.

UPDATE: I’m adding two pictures to show close-ups of how the swing and pull up bar are hanging:



  1. Jessica

    Looks awesome! How did you hang the chair and pull up bars through the drop ceiling? I’ve been trying to figure this out for our basement…


  2. Hi Jessica–Thanks! Our drop ceiling panels can pop out pretty easily (they’re much more of a pain in the neck to put back in place). So we removed them and located support beams that would work for where we wanted to put the swing & pull up bar, attached them directly to the beams, and then cut holes in the ceiling panels to accommodate the equipment. The hole had to be a little bigger for the swing to let it swing. I’m adding two images to the post above so you can see it better.

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