Tag Archives: Man Cave

Scary Basement overhaul

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, this week I am dedicating each post to a DIY project that my husband played a key role in completing.  The first is by far the largest project we have taken on yet…and are still married to tell about it.  When we bought this house in 2008, we had some ideas on how to make it ours.  Some of the ideas were simple (paint), some a bit more complex (landscaping). While our main level is very open and awesome, the living room is pretty small, add some oversized furniture and a few children’s toys and it’s less than ideal.  So last fall we set out to expand our living space by finishing our scary basement.

A bit of background on our house.  We know our house was built over 60 years ago, but likely closer to 100 years ago.  The character of our home is was sold me and made it a “must have” for me .  By “character” I’m referring to leaded glass windows, original wood work, built-in cabinets, vintage doors and hardware, and some amazing walk-in closets. (Maybe I’ll have to share a home tour one of these days).  However, there are some interesting features too.  For example the walls of the foundation  were made by hand using concrete and 2 x 10’s (can you see the ridges?!) and the cistern in the basement.

As we talked about the basement as a living space, a few RULES were established.
1.  This space would allow my husband to have a say in the decor.  Until now,  much of the decor that he brought to the relationship is in hiding.  I have a rule that no dead animals will be displayed on the main living area of the house. So he made the rule that no flowers were allowed in the basement.  The inspiration for the basement decor would be the object of his affection, The Mistress (also known as his Harley Davidson soft tail Heritage motorcycle that I picked out and made him buy…which might be the reason he married me, but that’s a completely different post).

2. The space needed to be cozy enough for a family room, but practical enough for a play room.

3.  This was a DIY project.  We He would do all the work ourselves himself.  Our goal was to keep this around a $5,000 budget- and we were pretty close.

I didn’t do a stellar job getting pictures through out but you’ll get the idea. Here we go…
BEFORE (2 weeks into the project):

Because the stair case was located against this exterior wall we needed to come up with some creative solutions for the wall.  We wouldn’t be able to frame up the wall for drywall, because it would make out stair case too narrow and the wall going up the staircase wouldn’t match.  Thankfully that handy husband looked into my suggestion of glueing (Liquid Nails) wainscoting to the cement wall.  It worked, but remember this is not a flat wall, so after glueing each piece he had to tape it in about 30 different places to hold it in place until the glue dried.

(South wall)

(East wall)

A Useless fake interior wall and 3 annoying poles.  We think the previous owner was planning to finish this space into a living area, but really didn’t know what he was doing.  He used roofing nails to put some uneven drywall up and mounted a crooked door into the furnace room.  In order to make the room open, we needed to get rid of the goofy 3 poles that were supporting the ceiling (they were already taken down by the time I thought to get a picture).  This was a project, it meant completely reinforcing the ceiling (upstairs floor) with double headers and reinforcements. Turns out by reinforcing the basement ceiling, we took quite a few squeaks out of the wood floors on the main level.

(Interior North wall)

(west wall)

This was about a 6 month project start to finish, only working part-time in the evenings.   Here’s a few pictures of the  DURING stages like putting up drywall, creating the fireplace, adding interior doors to the storage and furnace room, plaster- skip trowel, updating electrical, drop ceiling, replacing windows, staining wood work, painting, carpet, and a few finishing touches.

(east wall)

(South Wall)  Installed new window, and gas fireplace.  As you can see I was in the process of determining paint colors.

(West Wall) Most of the electrical went to this wall, the future home of the media center (hole on right) and plasma tv.   Also notice the make shift ledge along the south wall leading up to the fireplace.  Can you see those fun lines and angles we created to draw your eye to the fireplace…no?!? just wait.

Ceiling: check out that reinforced ceiling and updated electrical running across the ceiling.   I think the greatest learning opportunity came with the husband learning about how to run all the electrical work.  Thankfully my dad has a background as an electrician so he was a good troubleshooting resource.  As you can see in the before pictures we just had what I like to call “garage” fluorescent lighting, we added new canned lighting added electrical outlets all over the place, and ran the cables through the walls for tv and other media options.

Painted the walls grey & yellow (remember the room was inspired by his Harley), added a drop tile ceiling.  We  He also stained all the trim and doors a dark walnut color and installed.

Nearly complete.  Here is the door on the interior wall that goes into the storage room.  You can see the “in progress” media center on the left side.

My contribution to the basement was laying out the stonework design on the fireplace, which was like one giant puzzle  with no 2 pieces being alike. Although my husband gets the credit for prepping for install and actually making my design work on the wall!

Ready…wait for it….After

(East Wall)

As you may notice, the staircase was completely replaced.  The original (which I didn’t take a picture) was completely open on the side and  under each step. The railing was an old pipe that did little in terms of allowing small kids from falling off the side (safety concern).   At the top of the steps is the landing, where we were storing all of our shoes, hats, etc.  That was removed and that reveal can be seen here. We added a half wall to the side of the steps to be a bit safer.  Also to make creative use of space- little man has a play area under the steps that also houses many of the toys that were previously laying/stacked/completely covering in the living room. The door is painted with chalkboard paint to encourage a little creativity!

(West wall ) with carpet…

I’m a huge fan of angles.  We wanted the focus of the room to be drawn to the fireplace, while also having the TV visible throughout the room.  I also wanted the ledge along the south exterior wall (Left wall in pictures above) to tie into the mantle.  The challenge I mentioned above really came in with this south wall.  Somehow we needed to do something to that wall in order to give it a finished look.  We decided on gluing (liquid nails) wainscoting to it, then painting it.  Good in theory, but uneven walls makes that a little more interesting.  We got it to work well enough to fit our needs.   We also replaced the windows (originally just storm windows).

The built in entertainment center and wall mounted TV was a way to open up floor space. It’s functional enough for the husband to go down and watch tv while little man is entertaining himself with the door to his play room.  We filled the room with furniture (for now) with what we had and slowly are adding some life to the room. (turns out it’s a great space for hosting birthday parties too)!

Remember the rules about decor…well here are some of the efforts I’ve made so far, and of course the husband has helped with almost all of them!
The Pottery Barn inspired Clock (Can also be seen above in the media wall picture)

A gallery wall filled with hardware art and some word art (so far) on the interior wall.

Last but not least was some subway art for on the mantel filled with  memories on the motorcycle.

A huge thank you goes out to my husband for listening to all of my particular ideas and making it happen.  The only tasks we hired someone to do was to install the fireplace, and to lay the carpet…everything else was a showcase of my husband’s AMAZING skills.  See told you he’s pretty handy to have.


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Filed under Before/After, DIY Projects, Handyman

Cave Dwellings {Subway Art}

You may remember the basement that we finished to be the man cave/play room.

It’s time the walls give a little loving.  There’s big plans of this space, but I had to make a truce with the husband, no flowers in the man cave.  Let me back things up a little, my husband is an avid Harley Davidson rider (not the scary kind).  When we were dating I fell in love with the spontaneous adventure a motorcycle ride would bring.  For as long as I have known him, his Harley is one of the material possessions that he takes the most pride in. Naturally when we decided to finish the basement, we had a mutual understanding that this was “his space.” It was designed to accentuate the adventurous side of our life, mixed in with a bit of everyday reality (IE- the play room).

With that said, maybe I should introduce you to “the Mistress” AKA the motorcycle.

Yellow, Black & Chrome pretty much describe her. Would you agree?

OK, back to the basement.  I needed a piece that would not only visually appeal to the adventurous side of our story, but also something that would compile the memories and events into a piece of art.  Enter the world of trendy and fun subway art. Originally inspired by House of Smith’s Gallery Wall and Address Subway Art. 

We started by brainstorming all the words that define our relationship with “the Mistress.”  This included words, locations, dates, fun memories, you get the point.  Based on the number of words I guessed the size of base I would need.  I chose a 18″ by 18″ MDF board (Habitat ReStore is a great place for super cheap MDF…$1.)  I spray painted it a glossy black and moved onto step two.

I had read a tutorial on using freezer paper for the lettering.  I have since trashed that tutorial due to udder frustration and waste of time.  However in all fairness I started by typing up the words/phrases using different fonts on the computer.  Then I placed freezer paper over the top of the letters.  After some time my genius husband propped a light under my glass-topped IKEA table to make the cutting of the letters much easier.  Using an Exacto knife I (and the husband) cut the letters out of the freezer paper.

Supposedly you could place the letters glossy side down on your base, and iron them to get them to stick.  This step was followed by painting on a layer of glaze to seal the letters.

A container of Modge Podge later I decided that tutorial WAS WRONG! It brought nothing but frustration and lack of sleep, so I moved on to my next best option.  I purchased a package of white vinyl, borrowed a CriCut machine and a few font cartridges from work, and di-cut the remaining letters.  My husband used the “leftover vinyl” to cut out the dragon and motorcycle graphics using the light and Exacto method explained above. We used transfer paper to line all the letters up from the vinyl sheet to the base.  This made the layout design much easier and ensured nothing was too crooked and fit in the designated space.  The hardest part was determining was size to make the letters as the size defined on the CriCut only verified the height and did not take into consideration the width of the letters/word.

This is the final layout of  words/dates/graphics that defined our adventurous side of life.  To add a final touch, the husband cut white molding and created a frame 1/2″ around the outside to add a finishing touch.  Our subway art is no longer a part of the gallery wall we once envisioned, instead she currently takes up residence above the fireplace on our mantle.  She certainly has become a focal point for the room!

My only complaint is that the white vinyl lettering is really bright and glossy.  I’m thinking of taking some colored glaze to tone it down a bit….what do you think?

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Filed under Inspiration, Tutorials