Basement Renovation: The Before

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It’s time for a new project at Bayberry House! Welcome to the introduction of my basement renovation project!

There are some things you just don’t want to put on the internet. (My basement is one of those things.) Even so, my friend, I have to start somewhere. Things have to get (or in this case be) worse before they can be better.

It’s somewhat hard to believe that I purchased my current home over three years ago. Where has the time gone? During these three years, I have done quite a few large projects including a complete kitchen renovation, updated cabinetry in my entryway and living room, a new roof, a bedroom makeover, tons of landscaping, and so much more.

Well, it’s time to get started with another project: my basement.

I’ve wanted to refresh this space for quite some time; however, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted its purpose to be. Over the past year, I’ve gotten more into my art practice and so I’ve decided to turn this space into an art studio. Woot! Woot! At least, that’s what its main function will be. It will also double as needed storage and my laundry room.

The space is roughly 450+ square feet. It’s mostly been used as a dumping ground for stuff, so I can’t wait to turn it into a functional and beautiful space.

This renovation is on no set timeline. In fact, I assume it will take several months to get it functional and even more time to get it where I want it to be. I’m hoping that I’ll have a somewhat functioning space before the end of the year with the assumption that even more work will happen after that.

As much as I don’t want you to see my basement, I am going to give you a tour. Here we go.

Basement Renovation: The Before

I enter the space from my garage. My laundry room is on the right and the rest of the space is straight ahead and around the corner.

Basement Renovation: The Before #basement #renovation #makeover #thebefore #paneling #artstudio #studio

(Later in this post I’m going to go deeper into all the challenges and problems of this space. For now, I just want to show you what I’m working with.)

For the most part, all of the furnishings in this space will go (including the big black refrigerator).

Basement Renovation: The Before #basement #renovation #makeover #thebefore #paneling #artstudio #studio

The above image is looking back into the entryway area. (The laundry room would be on the left behind the wall with the handrail.)

The laundry room is rough but loaded with potential.

Basement Renovation: The Before #basement #renovation #makeover #thebefore #paneling #artstudio #studio

Beyond the laundry room is a set of stairs that lead up to my kitchen. Underneath the stairs is where I keep my litter boxes. You access them through a door in the laundry room.

Basement Renovation: The Before #basement #renovation #makeover #thebefore #paneling #artstudio #studio

Past the stairs is a large bar/peninsula which will be removed to make way for better storage and a studio sink. The furnace and hot water tank are in the small room behind the bar.

Basement Renovation: The Before #basement #renovation #makeover #thebefore #paneling #artstudio #studio

Basement Renovation: The Before #basement #renovation #makeover #thebefore #paneling #artstudio #studio

As you keep moving into the space, you’ll get to the largest open area of the room. This area has a brick fireplace, two large windows, a door to the backyard, and yes, …a lot more paneling. I plan to take advantage of all the space and this is where the bulk of my art studio will live.

Basement Renovation: The Before #basement #renovation #makeover #thebefore #paneling #artstudio #studio

Basement Renovation: The Before #basement #renovation #makeover #thebefore #paneling #artstudio #studio


We'll email this post to you, so you can come back to it later! Plus, I'll send you more inspiring ideas I think you'll love!

Basement Renovation: The Before #basement #renovation #makeover #thebefore #paneling #artstudio #studio

Basement Renovation: The Before #basement #renovation #makeover #thebefore #paneling #artstudio #studio

And that completes our tour.

Now that you’ve seen what the space looks like, let me walk you through the challenges and my planned solutions.


Low Ceilings
Thanks to social media, the folks that first lived in this home connected with me and gave me a little insight into the house. One of the things they mentioned is that when the house was built, the builder made a mistake and missed a layer of cinderblock making the ceilings in the basement really low. I’m 6’1″ and the ceilings are barely 6’2″. Also, the ceiling isn’t flat or a consistent height throughout either as there are plumbing and ductwork running everywhere. This makes for a really “unique” ceiling. For practical purposes, this is one challenge that I won’t be changing. I am just going to live with low/wonky ceilings.

Both the natural lighting and the overhead lighting are dismal. Since this is a basement, it doesn’t get a ton of natural light. Fortunately, it does get some and I want to capitalize on this thus bringing in all the natural light that I can. I also need to replace the existing lighting and have some new recessed lighting installed.

Basement Renovation: The Before #basement #renovation #makeover #thebefore #paneling #artstudio #studio

While 1960s wood paneling is kind of making a weird comeback, the retro style is just not something I love. In this case, it makes the whole space feel dated, dark, and dirty. It’s also lacking a sense of personality, especially if I want to use this as a creative space.

Dirty and Dilapidated:
Generally speaking, the whole basement hits me as dirty and dilapidated. There are sections of the paneling that need replacing due to moisture and water damage. There are lots of holes and bad patching from 60+ years of repairs and maintenance.

While there are lots of nooks and crannies for storage, everything is on display. Hidden storage, intentional storage, and more organization are a must.

Basement Renovation: The Before #basement #renovation #makeover #thebefore #paneling #artstudio #studio


Installing New Floors:
The current floors just need to be replaced. Many of the tiles are bubbled and they still feel/look dirty no matter how much I clean them. And to be honest, I’m just craving an updated look. I have a really fun plan for the floors that I can’t wait to share with you!

Painting Paneling:
The basement needs all the help it can get to be brighter and less cave-like. All of the paneling, walls, and ceiling will be painted white and the trim will be painted a mushroom/putty color (I think!). Before painting, any warped/peeling panels will be replaced, new baseboard wood trim will be installed, and any holes will be repaired, filled, and sanded smooth

Updating Lighting:
All of the overhead light is going to go and be replaced with new recessed lighting. Right now, there are only four lighting fixtures. The new plan calls for 16 new lights. This is going to illuminate the entire basement beautifully. The lights will also be on a dimmer switch so I can adjust them as needed.

Installing New Doors/Windows:
Just based on timing and logistics, I’m not sure this will happen right away, but in the near future, I want to replace the double windows with french doors and replace the single door with a large window. This will almost double the amount of possible natural light that can come into this space.

Basement Renovation: The Before #basement #renovation #makeover #thebefore #paneling #artstudio #studio

Updating Fireplace:
Can we talk about how amazing it is to have a fireplace in this space? I love it! I haven’t used this fireplace since I moved into the house, so it will be fabulous to get it working again. As you know, I love the exposed brick, and therefore, I have no intentions of painting it. However, I would love to get my carpenter here (the one that did my living room mantel and built-in entryway) to add in some interesting molding, a mantel, etc. I just want to clean the fireplace up and give it a bit more English cottage look (something like THIS or THIS). I assume this is another part of the renovation that will be pushed to a later date, but it’s fun to plan and dream.

Creating Functional Storage:
In my next Basement Renovation post, I will share some design plans and details to help you visualize things a bit more. Know that in this space, I want to add a large closet-type cabinet for hidden storage, updated open shelving, and cabinetry. Also, there is currently a sink in the bar, so I’m hoping to rework that into a large sink for art clean-up. There is a sink in the laundry room too, but I think it would be better to have a dedicated art sink. My goal is to use a mix of vintage furniture and cabinetry to create this storage.

Basement Renovation: The Before #basement #renovation #makeover #thebefore #paneling #artstudio #studio

Relocating Laundry Room:
My big, long-term plan is to move my laundry room upstairs, but that won’t happen until I plan my bathroom renovations and that’s still a couple of years away. So for right now, I just want to make this space look a bit cuter. I’m not 100% sure what that looks like yet, but I do know I want better shelving, a new sink, and a bit of decor and style. Maybe even incorporate some fun wallpaper.

Adding Additional Touches:
There are also be lots of other fun details, decor, work surfaces, etc. in the plans for this space that will really bring it to life.


Phew! I think that about sums things up. There are many things to do, items to figure out, and lots to be excited about. A beautiful new space is on the horizon. I have started a board HERE on Pinterest if you want a sneak peek of some design ideas I have for the space.

I hope that after seeing and reading about this project you’re feeling as excited as I am for what’s to come. I have a feeling this will quickly become a space in which I spend a lot of my time.

Let’s do this!

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  1. Wow, what a great space! Can’t wait to see what you do with it. The ceiling doesn’t look that low, but I’ll have to tell our 6′ 5″ son to stay out of your basement. 😉

  2. When you mentioned “art space”, I was wondering about natural light but you’ve got that covered. Being a walk-out basement is a bonus! Looking forward to the renovation, Michael!

  3. OMG, Michael! I’m loving this! So looking forward to following along! I can picture it already. Down the line, I hope to renovate my walk out basement, which is currently a big storage unit! Can’t wait for some inspiration! Enjoy your Labor Day weekend. 🙂

  4. Looking forward to your remodel. Love all your ideas but keep thinking about a Christmas tree this year by your fireplace. Good luck to your future Art Studio👍

  5. I cannot wait for the updates! Wow there is a lot of paneling.
    Lighter and brighter. We added vinyl flooring and it made a huge difference in our garden/access from the garage basement. The basement looks so much larger than 400 sq. feet.
    Can’t wait! Happy Labor Day weekend Michael! laura

  6. The photos and careful descriptions of your basement space is very well done. You have the writing talent that feels like I’ve received an in-person tour! Good luck with your new creative space. (I think you are wise to leave the ceilings alone. It sounds like a jumble of bad design best left unrevealed!)

    1. You probably already know this trick, but on the chance you don’t, you can fill the paneling groves with joint compound. My kitchen had paneling and I filled the groves, sanded and painted and it is indistinguishable from drywall. Where the paneling meets the ceiling I used metal drywall tape to make a sharp, strong angle. It’s held up for over 20 years.

      1. Thank you! I like the look of the grooves so I don’t want to cover them up. I appreciate the tip though!


  7. What potential. I lived in a knotty pine cottage for a while years ago….everything knotty pine, walls, ceilings, closets, cabinets. I’m still sane, thank goodness. Can’t wait to see the process. And, yes, remove that ghastly bar.

  8. You have the most organized “dumping ground” I have seen! LOL
    I can’t wait to see how you transform the basement. It is going to be fabulous, I am sure! So exciting!

  9. Lots of potential and you have the creativity to bring this space into the now and future. Good luck and I will enjoy following along. And, please pat Mama kitty on the head for me.

  10. I love your Pinterest board ideas for the basement space and fireplace. I think doing a colonial/English cottage vibe will fit that space perfectly and feel really cozy. You have a great design sense so I can’t wait to see what you do with this space!