My Best Friends 1970s Basement Gets A Comfortable, Cozy Makeover – Wood Paneling And Wall-To-Wall Carpet Included

Kelsey W. Popham


It’s a design project reveal day and one that honestly turned out far better than I had ever predicted. If you are popping over here after seeing me on Good Morning America then “Hiya 🙂 Thanks for coming and welcome (and I hope I didn’t say ‘um’ 19 times).” If you just want to buy the book, then head here (and thank you :)). But this reveal is pretty great, so I think you should keep reading. Today we have a basement makeover that I hope inspires all of you who suffer from “neglected basement disorder.” You are not alone. The basement has historically been relegated to leftover overstuffed furniture, dated wall paneling, and popcorn encrusted wall-to-wall carpet (and ceiling). My friend Robyn’s was no different, and yet during the pandemic, it was the most utilized room in the house – thus inspiring the transformation. But the thing is they liked a lot of the 1970s elements because a lot of them do provide the cozy vibe that you want in a colder climate basement – Those “dated” elements are great ways to make an underground space feel warm. I will defend wall-to-wall carpet in a cold room until I die. They hired the wonderful Priscilla Frost to lead, plan and design the whole basement renovation (check out their mudroom and bathroom), which was pretty extensive. I stepped in on this room to co-design it with her – involved in the furniture and lots of vintage shopping/styling. I was highly invested emotionally in making sure that Robyn and her husband Ryan retained the comfort and coziness that they loved, but it just needed it to be BETTER. And I’ll be honest with you I could tell Ryan was scared that we designers were going to make it less comfortable, less functional, just fancier, and more pretentious. And I get that! But not me. I’m in the “comfortable/cozy” portion of my life and will advocate for those elements before aesthetics for a basement TV room every single time.

Ok so as a reminder – this room needed to function for two parents, two tween/teen boys, a dog, and a lot of winter sports watching. We needed durability, extreme comfort, and kid/pet-friendly fabrics and materials. They loved the wall-to-wall carpet and there was a decent heated debate about the paneling.

TO PANEL OR TO PAINT THE “ORIGINAL” PANELING

This was a pretty hefty debate that Ryan felt strongly about (with a decent amount of pushback). He liked the wood look of the paneling and didn’t want it painted, but the two paneling treatments were different – one already white and one a 70s orange wood (Doug Fir, Pine, or Cedar – stained). An easy update would be to paint the entire room a darker cozy color and leave the paneling as it was. But they wanted to do more waterproofing and some foundational work on the exterior walls which meant that the interior walls were going to have to be torn out and replaced anyway. So, once we knew we had to open up the walls the options then became to simply drywall and paint or replace the paneling altogether. Finding the right wood took MONTHS and we considered everything from T and G wood flooring (applied vertically) to simple cedar or Doug Fir boards.

We were all pretty darn nervous that the Doug Fir would turn out orange despite messing with the stain colors. In my experience, anytime people try to make Doug Fir look like a hardwood such as walnut it does not look too bad. Priscilla had some excellent inspiration images that gave me hope and it could have worked out, but I felt nervous. Robyn and Ryan were both “is this going to look 70s and dated?” and I couldn’t guarantee them that it wouldn’t!

the ross alan wood, before being sealed

So before we committed to the risk I reached out to Ross Alan Reclaimed Lumber to see if we could partner up on this room (discount for PR and photography). Because they trust that we’d make it awesome (and because they are smart and wonderful business people), they agreed and sent us some samples. The second we got the sample we all were like, “OH, THIS!” It was a very easy/fast decision despite this being higher than the original budget (this is black walnut and splurgier, but as you can see worth it).

You should know that reclaimed wood will have more cracks and imperfections so you’ll need ample overage and a skilled yet flexible installer. JP Macy’s crew did a great job of installing it as you can see. We were blown away – it’s just so stunning. This is the seal we used!

OK now on to the full reveal … but before all the pretty photos, here’s a video walkthrough where I tour ya through the space (just wait for the ad to play!)

The Cozy U-Shaped Sectional

Sectional | Wood Paneling

This room consists of very few pieces of furniture so what we chose had to really work. I wrote a whole post about customizing the sectional with Interior Define last week and it’s EXCELLENT. It’s very comfortable, has great proportions (deep enough to lounge, not too deep to sit upright), easy to maintain, and can fit so many people (or lounge the entire family). We styled it out with pillows from City Home (local and awesome), Rejuvenation (local and awesome), and Bloomist (sustainably sourced and so beautiful).

Coffee Table | Rug | Tray | Box (vintage) | Matchstriker (similar) | Mug | Coasters | Book🙂

The coffee table is from Rejuvenation and works perfectly with the dark moody vibe of the room (and the roundness fits beautifully inside the U-shaped sectional).

The Vintage Art Gallery Wall

Sconces (painted shades black with fabric paint) | Art (vintage)

I’ll always have a sentimental attachment to these vintage art pieces as I shopped for them during the rainiest month of my life – November 2021. The adventure was a real mood booster. I couldn’t really shop/buy for the farmhouse yet and at the time I was missing our life in Lake Arrowhead badly but the one thing that Arrowhead doesn’t have, and Portland thrives at, is vintage/thrift/antique shops. So strangely collecting all of these pieces made me so very happy. I just went for it and didn’t ask for approval, knowing their style pretty well (authentic, collected, warm, grandpa-vintage inspired). There were a few they didn’t respond to as much but we all agreed that Priscilla and I would finish the wall and then if they didn’t like the finished project they could replace a few (I didn’t charge then for the pieces until I knew what they’d like – a privilege of knowing that my business model is not residential clients, but blog content). I would say those pieces ranged from $15 – $150 – and frankly, I love SO MANY of them for myself, but can happily visit them when I come over to Robyn’s.

Pillows And Throws

Cross Pillow | Black and White Woven Pillow | Yellow Plaid Pillow | Lumbar Pillow (similar) | Faux Fur Pillow | Blue Plaid Pillow | Color Block Pillow | Velvet Pillow | Throw Blanket | Gold Lamp | Nesting Side Tables

Once I knew this project was going to be very “reveal worthy,” I started reaching out to companies I loved for accessories. On the sectional we have a pretty darn epic mix of City Home, Bloomist, and Rejuvenation – all look so cozy together and all are companies worthy of our support. That throw is not necessarily the curl-up and snuggle throw, but goodness it’s just so pretty. The lamp is from City Home as well.

Hold up: I want to give a huge shout out to City Home – a small local chain (3 total) of furniture and home decor stores in Portland that – get this – you can purchase and take home furniture pieces the same day. I feel like no stores do this anymore and is likely why they are thriving right now what with long lead times. The people who own it are lovely, they have awesome stuff, and just know that you are supporting a local retailer if you opt to shop with them.

Wait, What’s Up With All The Ducks?

You may notice that there are a lot of “ducks” in this room and it’s not an accident. We believe in ducks. Robyn met Ryan, and I met Brian in college at U of O and, he’s a HUGE duck fan (our school’s mascot in case you aren’t up on all college mascots). Ryan really didn’t have very many style requests outside of function for this room, but once said, off-hand – maybe something with a duck? And I took it and waddled. It’s like how Anna Wintour says, “Meh, I don’t really like purple right now” and then all of a sudden the brief to the entire Conde Naste universe is “don’t you dare put purple near her person or print a shade of it in the magazine” – except the opposite. I only had “duck vision” from there on out. He wanted ducks and I was going to shop for and give him DUCKS. Thus my obsession with decoys began and has yet to wane. That painting is an awesome duck painting, there are a few decoys on the fireplace mantel, and I feel the duck behind the sofa says, “Oregon Den” without screaming “FOWL DUCK.”

Wooden Chain | Mirror (vintage) | Art (vintage) | Ceramic Frog Block | Decoys (vintage) | Blanket Ladder | Top Plaid Blanket | Bottom Plaid Blanket (vintage)

The TV Wall

The TV had to be set off to the left of the fireplace because over the top would be too high (read this post if you are curious how to layout a tv and fireplace in one room). It works great here, especially since the walls are dark and it just disappears. Priscilla found them that awesome media console from Article that again, recedes, letting the wood and the general “vibe” be the focal point. We styled out the top of it but I kinda wish we had just left it with a couple of books, diminishing the busyness. Look at that sectional there – so comfy and cozy.

The Wall-To-Wall Carpet

Dog Bed | Carpet (color: cold winter) | Media Console | Checkered Box

Clyde is really stealing our wall-to-wall carpet shot – but the truth is we didn’t really get one. Priscilla and Robyn picked it out, I approved, it was installed, and then covered up til we brought in the furniture so we didn’t get any “carpet only” shots. This is from the brand Shaw, the Cozy Harbor II collection in color, Cold Winter which is great for the price, then they put it over a 1/2″ memory foam carpet pad and it’s very cozy. I think it’s a great medium-priced cozy carpet.

The Layered Rug

I will testify on the stand for this rug – I’ve used it many times and for good reason. It is neutral yet patterned making it very kid/pet friendly and forgiving. It’s plush but not a shag – making it so comfortable and cozy. We layered it to add coziness and protect the wall-to-wall carpet. It’s WONDERFUL. It goes with every style imaginable. I will likely have it at the farm because I love it so much. It’s called the Citra rug from Dash and Albert.

The Sofa Table + WFH Desk

Floor Lamp | Desk | Table Lamp | Leather Ottomans | Basket

I love this vignette so much (visually and functionally). We found the desk, lamp, and ottomans all at City Home (so excellent) and they tuck under just wonderfully. That floor lamp is leather brass and wood = my trifecta of favorite materials. What I love about this desk is that it can act as a sofa table (with lamp, etc) and a place to store extra seating as it is right now. It can act as a buffet for popcorn and snacks if they were to entertain, too. But, here’s the real genius move, it’s deep enough to be a good-sized desk, which was an added plus as Robyn needed a better WFH office.

I think that the desk as sofa table should be a way more popular move – I would use it all the time. There are so many nights where the kids want to watch something but I’d rather be pinning but near them. It’s a great hack to add an extra desk area without screaming “I’M AN OFFICE”.

Wood Vase (handmade gift) | Matchstriker (similar) | Candle

I’d like to give another shout-out to Taylor, a carpenter on the ARCIFORM team for carving me that wood vase from a piece of wood on the property that he collected on the first day of the job. I honestly hadn’t been that touched in so long – a gesture completely out of the blue that made me feel so good. I took it home with me after the shoot (obviously) but was so excited about it that I wanted to show it off. That table lamp is from Rejuvenation and it’s wood with beautiful modern carved striped into it – an absolute classic that will never go out of style.

I want to call something out real quick – Sara photoshopped out the recessed lighting – something I noticed immediately. I didn’t ask her to but yes, totally appreciated it photography-wise. So no, the ceiling didn’t change (although I wanted to clad it so bad) and the recessed lights remain. I would never suggest doing a family room without some good overhead lighting – I know we use ours all the time for crafting, puzzles, and games.

A big shout out to Priscilla Frost (on the left) who took the lead on the construction and did all the project management. Because partners were involved I was more heavily involved in the design and styling of this room, but she did the bulk of the construction and application of the finishes. If you are an architectural firm in Portland and looking for an in-house designer/project manager this girl is for you (she is currently pursuing that route so she can build her experience and skills, rather than taking on residential clients).

I hope you enjoyed the whole basement process and reveal. We have one more – the 14-year-old tween boys reveal (and y’all there are like no teen boys inspiration on the internet so come back for it).

Oh, and if you want an Interior Define sectional or sofa of your own, they are offering a one-time discount of 15% off through May 24th, 2022. Just use code: HENDERSON15

*Design by Emily Henderson and Priscilla Frost
**Styled by Emily Henderson
***Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp





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