How an interior decorator turned her creepy basement into a sunny family space

How an interior decorator turned her creepy basement into a sunny family space

The basement belonging to Tamara Robbins Griffith was as cold, creepy and claustrophobic as a vampire’s lair. Turning it into a fresh, light and height-friendly place would be substantial, but that didn’t scare Griffith. The interior decorator was having her second child with her husband, Edward, and they were desperate for more space in their Leslieville semi. “I think I channelled all of my nesting instincts into this renovation,” says Griffith.

Here’s what the basement looked like pre-makeover. The walls were blood red, and the ceiling height was five feet, eleven inches. Griffith’s husband is six feet tall:

bloody walls

A pair of marooned laundry machines eventually ended up on Kijiji. That’s a plumbing pipe running along the floor. You’d never guess this would become a spectacular, multi-functional subterranean space that features a guest suite that doubles as a home office, a second family room (when there are no visitors), a three-piece bathroom and the prettiest laundry room in Leslieville—all within 500 square feet:

dead machines

Here’s what the staircase looked like:

stairs to basement

Here’s what the stairs look like now (that’s 11-month-old Amelia, Griffith’s daughter). Griffith added a return at the bottom and carpeted the entire basement in 100% berber wool:


Turn right at the stairs, and you’re faced with a schmancy new front-loading washer and dryer that can be closed off with pocket doors. The floating shelves are from IKEA and the snazzy wallpaper—which plays off the yellow dhurrie rug from HomeSense—is from Y&Co. The door to the left conceals the furnace and the one to the right hides a storage closet. Griffith says working out an attractive design for the basement’s odd floorplan “was like Tetris.” The new ceiling height is seven feet, eleven inches:


The windows were enlarged throughout the basement, so the space—including Griffith’s office—no longer feels dreary. She’s outfitted the space with a desk from Woodcraft, and a vintage chair covered in fabric from Robert Allen, plus roman blinds from Osbourne & Little through Primavera:


The family hangs out while watching TV on this pull-out couch, which is handy for overnight guests. Griffith updated the retro chinoiserie chair with Lulu DK fabric from Y&Co. It riffs off the faux bamboo mirror, which is from HomeSense:


Griffith added a three-piece bathroom and finished it with subway tile. The vanity is from IKEA, though she customized it with wooden legs that reference the CB2 mirror:


Dark grout gives the subway tile a patina and makes it pop: