A glossy Mississauga basement reno featuring a home office and a playroom

A glossy Mississauga basement reno featuring a home office and a playroom

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The people: Jimmy Wang, a 37-year-old accounting manager, Wing-See Wu, a 36-year-old project manager, and their two daughters, 18-month-old Kaia and three-year-old Luna.

The place: A three-bedroom detached home in Mississauga

Wing-See and Jimmy bought their 1,500-square-foot home in 2014. Shortly after moving in, they turned a spare second-floor bedroom into a shared home office, where they would do their accounting, take courses for work or play video games.

Around the same time, they updated the basement, adding floor-to-ceiling walnut railings for the staircase and new laminate floors. But the space was functional, not pretty—they left the basement’s textured ceiling tiles and dim fluorescent lighting—and they only occasionally used it as a playroom for their daughter Luna.

In February of 2020, Wing-See was pregnant with their second child, so they moved their second-floor home office set-up into the basement to make room for the nursery. When the first Covid lockdown began a month later, the couple realized they needed dedicated spaces to work. Jimmy set up a makeshift space in the main-floor living room while Wing-See worked from the basement, where Luna also spent most of her days.

Their daughter Kaia was born that July, and Wing-See filled the house with toys, books and art supplies to pass the long days at home with a newborn and a toddler. “I was spending 50 hours a week in the basement, and I couldn’t deal. The space felt awful with those ugly ceiling tiles, and it was disorganized,” says Wing-See. “The pandemic made us resent our home environment.”

Here’s what the basement looked like before the reno 

Wing-See and Jimmy have backgrounds in architecture and had previously dabbled in home reno projects, including a new back deck and a kitchen refresh, which Wing-See would document on her Instagram. In April of 2021, they launched a full-scale overhaul of the basement. Wing-See sketched out a plan inspired by mid-century modern design. “I knew that when I returned to work, the room had to look sophisticated and professional for video calls,” she says. “At the same time, I wanted to incorporate playful graphics and youthful colours that would appeal to the children.”

They elevated bland IKEA furniture that was around the house with custom wood panelling and painted trompe l’oeil arches on the walls. All in, they spent more than $5,000 on new furnishings and lighting, with six months of sweat equity. Now, the space includes an adorable joint desk for the girls and a sliver of an office in a nook for Wing-See.

They created zones for crafts, toy storage, learning, working, pretend play and active play to help structure their kids’ activities and keep the basement organized. There’s also a rec area, a laundry and a mini gym. “It’s a basement that does a little too much now,” says Wing-See. “It feels good to spend time in there. The space is brighter and delights the eye.” Most importantly, it keeps the parents from losing it.

Wing-See and Jimmy colour-blocked the walls with mint green, white and grey paint. “I intended for the magnetic white board to be a place for the girls to practise reading and writing, but Jimmy, who is a talented artist, uses it to draw weekly caricatures of our family,” says Wing-See. “Some days we’re a family of pirates, other days we’re elves on Santa’s sled”:

The couple built and designed this staircase enclosure when they moved in to give the basement architectural heft:

Wing-See’s smart new office nook has rich walnut slats that match the ones on the staircase. The decorative white hand desk sculpture is a HomeSense find. Wing-See added the wicker basket to the wall for a dose of texture:

The mini desk area includes tyke-sized Wishbone chairs from Crate and Barrel Kids, painted arches and sassy sconces. Wing-See customized the IKEA lights by spray-painting the back plate gold. “It’s a $25 dupe of a $100 sconce,” she says. “The large portraits of Luna and Kaia are the first things I see when I walk down the stairs, and they always spark joy.” There’s also a vertical cabinet wrapped in walnut and ledges for children’s books:

The IKEA desk is adjustable, so it can grow with the girls. It has a roll of paper for arts and crafts:

Here’s the ledge for books. The girls’ favourites are Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel, Pete the Cat and the Perfect Pizza Party by Kimberly and James Dean, and Future Astronaut by Lori Alexander:

Wing-See and Jimmy concealed the old ceiling tiles with white shiplap from Armstrong:

Wing-See commissioned this illustration from Toronto artist Gracia Lam for her husband’s 27th birthday. “It’s a portrait of Jimmy in a parade of balloons. I’m the small figure in red holding onto the string,” says Wing-See. The wall hooks are from H&M:

Wing-See gussied up a Kidkraft playhouse using wood-like contact paper and marble. There’s mini furniture in there and lanterns to make playtime extra fun: