See How an ELLE Decor Editor Transformed Her Dark Basement into a Cheery Playroom

Parker Bowie Larson
·3-min read
Photo credit: Stefan Radtke
Photo credit: Stefan Radtke


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After making the move from Manhattan to suburbia midpandemic, my husband and I quickly realized that we needed a playroom. Our 2-year-old’s toys were taking over our small 1950s house, and we hadn’t even unpacked the baby items we were going to need once our second child arrived midsummer. The only option for a play space was our unfinished basement, which we had previously been using for storage. It was not going to be an easy fix: There were several structural elements in the way, including a support beam hanging smack in the middle and two sump pumps we’d installed to prevent flooding. Thankfully, house projects are right up my alley, and I set to work envisioning how to transform this drab space into the ultimate playroom—here’s how you can, too.

Conceal Unsightly Elements

Photo credit: After: Stefan Radtke
Photo credit: After: Stefan Radtke

First, I added a wall on the right to hide the beam and turned the space on the other side into a closet. I then decided to make the area over our sump pump a play space, and I chose faux wood vinyl flooring to further ensure an easy fix in case there was flooding.

Consider Design—and Storage

With the structural elements addressed, I started decorating. In my daughter’s nursery at our previous home, we had hung adorable macarons from SOUTH and covered the floor in a pink floral Madeline Weinrib rug. I opted to recycle those elements here (who wouldn’t?) and create an accent corner with Wallshoppe’s Macarons wallpaper by Nathan Turner.

Then came one of the biggest quandaries: Where to put toys? I turned to the storage experts at California Closets to create a custom shelving design that allows my girls to both see and access their toys. To contain smaller items, I bought storage bins, mixing two patterns from Target. The more bright colors and patterns, the better!


Bring Recess Indoors

Photo credit: Parker Bowie Larson
Photo credit: Parker Bowie Larson

Winters in New York are brutal, and having a place for your children to expend energy indoors is so important for their development, so I knew I wanted to create an indoor playground. Luckily, after having worked previously with Smart D2 playrooms, I had the inside scoop on where to buy the monkey bars, rock climbing wall, and rope swing. My daughter’s one request for her playroom was a swing, which I bought from Hearth Song, and I was able to save a little cash by sourcing the crash pad from Amazon.

Allow It to Grow with Your Kids

Photo credit: Stefan Radtke
Photo credit: Stefan Radtke

My girls are growing fast, so I wanted to make sure the playroom would grow with them. The rest of the basement, therefore, functions as a media room for when they’re of reading age. For story time, I fashioned a reading nook with an armchair for myself and my husband and mini chairs for our daughters.

The renovation took about five months to complete overall, but it was so worth it. It added approximately 700 square feet to our home (no major construction required!), and it’s now one of our favorite rooms.

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