the basement playroom

by | Jan 11, 2018 | All Things Home, Decorating, Room Makeovers | 39 comments

In my post reviewing our progress on the new home in 2017, I shared that there are rooms I haven’t showed here, yet.  In fact, I haven’t showed the entire basement!  In addition to the utility room and some storage, there is a family room, a playroom, bathroom, and a guest room down there.  It’s a walk-out basement, so even though it’s subterranean, it has pretty nice light and high ceilings.

We initially planned on setting up my business down there.  The main room is wide open and would give me plenty of space for art, office work, painting, sewing, and upholstery.  Before we moved in, we began to really examine how we could best use our spaces for our family and my business.  We came to the conclusion that the basement was just too perfect for a family space to use for my business.  So, my business is spread over a few smaller rooms and the basement is used as our family room and play room.  It was a great move.

The playroom is the small room through the pocket doors on the right in the picture below…

It’s an internal room without any windows, but it’s perfect to use as a playroom.

I would take a picture of it today, but just imagine Legos and plastic tubs all over and you’ve got a pretty good idea.  We have a couple of wire storage shelves from our previous basement to keep (most) things up off the floor.  We also have the TV cabinet and TV from our last family room in there on the back wall…

With those pieces to build around and, given that it’s a boy-cave, I decided to go in a moody/industrial direction.  Yeah…different for me!  I want to design a room that will grow with them and be a great teen-hangout in just a couple of short years.

The first thing that the room is in desperate need of is good storage.  Right now, there just isn’t enough of it and, what we do have, isn’t meant to be used the way we’re using it.   The large wire shelving is sturdy, but Lego pieces and small toys fall through the shelves and the Lego Star Wars and Bionicle guys (hopefully you know what I’m talking about) won’t stand up.  This might seem trivial, but the boys would like to stage their guys on the shelves when they clean up the basement.

I have been looking at shelving options for a few months.  I’ve scoured craigslist regularly and have come up empty.  I’ve also looked at Ikea, thinking that would be an economical, yet stylish option.  They do have some great bargains, but by the time I added up all the shelving I would want, it would be over $600.  Even then, I was concerned about the shelves being deep enough for bins and baskets of Legos and toys and I really didn’t want to spend that much on shelves for a playroom.

So, after lots of hunting around, I bought three Iron Horse Riveted shelves from Target for $105/each.  I liked the cost, I liked that they are very sturdy, and I liked the gray color.  At 18″ deep, they are plenty deep for bins and baskets, even larger bins for bulky toys.  The shelves are solid, so we can also display Lego “creations”  and “guys” without pieces and legs fall through the cracks.  And, while the shelves are more suited for a storage room, they don’t look like it…as much.


To make these shelves look even better, I’m going to paint the wall behind them black.  The black paint will make the shelves just disappear into the wall and feature the stuff that is on them instead.

I am considering using black chalkboard paint, so the walls can be customized depending on what the boys are interested in.  Sort of like a temporary mural.  Can you imagine the moon, stars, maybe an X-Wing or the Death Star?  We could do super heroes or characters from their favorite games or just let the boys and their friends doodle.

One last thing about the shelves…  I like that they are garage/storage room shelving, so that we can reuse them as that or in a variety of other ways when the boys are grown.  I think that’s a better purchase in the end, than getting pieces that are only suited for toy storage.

We will secure them to the wall with a cleat at the top for safety and I’ll share how we do that.

For storage on the shelves, we have a lot of plastic bins, but they are mis-matched.  While that didn’t really matter in the basement (and some people, like Jeff, might argue it doesn’t matter in the new playroom), I would really like them to look neater and more uniform.  I ordered a bunch of these clear plastic Ikea Salma boxes in two different sizes…

We will use those mostly for Legos, sorting the loose pieces by color and type.  The boys expressed interest in working together to build more of their sets and then we’ll display the creations on the shelves.

I also got some of these Gabbig baskets for cars, “guys” (aka action figures), and other small toys.  They’ll add some warmth and texture to the shelving as well.  

I have some old locker baskets that we can use as well.

My mom is coming to visit next week, so this organizing is a good project we can dig into while she’s here.

We’ll also probably replace the light fixture, since the current one hangs down pretty low.  It was obviously meant to hang over a game table, but we don’t have one, so I’d like to swap it out for semi-flush lighting.

Those changes will take care of the foundation and functionality of the room and then we can go from there…


  1. Marsha Kern

    That room is beautiful! It doesn’t look like any basement I have ever seen!!

    • Kimberly

      I easily could, and would happily, live in that basement! It sounds like it has everything a girl could need (aside from a kitchen). It’s huge! And so much nicer than the 2 BR/2BA, 1,000 sq. ft. not-very-nice apartment I’m paying an arm and a leg for in rent here in west Los Angeles. I love the wood floor, and even though I prefer ocean-colors, I’d even keep that purple wall!

  2. Victoria

    I like the idea of the chalkboard wall but would it be a pain to season the whole wall? Is there a sneaky way to do that by attaching chalk to one of those handled sanding pads that plasterers use?
    I had a couple of those Ikea boxes and they’re great if they’re not going to be full all the time as they stack empty easily, but the awkward corners inside bugged me and I’ve upgraded to Really Useful boxes instead.

    Separate point, have you thought about a service that allows a commenter to request updates by email? I find those really useful in the comments section on other blogs. Thanks

  3. Susan

    What a beautiful basement! So much natural light and lovely finishes. The boys will have fun down there and all their friends will want to hang out there when they’re teens. I am dying to see the layout of your house, as I don’t yet have a sense of it like I did for your PA one. Will you be sharing that with us or keeping things more private this time? (It must be a challenge to balance the privacy issue as a blogger.) I can’t wait to see the “after” shots of this basement!

  4. Marianne

    We have those Ikea clear boxes in many sizes and they are great. You can even stack easily with varying sizes. I like that they are clear so we can see which Legos are in which box without labels. Lots of Legos.

  5. Jeanna

    Love the chalkboard wall idea. Chalk markers are cleaner than old fashioned sticks, but a bit harder to remove. If you discovered Lego tape, it’s really cool. It’s not your Lego , but can be found at Walmart or online. My nephew put on his wall so the “guys “can walk around. This could be true for the large 12×12” squares, just mount and frame up. Here is a crazy— not sure if it will work idea, BUT what about magnetic chalk board paint, then you can add magnet tape to 12×12” squares. This way the whole wall is a design universe! Legos are huge at our house (almost 50 and my hubby still will build with the kids). Really can’t wait to see!

  6. Patti

    My boys sadly grew out of the Lego stage about a year ago. Such awesome creative fun times, I loved watching them stage their “guys”. I will say though that Lego storage and cleaning took up a LARGE part of my time for a number of years LOL, I don’t miss that!

  7. Kate

    I have that shelf and it is very sturdy. We’ve used it in the laundry room and the garage at different times. If I liked the industrial look, I would use it in public room. My boys have a lot of books, so I purchased a tall white Ikea Billy bookshelf after reading the positive reviews. It’s not real wood, but it does look good and has some good features (like the cut-out at the back for the baseboard). My boys put it together themselves.

    The only bins that I’ve found sturdy for long term use were the Rubbermaid ones. Everything else eventually cracked as they are moved around. I haven’t used the Ikea ones, so I’d be interested to see how they hold up. The best thing I’ve found for Lego storage (4 boys, so lots of trial and error experience) are shallow rectangular bins. If the bins are too deep or big, the boys spend a lot of time digging for pieces or, worse, they dump the whole bin out to spread the pieces all over the floor to aid searching. Then clean up is a nightmare (because, of course, they do it quickly and all the pieces don’t go back into the correct bins and the sorting problem gets compounded).

  8. Kathryn

    A back wall in a non-windowed room could make the room become very dark and hard to see in. But Im sure you thought of that.

  9. Gavin

    Can you draw us a floor plan of your home please I’m feeling a little disoriented!

  10. Sandy

    Check HGTV Fixer Uppers Barndominium Ep3.6. They incorporated a lego wall with haning bins and a library sliding ladder. When I think about the chalk walls all I can see is dusting off every child as they exit and asking child A why he wiped out child Bs entire Star Wars story, complete with illustrations, and anotations.

  11. Carla from Kansas

    How about putting wood shelves on the wire storage.

  12. K

    Excited to see the outcome.
    P.S. Printer type trays have perfect sized openings for displaying lego people. 🙂

  13. Brynne

    I love those Ikea clear bins. I store my rug hooking wool in them so I can see what I have. When I moved from California to Utah last year they held up great, and we were not careful packers.

  14. marilyn

    Your basement is incredible!!!!!

  15. Marlene Stephenson

    If it ever storms and you have to go to the basement you can play, that’s what my grandchildren would say. It does look like a great place for the family.

  16. April

    Looking forward to the reveal. House full of Legos here!

  17. Charity Hughes

    A number of retailers (ULINE, The Container Store) sell plastic shelf liners specifically for the wire shelving that solves that problem. Very sturdy and inexpensive. But I understand you were going for a different/more industrial look so your new shelves make perfect sense. Just thought I’d mention it in case you’d like to use your wire shelves elsewhere in future.

  18. PJ

    My daughter and I usually take on an organizing project when I visit her. Enjoy your time with your mom!

  19. Karen K from Buffalo

    You have the best basement/playroom/family room!! And the windows!! Thanks for sharing & I love seeing things coming together in your new home. Glad to hear that your Mom is visiting next week. I miss the posts about your parents, too, but understand the distance. Stay well!!

  20. Eileen

    When a basement looks that good, it is called the “lower level”!!!!!! While it may sound pretentious, we finished our “lower level’ and we decided that, after all the work and the stunning results, it was no longer a basement. When I hear basement, I think an old washing machine, cement walls and a slight smell of mildew.

  21. Dianne

    Loving your new spaces. FYI My daughter bought a home with a chalk painted wall in her sons room. She quickly discovered that the chalk and dust were staining the carpet. She has switched to only white chalk to see how that works.

  22. Kim P.

    It’s going to look great and so practical too. I see a really nice air hockey table in there soon.

  23. Norma Rolader

    Beautiful and so much room thank you for sharing

  24. MaryLisa Noyes

    Looking forward to seeing the progress! It’s a terrific space

  25. Karen

    Looks like a fun room is right on the horizon.
    When replacing the light fixture, IKEA always has awesome track lighting ( industrial touch) and if you run it the whole way to the back of the room, you can turn some of the lights directly on the shelves. Legos can be difficult to see as there are only slight differences between some colors, and having lighting on their creations and “minifigs” will look great. Really make it a feature wall.

  26. Sherry

    I’m so glad to see Sebastian! I miss him!

  27. Elizabeth

    What a great walk-out basement. I agree that there has to be a better description, it’s so beautiful and full of light. When I lived in Boston, my first apartment was in the basement of a townhouse but at the back, where there was just a two-step transition from the hall to the backdoor. That type of setup was referred to as a “garden apartment.” The family room is so huge. I know you’ll do something swoon-worthy with it, but all in good time. The replay of your thought process in planning the playroom storage was very enlightening. Thank you for all of the details you gave us. I love that you put so much thought into planning the playroom. It is a nice way to reinforce the boys’ sense that they are important members of the household, especially when you listen to their needs and do your best to accommodate them. Your decisions about where to locate your own workspaces make excellent sense to me, especially with your main studio just off the kitchen. When I’m working at home, I like being near the kitchen, so I can pop in to check on any ongoing cooking projects. It’s also where everybody goes when they enter the house, so I get to see them right away. I guess it makes me feel more connected, even when working solo.

  28. Annie

    You scored (invested in), a wonderful house! High-five! I love the idea of using these “industrial” garage shelfs for indoor use!! Darn, why didn’t I think of that (because you’re Miss Mustard Seed)! ;)! I love the industrial look, as well. I feel like the rustic look comes easier to me, in terms of putting it together. Industrial-rustic is gorgeous though, and I like the modern feel. The idea of doing it in your basement/lower level is great. It will be a cool space, for sure. Since it’s your sons’ internal play room, I honestly think you *should have fun with it. Oh the memories they will make- legos, a chalkboard, and all kinds of imaginary, artistic play-time! I envision science stuff, too- yes, exactly, space “stuff”!

    Kids grow up so fast, glad you’re planning a nice area for them, and great the family room is attached. Have fun with your Mom and can’t wait to see how it all turns out. Your old t.v. storage console will look amazing there. Love the clean lines of this basement!

  29. Annie

    I meant, the country/rustic look comes easier to me than the industrial one. And prob. a grammatical error-*shelves*!

  30. Debbie

    I think the shelving would look awesome with wood added on top of each shelf, maybe some stained plywood or something like that! Love seeing all of the changes you are making to the house!!

  31. Mable Bailey

    This big beautiful chalkboard, could use our Chalk Couture transfers on it…we have beautiful different designs, that are easy and reusable and versatile…you can create unique and different designs🙂

  32. Mable Bailey

    Beautiful chalkboard …just love it.💕

  33. Linda

    My 2 boys are 30 & 34. We have tubs & tubs of Legos. They will still get them out sometimes when they’re here for a visit & take over the dining room. Glad to see you are getting deep shelving for display & bins. Thinking ahead, smaller storage containers with dividers really help for sorting out the people nad speciality pieces that get lost in the deep bins. Don’t get bins that are too big or deep that will frustrate. They often had sets out for days in the middle of the play areas which I loved.

  34. B. Folk

    Beautiful “lower level living”! I have been looking at inexpensive metal shelving for my kitchen and living room. My current, closed-design, wooden bookcases cut out too much light. Last year, HD had (I think) what I was looking for- in the garden section- and, I didn’t buy because I had already spent the budget. Later on, they were out. Haven’t looked this year (yet). Moral of the story: think outside the box when looking for storage solutions. You already do a good job of that, Marian:-)
    Yes to other suggestions to have a magnetic chalkboard, and to use smaller bins (as a 20-year teacher, I know that big bins are more likely to get dumped out). I have a lot of the Really Useful containers, too. ULine and the Container Store are two of my favorite sources. Great comments, fellow Mustard Seedians!

  35. Nancy

    I assume that is your son in the one picture. Did he draw that moon? If so, it seems he will be an artist like you!

  36. Jessica | Petal + Ply

    oh my! Your inspiration image with the chalkboard wall is stunning! The dark shelves will look great against a dark wall.

  37. Lyn

    I really like the idea of painting the wall to make the shelving “disappear”.
    And totally off the subject… your pup looks a LOT like mine! 🙂

  38. deb

    Marian, I just had this idea this morning. Create a movie poster with each of your sons, photograph 3 of there favorite creations then have a graphic artist or Heidi add in a background, Title, charactor names, ECT. Not sure if you’ll see this, the Instagram stories disappear, maybe ill mention it again on if stories, comments.


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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