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The basement in the cottage that these two families share was prepped, but unfinished. There was drywall on the ceiling, plywood walls and a concrete floor. A fireplace was already installed in a corner of this large room, but the rest was up to us.
The idea here was to design a family room that could take the rough and tumble play of four young children, but also would be comfy for the parents. The moms wanted wood paneling on the walls, which is something I'm usually ripping out, but we devised a way of making this affordable and practical choice look good. The overall theme emerged as rustic modern -- imagine a Norwegian cabin in the woods.
Our creative carpenters used an inexpensive, soft plywood to cut planks for the walls. The boards were scarred and stained, then covered with a thin coat of Venetian plaster that was wiped back with a wet rag. The plaster stayed behind in the crevices and holes producing a flat, whitewashed patina. When the planks were nailed onto the walls, the effect was rustic and also light, which is an important consideration for a basement.
For the floor, I repeated a brilliant idea that I had used in a previous Facelift (see DJ's Garden). It's a decorative concrete system that is extremely durable, and here it has the look of garden flagstones. The kids can bump around and play hockey all they like without hurting it, and the faux flagstones make a wonderful base for our rustic theme.
We divided the room into zones for playing and relaxing, and chose a combination of antiques and modern touches to create a homey space. Worn finishes on tables and chairs, and a new metal mantel built behind the fireplace aged to look smoky are simple effects that give the room instant history.
The Play House
What child doesn't dream of a secret home to play in and escape into an imaginary world free of nosy parents? We started with a prefab garden shed and added playful details with paint and inexpensive carpentry materials. Painted pine siding, shutters and gingerbread trim are quaint and welcoming. Inside the walls are covered in pegboard painted a lively red. A window opening was cut to enable the kids to exit via a slide, and another window doubles as a puppet stage. It's fanciful, fun and a guaranteed winner for kids of all ages.
Click on the small photographs on the right to view each of the different angles of the room.
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Antiques & More
When looking for accessories and accent pieces to build around a country theme, it's great fun to visit antique and flea markets. Old biscuit tins, wooden shoe forms, tea kettles, plates, and baskets all have fascinating stories to tell. If you have a piece of painted furniture that is new, such as the side table here, you can age it instantly by sanding back the paint along the edges and any areas that would be worn naturally by time and use. Apply a coat of cream paint and wipe it back to reveal the bare spots you have made.
Family Basement Playroom
The overall colour scheme is kept light with creamy whites, and plastered wood paneling. Rustic red accents on the large framed mirror, chairs and carpet are historically warm and welcoming. Metallic materials, used for the fireplace mantel and the coppery lamp shade give a hint of modern to the happy cottage basement.
Faux Flagstone Floor
To produce the effect of flagstones, we used a decorative concrete stencil system that is applied right over an existing concrete floor. There are many colours and patterns to choose from, or you can design your own. The pebbly finish can be rough or smooth, depending on the slip-resistance you desire. Visit the website in Resources for more information, and to find an applicator near you. Due to the necessary surface preparation, and the skills and equipment required for laying this floor, it's not yet a DIY project.
The mantel frame is plywood, trimmed with 1" x 6" pine. It is covered with sheets of aluminum cut to size. To bend the aluminum around the wood at the edges, use a straight edge ruler and sharp knife to score the metal, then bend along the crease line. Secure it to the wood with 1" nails. To dull the aluminum and produce a realistic smoky patina, mist it with black spray paint. Use fire-resistant paint meant for barbecues, and rub it with a rag to make smudges.
New Rustic Paneling
To make the planks for the walls, cut out varying lengths of plywood about 7 inches deep. To create scarring, our energetic Scotsman Jim pulled on a pair of golf shoes and dug the sharp cleats into the boards as he danced his own version of the Highland Fling. The boards were then sealed with a dark stain and let dry. Next a thin coat of Venetian plaster was applied and then rubbed back with a damp rag. This lightened the boards and highlighted the scars and holes. They were glued and nailed to the walls, staggering the lengths in a realistic manner.
The Outdoor Playhouse
We added our own exterior and interior coverings to a basic garden shed shell to transform it into a whimsical kids' playhouse. For the exterior, treated pine siding, shutters and gingerbread trim were painted in cheerful green, blue and red. Inside the pegboard walls are red. One shuttered window is designed to do double duty as a puppet theater stage. Magical mushroom stools are lined up outside for the audience. An extra child-size opening was cut out to be used as the entrance to the slide.
The large stature of the wood framed mirror complements the size and relaxed style of this country family room. To make the frame, first build a plywood base with a hole in the center for the mirror and build up the outer and inner cut edges with wood trim. Paint the frame rusty red. Next, fill the enclosed area of the frame snugly with bark (ground covering found at garden stores.) Mix one or two batches of epoxy gel and pour it into the frame. It will fill in all the spaces and the bark will appear to float. Varnish the wood with oil-based varnish tinted dark brown.