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Penny & Nancy's Cottage
Before & After Resources Tales From The Set


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.

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Mirror Paneling Paneling Floor Floor Antiques Antiques Antiques Antiques Paneling Floor Floor Floor Floor Mantel Antiques Antiques Antiques Antiques Playhouse