As co-founder and CEO of Havenly, Lee Mayer knows a thing or two about interior design. But she also knows that two heads are better than one, especially when it comes to designing a spacious open-concept basement with zero style identity.
“Everything was just… beige,” deadpans Lee, noting the tonal carpet and walls. “And while we loved how big the basement was — perfect for three boys under the age of six — there was no clear focal point or separation of space.”
So, Mayer tapped Havenly VP of Design Shelby Girard to help her create a fun and purposeful basement fit for family hangouts, Netflix binges, and schoolwork alike. “I knew we wanted specific spaces to lounge, unwind, and watch Friday night movies as a family, as well as areas for the boys to play and tackle homework,” she says.
Setting the Stage
The duo’s first order of business was to set the stage, so to speak. They ripped out the old, worn carpet and replaced it with a lighter, modern loop-style version, and painted the walls a mix of crisp white and Benjamin Moore Hale Navy. “A big myth in design is to go with neutral walls when there’s no natural light,” explains Shelby. “Do the opposite! Embrace dark and moody paint colors to create a more intimate and cozy ambiance.”
Creating Separate “Rooms”
The different hues also help create separate “rooms,” so to speak. Midnight blue defines the living area, which is anchored by well-curated open storage and a shiplap accent wall. “There’s a lot of debate in design about how to gracefully include a TV,” Shelby admits. “I love this trick of using a dark accent wall to blend the TV to the space—especially when flanked by DIY shelving to create the appearance of built-ins.”
Beyond the back of the sofa, bright white walls represent the beginning of the kids’ zone. To ensure there was enough open space for playing, Shelby decided to craft a DIY desk with an IKEA floating shelf in a tucked-back recess. The place is complete with two metal counter stools and task lamps that encourage focused work. “Don’t forget to add shelving above a homework station to maximize storage,” she recommends. “Style them with baskets or bins to stash markers, school supplies, and toys and create a sense of visual calm.”
Layering in Coziness
Lee and Shelby intentionally contrasted the dark surfaces with warm, natural textures and soft white tones. A sink-right-in leather Article sectional is paired with a variety of plush throw pillows, a braided jute pouf, and a speckled area rug. “Even with existing carpet, the rug still does its job fully and makes this design feel comfy, bright, and layered,” describes Shelby.
The end result is a beautiful basement that manages to perform multiple jobs at once. “My family and I absolutely love our basement makeover,” Lee gushes. “It’s cozy, comfortable, and equal parts kid-friendly and adult-cool — perfect for Paw Patrol on repeat, or wine and the latest cheesy Netflix rom-com.” It doesn’t get any better than that.
Shop the Space:
1. Chill White Media Console // 2. Iddings Counter Stool // 3. Simon Ivory Wool Pillow // 4. Black Mudcloth Artwork // 5. Mello Taos Tan Sectional // 6. Braided Jute Pouf // 7. Tillie Wool Pillow // 8. Virginia Sin Overhand Knot // 9. Madyn Pillow
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