Home Decor

Sarah Richardson's design tips to make over your basement

Design expert and host of HGTV's Sarah 101 answers a reader's question on how to make the basement a cozy, kid-friendly hangout

Coffee table with two drawers

Coffee table

Black frame, white mat, black and white photo

Ribba frame

Red cloth bin


Tan throw pillow with red stripes

Grain sack pillow cover

White wall lamp with movable arm

Jonathan Adler light

Beige couch with chaise lounge

Karlstad sofa and chaise lounge

Red and white geometric fabric square

Couch cover fabric (Photo by Roberto Caruso)

Sarah Richardson design tips, reader basement photo

Photo of Judy W.’s basement

Room inspiration: Basement rec room with red pillows, white couch, big screen TV

Stacey Brandford

Q: My husband and I are about to welcome our first grandchild and we want our basement to be a comfortable, kid-friendly place for us to lounge and watch TV. Plus, we have an unsightly structural column in what feels like the middle of the room. Help!
Judy W., Thornhill, Ont.

A: Your rec room looks like it’s already cozy and welcoming — now all you need to do is dress it up so it becomes an enticing and practical space for everyone to hang out in.

1. Start with seating
If the focus of your room is playing or watching movies, lay the room out around the seating. A sectional sofa will make the most of the room if you place it against the wall opposite the stairs. This way the column won’t be an issue and the seating area will be open as you come down the stairs, making the room seem bigger. Choose a couch with a washable cover in a light, neutral tone to make the room feel airy, then introduce impact and interest with some bold patterns on pillows. Red and tan are great accents in a rec room!

2. Choose double-duty pieces
Forgo the soft ottoman in favour of a workhouse wooden coffee table with a shelf below that will add valuable storage for when the kids use the room as a play space. If you choose a rustic finish, you won’t have to worry about dents and dings — they’ll just add character! While you’re looking for the tables, keep an eye out for similar side tables or a console with drawers and shelves for maximum flexibility.

3. Put lights on the walls
Sconces add ambient light and keep the floor area clear. There are some great options for wall-mounted lighting with swing-arm features that bring illumination and character to any space. While you’re dressing the walls, why not dig into the archives and scan, enlarge (in black and white) and frame some favourite shots from your family albums.

Get this look: Fabric, Seeing Spots in Lipstick, $20/yd, Designer Fabrics. Karlstad Sofa and Chaise Lounge, $1,199, Ikea. Jonathan Adler Light, $245, Elte. Grain Sack Pillow Cover, $39, Pottery Barn. Tote, $56, Pottery Barn Kids. Ribba Frame, $20, Ikea. Coffee Table, $799, Urban Barn.

Meet our expert: Designer Sarah Richardon hosts Sarah 101 airing Tuesdays at 8 and 8:30 p.m. EST on HGTV. Got a decorating dilemma? Send your photos and questions to sarah@chatelaine.com.