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Lea Johnson’s Basement Reveal: Workspace by Day and Family-Friendly Living Room by Night

Hi guys, it’s Lea again! I am thrilled to be back and grateful for Emily and her team for giving me this space to share my brand new basement reveal!

When you think of basements, what is the first thing that pops into your mind? You might have a vision of a dark, cold, maybe even a little smelly space (you know that basement smell) and anything but cozy, bright, and inspiring, amirite? Well, when the pandemic hit and we, like so many, were forced to work from home or study from home, I quickly realized I needed to carve out a workspace somewhere. Lo and behold, my basement became the place to do just that.

Sofa | Rug | Chair | Table (similar) | Light Fixture | Tree

I’ll admit, our basement wasn’t disastrous beforehand when I first attempted to cozy up the space. Prior to this, it was just an empty space full of boxes and totes – kind of a makeshift storage space. It wasn’t bad, but with two of us working from home and one studying for college from home, we desperately needed a more functional (and beautiful) space to both work and relax.


The first thing that instantly transformed the space was changing the paint color. While I love gray, I wanted something that felt more fresh and to me, and nothing is more fresh than a crisp shade of white. I went with PPG Timeless white paint straight off the shelf and loved the way it immediately brightened up the space.

Next, we needed to transform one side of the basement into a functional workspace without making it a full-blown office. I want this basement to pull double duty for game night/fight night (did I mention we’re huge UFC fans over here?) and a place to enjoy snacks and (eventually) entertain. Luckily for us, and unusual to most basements, this one gets tons of natural light as it’s east facing. It’s the opposite of dark and dingy so it was the perfect canvas for what I wanted to achieve.

Though we have great light in there, I love sourcing light fixtures that are beautiful and functional. So my favorite brother-in-law came over to help me install a gorgeous Japanese paper lantern that I sourced from Bunkado. While I grew up in a heavily Scandinavian family (Yes, I’m adopted) I have always loved Korean and Japanese interiors and so the paper lantern here seemed like the obvious choice with its minimalistic aesthetic and shape. I also added a ceiling medallion as it keeps the space from feeling too builder-grade. I feel like it helps elevate a light fixture even more.

Paint | Table | Rug | Chairs | Pendant (similar)

To make our workspace functional for all of us, I put in this table that is large enough to comfortably sit 2-3 people. Now that I had a surface space adequate for working from home, that doubles as a conference table for Zoom meetings, triples as a break room table, quadruples as a game night table, and quintuples as a place for our projector to sit when we watch events on the “big screen”, I was all set. The shelves hold most of my books and the Google speakers but the amount of books allows everything to blend nicely into the background. Don’t love the idea of a speaker being a main feauture. And finally, the new ceiling light gives a nice soft, overhead glow perfect for working and studying from home.

Hot Tip

Install extra wall rails and brackets to prevent future bowing of shelves. As you’ll see later, my shelves are beginning to bow from the weight of all of my books.

I don’t know about you, but even though we won’t be hosting Christmas this year or having any Christmas parties, I still wanted to sprinkle some cheer around this space. Since we don’t have any little kids anymore, I tend to decorate more for the season than the Holiday and if you know Minnesota, well, we’ve been known to have blizzards in May. Yeah, let that sink in **rolls eyes**.

To bring in the winter/holiday feel, a natural Fraser Fir tree is always my go-to and they smell SO good! I’m all about recycling and being resourceful so the bead garland I made using wood beads I found at the thrift store for under $3. I also made the salt dough star ornaments and the paper Scandinavian stars (I learned how to fold these from my years as a Girl Scout). The ceramic bells I had on hand from Target but I thought they were fitting for the tree. The citron velvet striped ornaments are the same ones I invested in last year as well as the star tree topper. This year instead of using a tree collar or skirt, I opted to just wrap the base of the tree in an old rug I had.

Now on to the bright and cozy side of the room…


Sofa| Coffee Table (similar) | Rug | Ceiling Light Fixture | Gallery Wall Frames | Sconce

I really wanted this section to feel cozy and a place where my husband and his friends could hang in while not making it a bachelor pad or “man cave” (or smelling like one). During this pandemic, I’ve been craving color and I’ve always had a love affair with citron velvet. I also knew I wanted a more modern and low profile sectional so to tie the two together we went with this sectional by Jonathan Louis. It brought so much life into this room! I feel like it’s presence gives the space so much soul. This sofa comes in so many configurations and fabric options and I debated every color spectrum but ultimately did a fur test with Remi (our dog) and was pleased that this color held up (I hear velvet is very pet friendly and easy to clean). Cheers to another stylish yet functional decision.

Did I mention our projector and our appreciation for UFC? We don’t have a projector screen in the traditional sense so when we do pull out our projector we project it right onto this wall, where it’s easy enough to remove my DIY art when the event occurs. Additionally, we watch TV down here more on the regular so the TV takes up the adjacent wall.

Speaking of the DIY art, it cost me under $20 to make using a thrifted canvas I had found for $2.99. I applied joint compound all over it and then created a makeshift frame using trim pieces that I nailed right into the canvas frame. It was so easy peasy and I think it looks pretty good here in my 100% biased opinion.

In order to keep it extra cozy down here, I wanted a really soft rug because basement floors tend to be cold (especially in Minnesota) so I went with this super plush rug and I love the abstract design it adds. I feel like I’m walking on a cloud and I want to squish my toes into it all the time.

I had found the vintage sketches a year ago out thrifting but never could find the right use for them. Once I found these inexpensive minimalistic frames at Target and displayed them here it felt like the perfect fit. Finally! Who else hoards found items in the hopes of finding them a proper display space one day?

TV | Circle Candle Holder | Leaning Square Frame | Match Holder | Candle Holder

On this side of the room we have our Frame TV and while we don’t typically like a TV to be the focal point of the room, well…there’s only so much you can do. To add some additional layers to this wall, I propped up some frames and used leftover wallpaper samples and wrapping paper as my “art”.

I also have this amazing cozy reading chair which needed a light source so I found the perfect wall sconce

Accent Chair | Sheepskin | Cabinet | Cabinet Doors | Sconce

The wall sconce is “hardwire only” and we didn’t have an electrical outlet installed. To remedy this, I used inexpensive battery operated puck lights that function off of a remote control and using a Command strip I stuck the light where a lightbulb would have gone.

The media cabinet (which is two cabinets pushed together) sits on the floor and because the rug pile is so high at first we couldn’t open the cabinet door. To affordably fix this, we slid two 2×4’s underneath the cabinet like a pair of skis to elevate it just enough to be able to open the doors, allowing the cabinet to overhang a couple of inches so that the 2×4’s aren’t noticeable.

As this room was evolving I knew I wanted a really cool light fixture that would speak nicely with the abstract, modern rug. I’ll admit it’s not for everyone because as you can see one of the arms hangs down fairly low. Determined to make it work, I positioned it so the low arm would be positioned over the sectional where ideally someone would be sitting and not standing. Even with standing up, no accidents or head bumps yet. We have 8’ ceilings down here so if I had 9’ or higher the arm wouldn’t even be a second thought. It’s gorgeous and sculptural and that’s all that matters. I’m very passionate about this light fixture.

Throw Blanket

Now, we didn’t have a gathering but we did some holiday food styling for fun. My photographer (who also wore a mask) and I sure enjoyed some sustenance and snacking while working and we pretended we were having a party with my Christmas playlist playing in the background (think Sia and Sam Smith mixed with Wham (of course) and Mariah Carey). I mean…SO fun.

It was a long time coming (or at least in pandemic time it seemed long) for this basement to finally come together but come together it did, and just in time to hunker down for another long winter!

Happy Holidays!

*Design by Lea Johnson of Creekwood Hill
**Photos by Sage E Imagery


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99 thoughts on “Lea Johnson’s Basement Reveal: Workspace by Day and Family-Friendly Living Room by Night

  1. Oh my gosh, framing the leftover wallpaper and wrapping paper is so clever. Love that idea! Also, I have those wooden nutcrackers from Target, and now I need to go fashion a mini-wreath for them to hold. So cute. Also love the idea of pushing two cabinets together. I’ve been looking for a sideboard, but I’m on a budget. So many great ideas in this post. Thank you!

  2. Oh, I love this–that couch looks so comfortable and I’m obsessed with the black light fixture hanging over it!

  3. I love the sofa colour! Wow. Looks great. We’ll be finishing our basement hopefully in the next 3 years and I’ll be stealing this sofa colour idea for sure

      1. I hope you can report back later about the longevity of the couch with pets. I have (speaks very quietly and looks away) 11 dogs, so pet friendly is VITAL. 😉 I just LOVE that color and fabric in the space and want to copy you!

  4. This is SO good! I’m going to steal a ton of these ideas! Great post today! Love love love everything in this basement. And it doesn’t feel like a basement. I would kill (okay, not really kill) to have daylight basement windows.

    1. Thank you! I was hoping it wouldn’t give off a traditional basement vibe and offer some ideas how to maximize a basement!

  5. What a delightful space! So cozy and inviting. Love your Christmas decor as well – not at all overwhelming but just enough to get you in the spirit – well-done!

    1. Thank you Paula! When our kids were young we sure had Christmas decor everywhere and it was fun but now I like a softer tone and since it’s me doing all the work well…lol!

  6. This looks awesome. Great tips for little hacks to make things work, like the 2x4s to help clear the high pile rug. The light fixtures add so much of an artistic feel too.

  7. I like the lighting choices. Any other ideas for closed, cosy dining room pendants? I wanted the Ikea Misterhult but it is supersold out everywhere. The pendant linked is about twice what I want to pay. I would be grateful for people’s ideas on inexpensive, non-glarey dining room lighting (drawn to bamboo, paper, glass, and not to exposed bulbs). Thanks!

    1. Ahhhh yes, I ran into Ikea availability issues too. Keep checking, that’s what I did and eventually I was able to order online. My paper lantern isn’t super bright but I think there are larger ones with white shades that may cast a brighter glow.

  8. Also your hair looks fantastic and I still can’t believe you have college-aged kids. You may need to do a beauty routine rundown ;D

  9. Now this room looks like a space to hang out in for a lonnnnnng time.
    Very snuggly and it looks like it’s quiet. (?) I know that skunds strange… looking quiet, byt that’s the vibe I get. (Or maybe I’ve been worn down by a very noisy day? Ha.)
    You’ve done a great job.
    Would’ve been great to see just one messy, box filled before shot though, to really see the difference.

    1. Thank you! Oh I wanted it to feel snuggly so bad so I’m so happy to hear that’s how you feel! Yes, I need to get better at project documentation…(lol!)

  10. I’m in love with everything here. Beautiful use of different rugs with shared colors/style to create separate spaces. Thanks for sharing all the little tips you used to make it work, too.
    But how could you leave us without a link to that great-sounding playlist???

    1. I need to learn how to be more tech savvy and create playlists to share via a link to Spotify or Apple Music or something. I think it would be fun! Create a whole mood!

  11. The color scheme – turmeric, black and lots of white is so fresh and the area is just plain gorgeous. The couch looks like it could take a spill or two but aren’t you just a little bit nervous about the white rug?

    1. Thank you! Ok, so the rug I was sketchy at first because yes, it’s white. BUT…it’s wool and my dog already threw up something green on it and with some Woolite it cleaned so easily you’d never know. I think I read somewhere that wool rugs are easy to clean.

  12. Hi! Gorgeous room – so bright, airy, fresh, and livable. Where is the black side table by the sofa from? Thanks!

  13. This space is so warm and inviting!! Could you please share a source for the black three legged side table? Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much! The table was from Urban Outfitters over the summer but sold out quickly. I learned with UO you have to look frequently because they sell out fast.

  14. This is gorgeous! And so relatable: propping things up on 2x4s, DIY art (that looks great). Love it.

  15. Love this style, especially the bright sofa against neutral background and the neutral art. I love color but it can end up being too much. I think a sofa against this backdrop lets it shine.

    1. Yes! I’m such a neutral gal so selecting a color was a HUGE decision for me but one I’m SO glad I did and with a fur test on the fabric swatch that sealed the deal. THANK YOU!!!

  16. I did not know I liked citron velvet couches, but I guess I do because I sure like yours. I can see the Scandi elements and love the touches from other countries invited to the party. And your basement is ready to party.
    After it works very hard and puts away all it’s paperwork.

    1. Thank you! The citron color just makes the whole room come alive! Also, cleaning up from work during the day and putting my office stuff away forces me to also put work away for the day and shift to home life which was hard when I used to work upstairs in the dining room. I have to remember to make the effort to really sign off for the day and be done and stop checking emails for work so this solution was good for someone like me.

  17. I’m bookmarking this post. So impressive. Is that a 55” or 65” Frame TV? We’re debating getting one …

    1. That is the 55″. I debated too for the same reason so I went online and found the dimensions and then using painters tape I tapped off the wall where the TV would go and for us the 65″ was too big.

  18. Please tell us how your basement gets so much natural light? It looks like you have one high window (expected) and a picture window vertically centered. Is your house on a hill with the basement opening on the slope side? Light wells? I’m super curious!

    1. Oh yes, so these two spaces sit at the back of our house and when we built we wanted as much light down here as we could so we asked our contractor if he could grade the land enough so that we could install two large windows down here. It is also east facing so it gets a lot of morning and afternoon light.

  19. This is ME. I could have designed this space just the way you did! In LOVE with citron velvet and vow it will be my next sofa, did a DIY plaster art as well, have a frame TV I love, each light fixture is on my wish list, I could go on and on. Love all of it. Pin, pin, pin.

    1. Also, I’ve been looking for that footed bowl candle everywhere! I think it’s a old target item as the link doesn’t work. Please tell me it’s available somewhere.

    2. We are twins at heart! Thank you!!!! Yes, that footed candle holder was from Target but I think it sold out right away when Emily shared it with the Mountain House reveal. I’m sad for the day the candle runs out so I’ll have to pour a new one into it someday.

    1. I was a little scared to do that because I wouldn’t consider myself a DIY-er and I just cut straight angles where someone more advanced would’ve mitered the corners. I used super inexpensive pine trim from the hardware store. Thank you!

  20. Wow this room is gorgeous! This post made me so excited for design. That citron sofa is everything!!!

  21. I have similar bracket/standard bookshelves and I’d recommend using solid wood. I think the general rule of thumb is that wood can hold up to four times the weight compared to particle board and you can get wood planks fairly cheap at any home improvement store. If you have some outdoor space it’s pretty easy to apply sealant or stain, but I just left mine unfinished!

  22. Hey! I wasn’t able to post comments for several days! Sent EHD an email about it! But today I finally figured out to clear my cache- and now everything is all good.

    Great room, Lea! I love the sofa and the brightness. I have a similar basement room- not as much light as you have- that I am wrestling with, so this gave me some nice ideas! Thanks.

    1. So good to see you in comments here! The sofa really helped this space feel cozy while giving it a nice dose of happy color! Than you!

  23. What a great space that is full of practical yet attractive ideas! Love the hardworking 5-job round table and I can totally imagine how useful and friendly this room is. Lucky you to have a basement that isn’t totally below ground!

    1. Thank you very much! I think even a below ground can be transformed into cozy when thoughtfully planned out. It took us 5 years to finally decide how to make this space feel useful.

  24. What low windows your basement has! I really like your space and how bright it looks. I wonder if you’d considered doing more built in look bookshelves to enhance the library feel and increase the structure. Awesome multi-use space!

  25. I’m so impressed by your room and your creativity. That idea you had for your wall sconce was simply brilliant. The room is colorful but also light and elegant. Very, very well done.

  26. Love this look! That beautiful sofa colour mixed with all those nice hits of black and white pattern, feels graphic and cool yet cozy.

  27. Lea, it’s wonderful! You are so great at creating stylish spaces that remain comfortable and inviting—that’s hard to achieve. Enjoy it!

  28. I love this! What personality your room has!! Are the white chairs vintage? I love the traditional mixed with modern/contemporary.

  29. Wow Lea’s basement space is outstanding! She did an incredible job. There is so much interest! Love how there are different areas for different needs, but it all looks so beautiful as a whole space.

  30. Love everything about this space Lea! Everything works together perfectly and it looks like it will be so great for working and hanging out. And yes, that citron velvet is everything!

  31. I love how many DIY’s and inexpensive touches you’ve put into this, it really makes beautiful cozy design achievable and affordable.

  32. I love this space so much! I feel like I could lay down on that couch and just become one with it. The color is everything too! I’d love an update on how the fabric holds up to doggos. I have two big ones and the drool spots are outrageous. I don’t know how they aren’t dehydrated!

  33. Wow, I can’t believe this is a basement! It looks fabulous – I love every detail, but especially the sofa and bookshelves. Gorgeous!

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