One Room Challenge Week 1: From Insane Mess to Inspiring Creative Studio

Whoa!! I’m jumping from one big project (our exterior paint job) to another! I’m doing a basement makeover as a guest participant in the Fall 2017 One Room Challenge. If you haven’t heard of it before, the One Room Challenge happens twice a year, and 20 featured designers and blogger guest participants renovate a room in six weeks. Today kicks off the first of the six weeks! Why join the One Room Challenge? I’m doing it for one simple reason:

I need some accountability to get my butt in gear and fix our basement!

I know I need to clean up our basement. My husband has been pleading with me to clean it up. I need a grindstone to hold my nose to, so to speak. The One Room Challenge provides deadlines, a support community and public accountability. Sign me up!

The Dream …

Our basement could be a beautiful, light, airy and inspirational space to create. Every time I see the Where Women Create magazine, my heart aches that I don’t have a space like that. Don’t creative souls want their own space? This is why women swoon over “she sheds.” Instead, would you believe I often create my DIY projects on the living room floor, on the family room floor, on the sunroom floor, at the dining table?

There’s plenty of room in our house. It’s 2,400 square feet and there’s only 2 adults and 2 cats here. It’s how you use the space that matters. So far, I’ve used our basement as a dumping ground. It’s an insane mess. Rather than tell you, here I show you:

Before Basement Makeover

Whew that was tough. I honestly don’t want to ever show people the “before.” I want to show you these things after they’re fixed up. This feels like I’m hanging out all my dirty laundry for everyone to see! Also my Siamese cat followed along as I shot the video. This was her face afterwards:

Seesa Says Its An Insane Mess

Yeah!! I know!!

So how did this basement mess happen? Mostly, busy-ness and laziness. Two things that you would think are opposites. But, there are never enough hours in a day for everything, so busy-ness with some things results in laziness for other things. We all make these choices. The basement was at the bottom of the barrel of life priorities. And anyway, the only people who ever see it are me, my husband, the plumber, a washing machine repair guy, the boiler repair guy.

The basement is a 12′-14’ x 24’ space and it has lots of room for all my creative dreams to come true. I know I’m lucky to have that much space, and it’s terrible that I have treated it this way. There’s a ripple effect too. When I want to play with paint and a gelli plate, I have to do that in another room. And then our dining room looks like THIS:

Dining Room Mess

Aggggghhhhh! I can’t take it anymore!! My husband can’t take it anymore! It’s time to clean up the basement and make it functional, usable, and inspirational.

Below is my moodboard. Scroll through it for a sneak peek, then I share more about the makeover goals, functional needs, design ideas:

One room Challenge Moodboard

One Room Challenge Moodboard


The Goal:

  • A studio space that neatly stores all supplies, with function and décor that inspire new heights of creativity and creation. It’s like a “she shed” but in the house – I don’t have to walk outdoors to another place.


  • Accommodate a variety of visual arts and crafts activities
  • Ample storage for all the supplies ‘n stuff
  • Maximize the limited natural light; lots of light for nighttime work
  • Provide neutral but interesting, textured, inspirational background
  • Project photography space
  • Protection from floods/water on the floor

Key Concepts for Functionality:

  • Squeeze in maximum storage while leaving lots of open floor space
  • Portable/moveable things
  • Stations for various crafts

A Word About Water:

If water wasn’t a life-sustaining force and an important way to keep clean and smell nice, I would ban it from the house. I swear that we have a water poltergeist. In our house, anything that can go wrong with water, does. It started with our first night staying in this house after we bought it 13 years ago. Don’t even get me started. I tell one story in the video above — water once fell all over all my craft supplies. Nooooooooo!! Yes. Yes it did.

It’s guaranteed that the basement will flood again. It will often get minor water spreading around part of the floor, but the entire basement has flooded to about a 1-2” depth.

So, water figures into all decisions in the basement. It would be unwise to make decorating choices that look good, but do not account for the inevitability of 2” of water on the floor. This is why our basement floor is tiled. This is why I can’t use colorful vintage Moroccan and Turkish wool rugs in this room. The oak entertainment unit and oak shelves (seen in the video tour above) were installed by our home’s previous owners and so far, they don’t appear damaged, so they stay until the day they’re wrecked.

Everything on the floor should be easily moved so we can clean up water. You will see me use decor with minimal footprint on the floor. Things that touch the floor will be plastic or non-rusting metal wherever possible. No poufs. I made a really cool stenciled Moroccan pouf a few years ago. Soon after, the basement flooded and the pouf’s filling wicked up a lot of really yucky water. RIP, dear pouf.

So water is a major design restriction.

The Look:

Now for the fun stuff. The “mood” and the “look n’ feel” that I’d love to create in an art studio were shared in a blog post I wrote five years ago (!!!) about inspiring art studios. They’re still my fav inspiration. Overall, for a studio, I’m drawn to bright white, ivory, neutral backgrounds. Textures. A touch of warmth. Brick, definitely brick. Some metallic bling through copper, a warm metal. I love to see a mix of patterns and textiles because they get my creative mind spinning with ideas, so that will figure into the decorations.


One final note. The budget is small. Because … my husband is in India for some of these six weeks and he doesn’t know about this.* Those might sound like two really disjointed sentences. But here’s the thing. When my husband travels overseas for a long time, I get bored. And when I get bored, I get ideas. And I go shopping. And ideas and shopping cost money. And sometimes I have spent more than I should have. And now, for the first time in about 25 years, I am not working full-time and earning my own income. So I’m trying to be good this time. I will be re-using and recycling old and unused things wherever possible.

I also want to show you innovative ideas that don’t cost big money to get a big change. So I am determined to do this on a low budget. I will be transparent about costs.

On with the One Room Challenge!

Let’s get started! Follow along for the next 5 weeks here at the Nomadic Decorator, and visit the One Room Challenge’s 20 featured designers and guest participants – we all share updates every week on our progress. I’ve already gotten inspired and motivated by visiting featured designers’ blogs to see their plans! Check ’em out! Thank you to Linda at Calling It Home and House Beautiful for making this challenge possible!

* But if he finds out now that it’s online, he’s going to love it – finally a clean basement!!!

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