How This Laminate-Clad Basement Went From Eyesore to Bright Family Hangout

A reading nook and laundry closet happily coexist.
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woman climbing up stairs
Photography by Kasey Hickey

There was no avoiding the dingy basement in Kasey Hickey’s Seattle Tudor home. To get to her family’s lush backyard, you would have had to walk through the laminate-clad ground-floor space, past the ancient furnace (which Hickey estimates was the size of a Mini Cooper) and the wall that was covered in metal sheeting for no obvious reason (it wasn’t providing insulation). “It was the eyesore of our home,” says Hickey. “I shuddered to show it to anyone.” 

Turning the room into a livable area for herself and her husband, Matthew, who together run the vinyl record club Turntable Kitchen, and their three children (the eldest is 7; the twins are 5) was the last major to-do on Hickey’s renovation list. Interior designer Heidi Caillier, who also tackled the family’s kitchen makeover, came into the picture in January to help see the project through. Together, they reimagined the 700-square-foot layout to make way for a reading nook, a workspace, a laundry closet, and a full bathroom (where the old furnace used to be). What was supposed to be a 10-week-long project quickly escalated into 10 months after their first contractor bailed and COVID-19 hit. “It was fortuitous that the renovation was happening downstairs, because the workers were completely separated from us,” says Hickey.  

Once only deemed suitable for Amazon boxes and holiday decorations, the multipurpose space serves the whole crew: Hickey and her husband work there, and their oldest is currently using it during the day for virtual schooling. “I’m so grateful to have all these little spaces around the house, for us and the kids,” says Hickey. “It’s been game-changing.” 

The Reading Nook

blueprint of stairs
Contractor: Impact Builds  Courtesy of Kasey Hickey and Heidi Caillier

Before getting to the fun design elements, the couple made some much-needed updates, including retrofitting the entire house (the property is located in an earthquake zone), installing a new HVAC, moving the ductwork, and buying a smaller, more efficient water heater. “If we were going to do this (aka bring our home up to modern times), we were like, let’s just do it right,” says Hickey. A  contractor friend of theirs looked over all of their bids for structural updates, which gave the couple peace of mind. 

dingy stair carpet basemetn
Courtesy of Kasey Hickey

Rather than splurge on a sectional sofa, Hickey and Caillier decided to rip out the closet underneath the stairs and build a 38-inch-deep couch into the opening, keeping the spacious cabinet next to it. “Our whole family can comfortably fit inside,” says Hickey. Despite having to keep a structural beam right above the nook, they added shelves and a wall sconce from Schoolhouse to make the alcove feel extra-cozy. 

girl reading in book nook
Paint by Sherwin-Williams in Pure White; Hardware from Rejuvenation; Lighting from Schoolhouse Electric; Art by Forn Studio; Pillows from Parachute Home and West Elm Photography by Kasey Hickey

The drawers beneath the cushion are great for little things they don’t want to display 24-7, like LEGOs, board games, and blankets. Hickey and Caillier also had the stairs completely rebuilt and added a metal handrail for safety. 

The Laundry Closet

old washing amchines in concrete basemet
Courtesy of Kasey Hickey

No longer situated in the middle of the basement on a concrete slab, the new washer and dryer are hidden behind a discrete sliding door. Hickey splurged on white oak shelving for the reading nook and the top of the laundry closet, but the butcher block surface directly above the machines is from IKEA. “I knew we were going to be putting detergent on here, so we didn’t need a fancy piece of wood for that,” she says. And while the floors look like the hardwood that runs throughout the rest of the home, they’re actually an affordable laminate. 

The Mini Library

One downside of the family’s Tudor-style home is that it didn’t come with any built-in shelving. Upstairs, the couple added a ton of storage for all their vinyl, leaving them with little to no extra room for books. So downstairs, Hickey stocked two white CB2 shelving units with all the reads that, for the better part of the past five years, had been sitting in boxes in the garage. The small round table is ideal for conference calls and Zoom classes. 

rattan poufs
Banana Fiber Stools from IKEA; Tapestry from Sofia Shu; Flooring by Kraus Photography by Kasey Hickey

Hickey never envisioned the basement as a homeschool space, but these days—at least Monday through Friday—her second grader uses the room for exactly that. “Every morning after breakfast, she goes down there and sets up her workspace. She does her reading in the nook,” says Hickey. “Once she’s done with class, she cleans everything up (though, I’ll have to remind her some days to do that).” On the weekends and in the afternoons, it’s a general hangout spot for everyone (picture little LEGO parts and puzzles pieces everywhere). 

kid running down hallway
Photography by Kasey Hickey

“In the winter it can get really claustrophobic if you’re spending all your time inside,” she continues. “Just having different levels in our home has been so huge. My husband and I can be in the kitchen making breakfast while the kids play a board game downstairs.”

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Lydia Geisel Avatar

Lydia Geisel

Home Editor

Lydia Geisel has been on the editorial team at Domino since 2017. Today, she writes and edits home and renovation stories, including house tours, before and afters, and DIYs, and leads our design news coverage. She lives in New York City.