The Exact Right Shade of White Made This Basement So Airy You Might Forget It’s Underground

The designer shares her paint secret.
Julie Vadnal Avatar
Bright white basement with bar

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In most cases, Hayley Francis of Neon Doves would go saturated and moody for a basement. “Typically I just own the darkness,” she says. And while that may be the right call for a TV room, her clients, a family outside of Seattle, needed the space to serve multiple functions—as a workspace, a gym, a laundry room, and yes, a place to watch movies. So in this case, a deep color wasn’t going to work.

Basement with TV over IKEA console

The designer quickly found out that her go-to white paint shade wasn’t the right move either. Normally she gravitates toward Benjamin Moore’s Swiss Coffee, but because this project was underground, she needed all the brightness she could get, so she swerved to Simply White, which reflects more light than the former. (She says to always test it first, because it can sometimes read green.) 

Before image of basement with blue shag carpet
The basement, before.

Once the shade was settled, she went to work on removing the blue shag carpet and replacing it with vinyl flooring. (Real wood was a risk in case of flooding.) She then started filling the space within the client’s three-month timeline, which meant she could only buy in-stock furniture (hello, CB2 sofa). A Home Depot vanity found its place in the bathroom, where Lowe’s subway tile covers the shower walls. In lieu of real terrazzo, which would take time and money, Francis used a wallpaper she discovered on Etsy to give the laundry nook a similar vibe, but she splurged on a real marble slab that she split between the bathroom and the bar.

Bright white basement bar
Corner with table lamp

And for the actual TV zone, oak built-ins would have been out of budget, so Francis pivoted to beadboard on the walls to give the room texture. Below, IKEA Besta cabinets adorned with white Sarah Sherman Samuel for Semihandmade fronts give the console a custom look. 

Subway tile bathroom with wooden vanity
Laundry nook with terrazzo wallpaper

The result? A bright and airy space that, at some angles, doesn’t look like a basement at all.

Julie Vadnal Avatar

Julie Vadnal

Deputy Editor

Julie Vadnal is the deputy editor of Domino. She edits and writes stories about shopping for new and vintage furniture, covers new products (and the tastemakers who love them), and tours the homes of cool creatives. She lives in Brooklyn.