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Divine Design Candice Olson



Before (left): This room was hip and happening when it was decorated in the 1970s. Times have changed, however. This cluttered den needed a facelift.
After (right): By using creamy walls and floors and modern lighting, this basement will take the homeowner from the ’70s into the future.  Photos courtesy HGTV

That ’70s Space
Outdated, dark basement gets its groove back

Lori has lived in the same cozy, suburban house all her life. She spent her childhood and teenage years there, and now that she and her husband have purchased the house from her parents, she plans to spend even more time in the home as an adult.

As Lori grew and changed over the years, most of the house grew and changed with her — with the exception of the basement. While it was a hip and happening room when it was decorated in the 1970s, the room’s roller disco/platform shoes/fondue party aura was not what Lori had in mind moving forward.

This cluttered den of darkness had danced its last hustle. It was time for a modern makeover, so I gathered together my crew and told them to get down — to work, that is — and help this basement move away from its dismal past into a bright future.

The challenge was to lighten up a space that contained no natural light and make it a comfortable place where Lori and her husband could relax and entertain guests. The room had a support post in the middle that divided the basement naturally. Using this to an advantage, I decided the renovation would focus on two distinct yet complementary zones: a lounge area with a reading nook and a media space with an entertainment center.

To accomplish the redesign, everything but the unique copper fireplace Lori loved had to go. I started the room transformation with a lot paint — stain-blocking primer over the existing dark paint and then a coat of dreamy, antique cream. To give the cement floors the same bright, warm feeling as the walls, I installed a light-toned, wood-laminate flooring.

Next came the fabrics, furnishings and finishes to give the new light space the comfort factor it needed. I decided upon textured fabrics in an eclectic mix of contemporary and traditional: modern damask, funky geometrics, bold stripes and copper-tone materials to offset the fireplace.

The room’s furnishings were stuck in a ’70s time warp. The only things missing were a disco ball and an eight-track tape player. Removing the dated pieces, I went to work on bringing the room into the current century. In the media zone, I installed a modern, platinum-velvet sectional sofa with plenty of throw pillows and a comfy chair, and I built a functional entertainment unit with a large television and a beverage center.

In the relaxation zone, I designed a comfy reading nook and upholstered a daybed in a tactile cream fabric for added comfort. I also made an antique table of Lori’s even better by changing it to coffee-table height.

Lighting the different zones was no easy feat, in part because the room had no natural light. I used modern, low-voltage, recessed halogen lighting throughout to draw attention away from the ceiling and toward the other parts of the room. The lounge area received an additional treatment of sconces and reading lights. I also installed creamy white curtain panels on either side of the fireplace to give the room the illusion of windows and cover up an electrical cabinet to boot.

The transition from disco to dazzling was complete. By using luminous walls and floors, sophisticated lighting and sumptuous fabrics and finishes, I created a modern basement that will take Lori light years into the future. Now, if Lori wants a ’70s vibe, she’ll have to watch “Saturday Night Fever” on her new big-screen television.

Interior decorator Candice Olson is host of HGTV’s “Divine Design.” For more ideas, information and show times, visit or

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