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Divine Design Candice Olson



Before, left: The basement, which opened to a garden, was missing the French styling that the rest of the home had. After: With added touches including bowls, vases, candlesticks and pictures, Toby’s French-flair basement now matches the rest of her stunning home.   SHNS photos courtesy HGTV

Viva la France
Neglected basement gets a French twist

Toby and her family live in a newly renovated house that is a designer’s dream. The home has a French decorating style, chosen because the family adores France and travels there at every opportunity. However, one area in the home was sadly out of place — the basement, which was used mostly as a storage area.

The room, which opened up onto a lovely garden, was missing a certain je ne sais quoi. But it had great potential.

Donning my best beret, I set out to create a little fabulousness and design a French-country-inspired room where Toby and her family and friends could gather to munch on croissants, sip a little Bordeaux and perhaps even brush up on their Francais.

When we think French country, we tend to picture yellow-and-blue patterns and whitewashed antiques. Yet, because I don’t like to take a particular style too seriously or literally, I decided that, for this project, I was going to steer clear of the anticipated and move toward the unexpected. I wanted to create a French-bistro-meets-kooky-Mad-Hatter mood — a place where the traditional blends seamlessly with the modern.

To get started, I said adieu to everything in the space except for Toby’s assortment of beloved French antiques and mementos. I then got to work on choosing the perfect blend of colors and fabrics. I decided on conventional black-and-white checks, stripes and toiles and mixed them up with candy-apple-red fabrics and bold geometrics.

The room’s existing bland green walls did not scream bonjour, so I repainted them in a softer shade of cream to match the terra-cotta floor tiles. Three of the four walls had doors and windows, which I softened with striped curtains, but it was the fourth wall that was to be the piece de resistance. I jazzed it up with faux-red-leather wallpaper and turned it into a focus wall with cabinetry and display shelving.

After the colors, patterns and fabrics were selected, I attended to the organizational aspects of the room. I decided to divide the basement into two main areas: a dining/kitchen space and a lounge/conversation spot.

For the dining area, I chose a French-cafe style. On the new feature wall, I built a satellite kitchen complete with a mix of ebony cabinets and open shelving, a two-tiered counter, an under-cabinet fridge and a beverage-storage area. I installed an eclectic furniture mix by incorporating Toby’s traditional French antique dresser and table with funky chairs upholstered in sizzling red and eye-catching black-and-white checks.

I also combined the expected and unexpected in the lounge area. I put in a beautiful black-and-white toile sofa and kicked things up with a mirrored coffee table, a black leather chair and a faux-cowhide rug.

To lighten and brighten this newly decorated room, I pulled out the old recessed lighting and added a bit more sparkle. In addition to an abundance of under-cabinet lighting that helped showcase Toby’s French treasures, I installed a nontraditional, whimsical crystal chandelier in the dining area and a single, stunning crystal pendant light in the lounge area.

After adding a few more touches — bowls, vases, candlesticks and pictures — the room was complete. Toby’s French-flair basement now matches the rest of her stunning home and rivals any country villa in France. Ooh la la — how divine.

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

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