Falcone's Crossroads

Where This Meets That

Facelifting the Basement

It all started with another baby girl in January.

We already had two daughters sharing a room, versus our two boys each having their own room.  Had Catherine been a boy, then our youngest son, Caleb, would’ve gained a roommate.  ‘Twas not to be, however, and Catherine’s birth kicked off an epic logistical rendition of “musical chairs” for our household that will ultimately relocate four of our seven to new locations.

First step was to renovate our half-basement to accommodate a bedroom for our eldest son, Aidan, and a home office for me.  We’d hoped to complete this over the summer, but long story short . . . we didn’t.  And until we got Aidan relocated, Christy and I were stuck with Catherine as a “third party” in our room.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it eventually wears thin!

We did, however, turn a couple of kids loose with the preparatory demolition work.



Eventually, we nailed down a contractor who, among other projects we needed done, installed a new wall between Aidan’s space and mine.  Then we began painting what would become Aidan’s new room.  He didn’t want anything fancy, so it was a room to get everyone involved in!

Painting walls

I, on the other hand, entertained vision after vision of my new office space.  Not only would this be my office going forward, but it would also be my music and drawing studio.  Since it has no windows, I thought long and hard about how to make it a dwelling I would enjoy long term.

This process gave me an unexpected legitimate excuse to mess around with my Adobe Fireworks software.  Instead of only using it only to place, say, a chimpanzee head onto Shakespeare’s body, I used the software to edit pictures of the room and try out different color schemes.  This was both very helpful and very cool.

I nearly went with an Atlanta Falcons red and black scheme, thinking “Falcone’s Nest” had a good ring to it.  However, after the disaster that was this Falcons’ season, I am relieved I didn’t; had I done so, I can’t imagine my new place being much of a happy place.  What stayed my hand on the “Falcone’s Nest” plan was both a desire to use up leftover blue paint from Caleb’s room, which I painted back in spring, and a fondness for the beauty of Greece.


I’ve always loved the contrasting blues and whites that I see in pictures of Greece, and while I’ve never been there and don’t know if I will ever go, the paint I had on hand gave me a concept:  style my office after Greece!  Saying, “I’m going to Greece!” everyday is bound to be a nice alternative to “I’m going to work,” after all!

After much deliberation (and monkeying around with Fireworks), I settled on the following rough design for a mural on the main wall and got to work.

basement main wall2

First, I painted the wall white, for the background.  Next, I started the math . . . never my best subject!

I determined the size of the circles, frankly, to best mask some flaws in the wall that didn’t have an easy, durable fix, and that I simply didn’t want to get bogged down in correcting.  From there, I calculated where the center points of the circles needed to be and tapped a small nail into each.  I then measured and cut a wire just a little longer than the desired radius of the circles.  One by one, I anchored one end of the wire around a nail and the other end around a pencil point.  By keeping the wire taut, I was able to pencil equal circles that just kissed their neighboring circles perfectly . . . the math stuff worked!  Then, I shortened the wire about an inch and repeated the exercise, giving me what would be the white margin around each circle.

Next, I added random lengths of painters tape at various angles below the circles.

Painters tape

The idea here is that you can then paint over the tape with another color, then peel off the tape to reveal stripes of the undercolor (in this case white).  BUT, if you’ve ever trusted painters tape alone to protect what you’re trying to protect, then you’ve probably been disappointed; your new coat always finds a way to creep underneath the painters tape.  The trick is to first paint over the edges of the tape with the base color (i.e., the same color you’re already trying to protect underneath the tape) before proceeding with the next color.  This extra step ensures that any paint that does creep through the tape’s seal is the right color, so that when you do peel back the tape, you’ll be left with the nice crisp edges you’re looking for!

Numbering sectionsSo, I went back over all the tape with another coat of white before moving on with the blues.

I had four shades of blues to use.  To break up the pattern as much as possible, I assigned each blue a number, and numbered each little section of the wall 1-4 to proactively ensure no two adjacent sections had the same blue.

Finally came the fun stuff: the actual painting!   Two coats on each taped section gave good rich colors.  Then I was able to creep up to the circles and the top half of the wall with a light blue base.

Painting the wall

Unfortunately, actually painting the circles couldn’t be done with an anchor nail and wire, but by steady hand alone.  Fortunately, with only a little touch-up here and there, they turned out pretty well.  Well enough, in fact, that I fell victim to my own case of “mission creep.”  I decided, Hey, I’ve always wanted to try rag painting, so why not now?!

I won’t go into details about how to rag roll your walls here (Google it!), but I will say I learned that there are two basic types of rag painting (or “rag rolling”).  The additive technique means that you actually apply the paint to the wall with the rag.  The subtractive technique means that you paint the wall first, then use the rag to pull still-wet paint away from the wall, thus allowing the undercoat to show through.  Because I was curious, I did both.

I used the subtractive technique on the circles, painting coats of progressively darker blues then sort of “blotching them off” with a rag.  For the upper wall, above the circles, I went opposite, adding a coat of lighter blue then white, using more of an actual “rolling” technique.  As to which one turned out better, I can’t say; I was rather pleased with both, and, frankly, I’m not really sure I can tell a difference beyond the motion I used with the rag.  Both were fun techniques, though, and the results were beautifully unique!

Next up was the closet-turned-desk alcove. Rather than quit while I was ahead on the elaborate techniques, I decided to try another, called “color washing.”  Color washing is a technique that uses contrasting colors and hues to create a worn, aged look.  Let me just say now from experience, it’s surprisingly hard to intentionally make a wall look like crap.  I cross-brushed, over-brushed, wiped, cussed, then repeated.  And repeated.  That’s all I have to say about that.

The flooring (carpet on the steps and in Aidan’s room and vinyl in “Greece”) was the last basic step toward functionality and was a huge relief to have it behind us.  Still a lot of detail work to do (adding desks, dressers, shelving, etc.), but at least the walls and floors are complete!  Without further ado . . . here’s our lovely Ava displaying her big brother’s new room!

Aidan's room

And here’s a before and after shot of our new “stairway to Greece.”

Stairwell before & after

And finally, Greece itself!  First is a glance looking toward the color washed closet where my desk and drawing table will be.  There’s actually a large overhead light in the closet that’s not turned on here, so don’t worry (Mom), my workspace will be plenty illuminated.  Eventually, I plan to make a desk that spans the closet space.  I also plan to hang my guitars on the main wall, hoping, for the first time in my life, to have all my music gear ready to simply plug, play, and record.  That will be another blog for another, hopefully not too distant, day.

Greece 1

Here’s a shot looking toward our stairwell and garage entry.

Greece 2

As you can see, it’s been a long process, but I’m pretty excited at how it’s turning out and perhaps even more excited at the prospect of actually completing it in the near future!

I hope you enjoyed the tour!


5 comments on “Facelifting the Basement

  1. Marvin and Carole Hurdle
    December 19, 2013

    Very creative – looks great!

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Anonymous
    December 19, 2013

    Great job. Looks like a lot of work.

  3. Christie
    December 23, 2013

    Nice! And boy do I love basements! We don’t have them in FL, of course, so every now and then I lament his shortfall of my home state and consider moving somewhere where they do. Chris’s parents have a COOL basement… but they also have exceptionally COLD weather that I’m not sure I could handle long term. A trade off, I guess. :/ Anyway, lovely work!

  4. Grande Falcone
    December 23, 2013

    Yeah, we still need to get a good, safe space heater, because it does get pretty cold!

  5. Pingback: 2013 in the Falcone Household | Falcone's Crossroads

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This entry was posted on December 19, 2013 by in Crossing Guard and tagged , , , , , , , .
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