Primed for partying

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Steve bought his dream home two years ago -- a spacious 1960s ranch-style house that is perfect for entertaining. Steve, you see, is a professional merrymaker; not only does he plan parties for a living but also loves planning home soirees for his friends and family.

The problem was that the biggest room (and best spot for a bash) in his new house is a basement family room that is dark, dingy and sadly outdated.

Steve was eager to transform this room it into something cool and comfortable for his many revelers. So I put on my party hat, called in my design team and got ready to "bust a move" and transform the depressing space into a professional party place.

Everything in the room was outmoded: the aged ceiling tiles, the wood-paneled walls, the vinyl flooring and the hand-me-down (and down again) furniture.

I started the redesign by giving all of the outdated finishes an update. I painted the ceiling and walls a shade of soft, icy blue. I then replaced the existing vinyl floors (and the overlying bits of mismatched carpet) with a durable yet inexpensive wood-look vinyl floor that can't be ruined by stiletto heels or wayward martinis. I added a chic area rug in one section for a dash of color.

Next I got to work on building and restyling the room's essential party points: the bar, the media area and the fireplace.

The bar, which featured peel-and-stick faux-wood strips, just screamed '60s. I repainted the bottom section in a charcoal and iridescent blue-gray paint and added a new top that I covered with vinyl tile in a mother-of-pearl pattern.

To accommodate the television and stereo equipment, I custom-built a long, low media wall, complete with new base pieces to hold components, a floating area for a TV and a new countertop that has the same hip tiles as the bar.

The fireplace was a nice focal point in the room, but its soot-stained inside was a tad unsightly. So I painted the surrounding bricks a smoky, charcoal color to disguise the stains and installed a new mantle to give the fireplace a little more presence and panache.

Next, I got rid of all of Steve's old furniture -- with the exception of a recliner that belonged to his grandfather, which I reupholstered. I replaced it all with new pieces in warm tones, including a sectional with a geometric circle pattern in chenille and mohair and a variety of multifunctional bench seating in inviting, neutral shades.

The lighting in the room was almost non-existent, so I brightened the place up in three ways. I put up two streamlined sconces of frosted glass over the fireplace for more intimate parties, installed adjustable, halogen track lighting over the bar for cocktail moments and added three funky, glass pendants mounted on a canopy for an overall party feel.

Last, but not least, I created a small home office in the room for Steve. But since I didn't want people to have to think about work while partying, I hid the work area behind a dividing curtain made of a super metallic fabric.

I then added some finishing touches -- bar utensils, lamps, pictures and other party necessities -- and the space was complete.

Using distinctive finishes and fabrics, sophisticated media storage and toe-tapping flooring, this once dark and dingy basement is now a happening and contemporary space. If that isn't reason enough to throw a divine party or two, what is?

Interior decorator Candice Olson is host of Home & Garden Television's "Divine Design." For more ideas, information and show times, visit or

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