We all have that room in our house that’s completely underutilized. For me, it was my 320-square-foot finished basement. It had dated wood paneling, generic white tile and a drop ceiling in desperate need of repair. It sat completely empty even though the rest of our 1,700-square-foot house was both renovated and decorated.

After my son was born earlier this year, I decided to turn my depressing basement into a playroom where he could learn, grow and play. I had a vision of white shiplap walls, colorful décor, and a gray-and-white checkerboard floor. My son may not be crawling yet, but he will be before we know it, and I want him to have his own space to explore and create fun memories.

In two weeks, the room was done, and I couldn't be happier with how it turned out. Here’s how I did it — all for just over $1,000.


I started out by painting the wood paneling my favorite shade of white: Whisper White by Behr. Worth noting: Painting wood paneling is really difficult. To get full coverage, you have to paint between each individual board with a small brush before you can use a roller. Primer is also a must-have or the paint will slide right off. The paint and primer came to $56 with a $20 rebate.

I wanted a soft floor covering, but a rug large enough to cover the space was out of budget. I found the perfect solution on Instagram, where a friend posted muted gray and white foam tiles in her son’s playspace, instead of the primary colors you normally see. The tiles were relatively affordable on Amazon ($260 for 320 square feet) so it was a no-brainer. (Cost: $316)


With my budget, there was really only one option for furniture: IKEA. So my husband, Mike, and I set out for our local store, baby in tow.

Preparation was key. Before we even set foot in the store, I compiled a list of what we needed, including where to locate each item in the sprawling building. This ensured that we didn’t overspend, and that all the pieces we purchased worked well together in the space.

Our biggest purchase was the Ektrorp couch in Vittaryd white. It’s slipcovered, so it’s easy to clean. Plus, it’s nearly an exact dupe for this designer version we liked.

We picked up a set of three white Kallax shelves to store toys. Though my son doesn't have a huge collection just yet, I know that will change in short order. We also chose a few throw pillows, a child’s circus tent, some storage baskets and a few classic toys, like this wooden abacus.

We upcycled some furniture and décor, as well: an old globe, an oversized clock that didn’t fit anywhere else in our house, and a vintage, child-sized kitchen table and chairs from my mom’s childhood. A roll of faux-marble contact paper to cover the miniature table cost $21 from Amazon. (Cost: $811)


The playroom still needed a statement piece — something to tie it all together. I found inspiration on this design blog to make a wall hanging. (Hey, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?)

To create it, I threaded colorful pom-poms into strands of varying lengths using heavy thread, all of which I bought at Michael’s for $10 total. Then I tied the strands onto a tree branch from my backyard and anchored the whole piece to the wall with small gold hooks from Home Depot ($5). (Cost: $15)

It truly was a whole-family effort to bring the playroom to life.


Instead of hiring a painter for $300, we painted and primed ourselves after the baby went to bed. It was about 10 hours of work, spread out over a week.

Assembling the couch, laying the floor, recovering and arranging the décor was much easier, since my parents were in town for the weekend and helped us finish up. It truly was a whole-family effort to bring the playroom to life. (Cost: $0)

renovated kids' playroom
Two weeks after starting, the final product was ready for playtime. Rachel Morgan Cautero


The basement playroom is now one of my favorite spaces in the house. For $1,122 I think it’s an investment that will pay off.

In fact, the 2017 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report names a basement renovation as one of the top 10 home renovations for ROI, with an impressive 70% return on investment. If these stats ring true, we’ll recoup approximately $785 of what we spent.

A beautiful new space in my home, great ROI, plus a place to collect the toys that will soon be taking over? I’d call that a successful project.

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