Special to The Washington Post
Do you know what’s hidden in your basement? Likely lots of wires, pipes and random artifacts, like the old skeleton key my contractors found last week when they ripped out the walls of our future guest room. The pipes and wires have given me some fits, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed. We’ll get to the key in a bit.
You know how every time there’s a major winter storm, Old Town Alexandria starts sandbagging, and people worry about floods? Well, those of us a bit further west aren’t immune from floods either, which is why my home, like most of my neighbors’, has a sump pump.
The good news: The pump is going to be very helpful when the crew constructs the new egress window. They can easily build a system that will allow water that to drain right into it.
The bad news: I have a sump pump in my new guest room. Not only that, I’ve got a bunch of pipes on the wall and hanging low beneath the ceiling, too, and moving them would cost a bundle—money I’d rather spend decorating.
To fix the eyesores without taking too much away from the goodies I’m buying, my contractor is going to construct two closets on either side of the new window and a window seat in between. He’ll hide pipes and wires inside, as well as the pump well itself. This will keep me from having to look at a series of awkward bulkheads while also giving us back some much-needed storage room for our Christmas decorations, out of season clothing and old comic books. (The comics can still be yours if you want them!)
What we’re left with, however, is a bit of a tight space—about 9.5 feet by about 11 feet. Not large enough for the twin beds I intially envisioned, but big enough for a full size bed that guests should find comfortable.
So how do we make a small room with one window feel less cave-like and more like a cozy boutique hotel room? (Okay, that might be a stretch.) Careful use of clean lines and pops of color. Luckily, our decorator and friend Preston Brown has loads of experience with small spaces and is up for the challenge.
For furniture, she’s chosen a budget-friendly, white full-size platform bed fromWest Elm that will keep the room neat but still accommodate two guests. Two relatively narrow, mid-century modern tables will flank the sides of the bed, and if we’re lucky, we’ll be able to repurpose either what my mother calls a lady’s dressing table that’s currently on our second floor or a funky antique desk I inherited from her great Uncle Kinsel.
So far, I’ve had the most fun choosing the fabrics and colors. I’ve been really obsessed with bright yellow lately. And while I can’t do an entire room with it, using it sparingly will give our basement the lift it needs. The first piece we chose is a Dwell Studio rug with a fun zig-zag pattern, which I’ll buy from Red Barn Mercantile in Old Town—their rug sale starts Saturday, which will help with my budget. We’ll add in some peacock shams, also by Dwell, along with neutral clover accent Euro shams by John Robshaw.
We’ll likely end up with light gray walls, though I’m tempted to do yet another room in Cedar Key by Benjamin Moore. It’s one of my favorite colors and serves as a perfect neutral backdrop for just about everything (it’s currently in 3 rooms in our house). We’re still debating whether to add a yellow accent wall, but given that I’m currently staring at cinder block, I think we’ve got some time.
And the skeleton key? It’s getting a new home inside a box frame. It stayed for too long hidden behind the wall — now I’m going to put it in a box frame and hang it up for everyone to see.
Anne Marie Borrego is the media relations director for a non-profit organization and a resident of Alexandria.
Next week: Installing a window, and other reasons to hope for good weather.