It’s easy to let an unfinished basement serve as a cluttered storage unit. The Brownstone Boys know this all too well, as they’ve treated their Brooklyn home’s lower level that way for quite some time now. That is until recently, when they were selected to participate in the One Room Challenge and took the opportunity to turn their basement into a functional workspace with a living area and laundry room—all boasting a speakeasy feel.
“We could have easily put off finishing our basement for another three years (and accumulated so much more junk!), but this timeline really allowed us to focus on the space for only eight weeks,” The Brownstone Boys tell House Beautiful.
Overflowing with boxes, exposed pipes, and even dead cockroaches, the design duo had their work cut out for them. There were aspects of the space they couldn’t ignore or get rid of, including the mechanics, gas meters, structural columns, and hatch doors. They built around all of these necessities, adding a curved slat wood wall around the mechanics and hiding the meters (up to code, of course!) behind cabinetry. The original structural columns and beam are now covered by arches, and pocket doors help hide the hatch entrances and exits.
To bring light into the windowless space, the boys restored a piece of antique stained glass and backlit it using an LED strip for a soft glow. Other vintage pieces were incorporated throughout, including industrial windows, cabinet hardware, candle holders, and chairs. “We love the juxtaposition of old meets new, so this is what inspired the space and how our workroom developed,” the designers explain.
Giving the basement a warm, speakeasy feel was essential, and plenty of New York-related details contribute to that effect. A new tin ceiling from American Tin Ceilings in a bright white satin makes the room feel taller than it actually is. In the sitting area at the foot of the stairs, a vintage Brooklyn map wallpaper from Spoonflower greets all who enter.
Another vital aspect of the basement? The “speakeasy within the speakeasy,” aka the laundry room inspired by the designers’ favorite show, RuPaul’s Drag Race. It features pink tones, a mini disco ball, a sign by Custom Neon, and even a laundry folding table made from the room’s original pale pink door.
Now, the pair finally get plenty of use out of their basement—whether it involves hosting clients, spreading out materials while working, or simply lounging. "It’s hard to imagine that the space we sit in now was, only weeks ago, your average (below average?) Brooklyn basement," the designers say. "We cannot wait to fully realize the usefulness of an entire new floor of living and work space."
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