HOUSE: Newburgh

Don’t look in the basement.

As I mentioned the other day, our basement is a total horror show. It’s the one part of our house that I can honestly say looks worse now than before we owned it.

I don’t know what went wrong. Our intentions were good! Shortly after we closed, Adam came to visit and helped me pull down the gross drop ceiling in the basement, and Evan and I made plans for storage, shelving, a work bench…you name it.

But then we got busy doing other stuff, and the basement became a dumping ground for everything—power tools, scrap lumber, construction debris, unused furniture, scavenged stuff awaiting rehab, painting supplies, things ready for the dump, gardening tools, mulch, and so on. We just keep putting it all down there. It’s gotten to the point where we dread having to look for something as simple as a tape measure, because it could be anywhere…and we don’t want to be attacked by basement zombies while we’re looking for it.

Aside from the mess that we’ve created ourselves, the basement itself is pretty terrifying. The walls are covered with a combination of efflorescence and peeling paint. The floor is a crumbling concrete covered with layers of dirt and dust. There are cobwebs thick as nylon stockings at every turn.

You’d never guess from looking at the rest of our house that we could possibly be quite so messy and disorganized, which just makes the whole thing even more shameful.

The line between sanity and madness can be crossed in a single step…


basement 1

This 3×4′ area doesn’t look so bad, right? It’s the back of the beadboard in the downstairs hallway! Isn’t it neat how the wall is just wood? They didn’t nail it into a plaster wall or anything, it’s part of the actual staircase structure.

Okay, the two-photo, non-scary part of the basement tour is over. Grab some popcorn and get your blindfolds ready! To avoid fainting, keep repeating, “IT’S ONLY A MOVIE…ONLY A MOVIE…ONLY A MOVIE…”

basement 2

basement 4

This is one of the few real improvements we’ve made down here—a new staircase. The one that was here when we moved in was basically made of balsa wood and dental floss, yet we continued using it for more than three years. As fun as it was to cheat death on a regular basis, I’m relieved to finally have safe stairs.

basement 5

basement 6

The aforementioned efflorescence, topped off with a coat of peeling, Band-Aid-toned paint. Nice! We’ve installed a dehumidifier so the efflorescence shouldn’t continue to be a problem, but we still really need to get the existing crud off of the walls. Ugh.

Everything I’ve read from reputable sources says that it’s best to leave the exterior walls of stone foundations in old houses unsealed and unpainted so they can breathe properly, so our goal is really just to clean up what’s on the stones now, repair any leaky spots, and just let them be.

basement 8

leatherface basement

Yes, that’s where I have to do laundry. If I accidentally drop so much as a sock on the floor, it has to be rewashed. Oh, and Leatherface hangs out there. I guess his clothes can get pretty gross.

Hindsight is 20/20 of course, but if I could do it all over again, I would have tried to figure out a way to put the washer and dryer in the kitchen. I really want to make this area nice. I know it’ll never look like Dagny’s laundry room (!!!), but I’d be happy just to able to fold laundry down there and not feel like just walking through the room is going to make my clean clothes dirty again.

Okay, here comes the really shameful part: THE DUMPING GROUNDS:

basement 9

basement 10

basement 11

I know, I know…you’re thinking to yourself, “Wow, all she has to do is paint the paneling white and it’ll be like a whole new space!” Nope. The photos don’t show it, but at some point there was a flood in the basement, and the bottom quarter of the paneling is pretty much ruined. I have NO IDEA what’s behind the paneling (well, obviously there’s brick and stone, but I mean other stuff…surprises), but it’s going to have to be replaced. I really want to turn this area into a workshop so we can actually find (and use!) our tools easily, and I’d like to be able to store stuff down here without it being a huge hassle to eventually bring it back upstairs.

basement 12

This is the door leading to the back garden. One side is covered with paneling, and the other is dangling shards of broken glass. I plan to fully rehabilitate it.

basement 13

I honestly never noticed how scary the area under the stairs is until I used a flash to take this photo. Shudder.

In my fantasy world we would be able to turn our space in something resembling Martha’s basement, but I don’t want to get carried away. Basements in old houses weren’t mean to be living spaces, and even though I’m sure it would be possible to finish the space completely, we really can’t afford to (and we don’t really need to). I’m fine letting the basement be a basement. There’s actually something to be said for being able to see all of your electrical wiring and plumbing and stuff, and to know that there’s not 2″ of mold growing behind your walls.

I just don’t want the basement zombies to get me…

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  • Reply Matt February 3, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    The Cask of Amontillado comes to mind… but I trust you guys to make something less horror filled down there! When I had a creepy basement, I just painted all walls and ceiling white with a paint gun, then some grey, glossy garage paint on the floor. It was really nice after that.

    • verhext February 3, 2011 at 2:40 pm

      Oh, I like this paint gun idea. Like maybe you could empty it out and just airbrush the evil out.

    • Anna @ D16 February 3, 2011 at 3:08 pm

      The exterior walls really aren’t paintable, sadly. I could do the interior walls if I strip them first, but the exterior walls really just need to be stripped/cleaned and then left alone.

    • verhext February 3, 2011 at 3:32 pm

      But the interior have water damage?

      I think I just have a deep childhood fear of basements. I’m sure you’ll do wonders!

    • Anna @ D16 February 3, 2011 at 3:38 pm

      The paneling is water-damaged, but the brick and stone are just fine. All we need to do (HA! I make it sound so easy…) is remove the paint and efflorescence.

    • Anna @ D16 February 3, 2011 at 3:07 pm

      I could definitely paint the interior (brick) walls and the floor, but the ceiling would be more difficult—I wouldn’t want to paint over all of the pipes and electrical work. I also don’t want to paint the exterior (stone) walls unless I can find a breathable paint that DEFINITELY won’t cause the mortar to fail or water to become trapped underneath.

  • Reply verhext February 3, 2011 at 2:38 pm


    “I know, I know…you’re thinking to yourself, “Wow, all she has to do is paint the paneling white and it’ll be like a whole new space!””

    I think at that point I was thinking “OMG! ANNA!” because seriously this post is shocking. You have a 70’s den turned dump hiding under a perfect house!!!! I wouldn’t even do laundry, I’d be running up the stairs with all the lights on to hide! Monsters!!!!

    Do you have a plan? It makes my head hurt to look at those photos. & the 2 redos you linked seem impossible for actual old house basements!

  • Reply Karrey February 3, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    Oh Anna, can I tell you how much of a RELIEF it is to see that you’re a secret-slob/regular person just like me? I don’t mean it as an insult, it’s just nice to see something in your house that isn’t perfect and wonderful. It’s akin to finding out your favorite celebrity actually poops, you know?

    I have had to deal with a basement like this (although in my case, thankfully, most of the mess went straight into the dumpster rather than having to be organized), and it feels soooo overwhelming and I totally get wanting to shut the door and forget about it. For me, it helped just finding one thing to start with, and things just fell into place from there. I can’t wait to see what you end up doing with this space, even if it’s years down the road.

    • Anna @ D16 February 3, 2011 at 3:10 pm

      Oh Karrey, you made me laugh!! Believe me, there are PLENTY of shameful spots in my house—I just don’t take pictures of them!

      Honestly, the main part of the reason I took these photos was so I could post them and be accountable for my laziness. It’s like AA for basement hoarders.

    • Frances February 3, 2011 at 4:21 pm

      I have to agree with Karrey up there — it is a true relief to know that deep down (literally, I guess) you have a bit of slob in you, too.

      My 1920s brick tudor has a similarly frightening basement, complete with remnants of the old knob-and-tube electrical wiring and weird, 1970s paneling, and floor dust that requires an immediate rewash of any dropped laundry. But until I read this post I had no idea that paint on the exterior walls could be detrimental. (The previous owners painted the walls a translucent, semi-glossy red. Red! Ugh.)

    • Anna @ D16 February 3, 2011 at 5:42 pm

      The problem with painting or otherwise sealing foundation walls that have mortar in them is that the coating renders the mortar un-reachable. Groundwater seepage will still occur on the outside of the house and will penetrate the mortar up to the point of the paint/sealant, and then it’s trapped. The mortar will eventually decay, but it cannot be seen (or repaired) at that point. Sealing an old foundation from the outside is another story (we actually had that done at the back of our house where the ground slopes toward our foundation), but it can be a risky process to expose the foundation on a very old house—after all, you’re disturbing compacted dirt that’s been pressing up against the foundation for 100 years!

      Maybe it’s a good thing that the previous owners used a translucent paint on your walls? Maybe it’s breathable!

    • Dieuwy February 4, 2011 at 5:43 am

      You could *just* put up a new wall in front of the old brick wall, and leave the old wall as is. If there’s enough room to breathe between the old wall and the new wall, there should be no problem at all. And if you put insulation to the ceiling in your basement, you could then close that as well. It should also reduce your heating bill!
      Good luck with sorting/cleaning the basement!

    • Anna @ D16 February 4, 2011 at 6:54 am

      Actually, the brick walls are just fine—we can paint them, because they’re not on the perimeter (exterior) of the house. It’s the stone foundation walls that are surrounded by earth/outdoor elements that we need to allow to breathe, and we really don’t want to limit our access to them or hide anything that could be going on that would need our attention. That’s where we need to remove the paint and efflorescence and take care of a few leaky spots.

      The same goes for the ceiling. Of course it’s possible to close it, but we took the existing ceiling down for a reason—we want to be able to see what’s going on with our plumbing and electric, not hide it. (The monetary/energy value in insulating the basement ceiling would likely be extremely minimal, and would probably take upwards of 10-15 years to offset the cost of installing it, anyway…)

    • Dieuwy February 4, 2011 at 11:33 am

      Oh yes I meant the stone outer walls, not the brick (it’s because these two words mean the same in Dutch.) I understand you want to keep everything visible so you can spot when something’s wrong, fair enough.
      I own a 1901 house in the Netherlands, no basement but there is about one meter of space under the floor. We’re having our floor insulated with polyurethane foam next week, that’s why I brought it up. We calculated it should be worthwile doing for us, a lower heating bill should make it efficient after 5 years. And I do look forward to a less cold floor in the living room!

      By the way, did you see Nicole progress in their basement on Making it Lovely? Of course it’s different because they do need the space and you don’t, but it’s nice to see what can be done!

  • Reply beth February 3, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    I felt like I was reading my own basement biography until the Leatherface part. My resident basement creeper is Hookman.

  • Reply emma ::emmas designblogg:: February 3, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Oh Anna, I know the horror of a dumping area like that! We have a huge garage, it’s actually bigger than our house, and it is full, and I mean full, of stuff we have been throwing in there for last 3-4 years. It’s all such a huge mess I don’t know where to start! It would be easier if it was just my stuff, but no, much of it belongs to my boyfriend and his brother so I can’t just throw it away. Under all the junk is a crumbling concrete floor and moldy walls, just like in your basement. Luckily our garage isn’t attached to the house, so I don’t have to go in there very often. 🙂
    I don’t have a plan, do you?

    • Anna @ D16 February 3, 2011 at 3:13 pm

      Emma, my only plan is to take a week off in March and ORGANIZE like crazy. At the end of the week, I want to have our junk guy come with his truck and bring everything unsalvageable to the dump, and then donate all of our excess materials and supplies that I KNOW we don’t need to Habitat for Humanity.

      After that, I’m just hoping to not let it get messy again before we’re able to really take care of the walls and floor!

    • emma ::emmas designblogg:: February 5, 2011 at 4:25 pm

      Ok, a week off you say… I think I would need a month. 🙂 You have to show photos later, perhaps that will motivate me a little bit more!

  • Reply elissa February 3, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    I have to say that on some level I’m glad that your basement doesn’t look like Martha’s. I feel less inferior now 🙂 My dingy-white-paint-efflorescence-walls with icky drop ceiling, low hanging pipes and a floor I’m terrified of dropping clean clothes on doesn’t make me feel so bad now. At least I’m not the only one.

    Honestly, as far as old houses go, your basement could be a lot worse. Some cleaning, waterproofing, painting, and storage shelves can make it a more habitable and less scary space. That’s all you really need. Without windows, it’s really not worth finishing anyway.

    • Anna @ D16 February 3, 2011 at 3:14 pm

      We actually do have three small windows down there, you just can’t see them! It’s still not worth finishing, though—we really don’t need the space.

  • Reply jennie February 3, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    This reminds me so much of my own horror show basement…no need for shame! We have the same problem with laundry…drop a sock and it’s filthy. At least the rest of your house is stunning. Looking forward to see what you guys come up with.

  • Reply Nathan Sprehe February 3, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    I love that you posted these! My first thought was, “hey, that’s pretty nice”, which doesn’t say much for our basement. In houses with ongoing renovations, basements are such dreadful spaces.

    When we first bought our house (4-years before we moved in), I decided it made the most sense to start in the basement. So I spent several weekends raking out crumbling mortar and sand and re-pointing a section of the stone foundation. After standing back and looking at my work, I had the depressing realization that I’d never get to the rest of the house if I continued to focus on the stone foundation. It would easily have taken me 2-years of weekends to tuckpoint the entire thing! So for better or worse, we left it alone, crumbling foundation and all.

    It’s hard to focus on a basement when you’re working to finish out your living spaces!You have to prioritize.

    • Gracie February 3, 2011 at 3:52 pm

      Ha ha ha ha! Me too (about thinking it looked ok!)

  • Reply when skies are grey February 3, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    This post has made my day! We have a huge garage that looks eerily similar to your basement. Lots of cool furniture with “potential” ’cause I can’t let it go. And we have amassed an awesome collection of tools for the workshop we always talked about. I always say I need someone who has the expertise of a professional organizer and the wisdom of an old man with a practically arranged wood shop to tell me exactly how it should all go. When I was sweeping by my washer and dryer a few day back, I was totally grossed out with our mess thinking, how do they even give mortgages to people like us?! And so it really is relieving to see someone like you (with such great taste and seemingly endless energy) to be in the same situation. Thanks Ana!!!

  • Reply Jessica February 3, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    I grew up in a house with a field stone foundation basement/fruit cellar thing, we only ever had to use it for tornadoes, so I was kinda excited when I bought my 1920s house and was like BLOCKS! A FLOOR! WINDOWS!
    But….yeah, now I make my boyfriend go downstairs with me when I do laundry because it’s scary, and now leather face will haunt my dreams 🙁

    PS, can I just say how awesome I think you are for not changing your content during the apartmenttherapyhomieswhatevers ? You’re posting nekkid ladies and ugly basements! I like that you’re just you even if people don’t want to vote for you because you tall about Morissey and MJ. Last I checked you blogged for you and not to stick to a topic because it’s your job. Respect <3 (you can delete that if it counts as drama)

    • Anna @ D16 February 3, 2011 at 3:40 pm

      Hahaha, yeah, I’m pretty goal-free here. My only blogging agenda is to write about whatever I’m into, and if other folks want to read along, cool. 🙂

    • Kim @ HousetoHomestead February 3, 2011 at 9:09 pm

      This is something I really like about your blog.

  • Reply Emily February 3, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Yep, looks a fair amount like ours, minus one “finished” bedroom (which requires wandering through the rest. let’s not talk about the spiders).

    Actually, it looks like ours except that a hippie painted all of the walls/pipes/floor TURQUOISE/YELLOW/PURPLE at some point. Dirty rainbow wonderland. With spiders. Ugh.

  • Reply Jen February 3, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Doesn’t everyone have a dumping ground of some sort? Unfortunately, when you live in an apartment, it’s the closet. We moved this summer and the “dumping ground” is the exploding closet in my office. Someday it will be cleaned and organized!!

    I’m excited to see what you will do with the basement!

    • emma ::emmas designblogg:: February 5, 2011 at 4:16 pm

      Jen, be happy you just have a closet to throw your junk in! We have a 220 sqm garage-turned-dumping-ground. Just the thought of organizing it makes me start to sweat. I used to live in an apartment, and have a dumping-closet. That closet took me about 1 hour to clean out when I moved, and that was 0,5 sqm. So I’m looking at about 440 hours of organizing now…

  • Reply Gracie February 3, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Is it OK if Martha’s basement scares me more than yours!! I’m excited to see what you do with it (even if it takes years!)

  • Reply thisismycat February 3, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Come on, that wasn’t that bad! How many Eames chairs do you have!? In the basement!?

    • Anna @ D16 February 3, 2011 at 3:56 pm

      Ugh, I know, I know!! I just keep bringing them home whenever I find one for super-cheap (which is actually pretty often). I feel like I’m abandoning them otherwise. (I realize I sound like a cat-hoarder.)

      I promise once I have space to work, I’ll fix them up all nicely and either give them to family/friends or find a place for them in my house. 🙂

    • Kate February 3, 2011 at 4:38 pm

      That is precisely what I first thought when I saw these photos – not that it’s hella scary (which it is upon 2nd inspection) but that OMG SHE’S AN EAMES CHAIR HOARDER. Get those babies up into the light!

      The leatherface/washer dryer photo is the best. This is exactly the kind of thing I imagined every time I went into my basement as a kid. Okay, still imagine. That, or else Gremlins.

    • Felix February 4, 2011 at 7:58 pm

      Where do you find these cheap eams chairs, I’m from San Diego and it’s hard to find these chairs for cheap even in L.A. most people know what there worth! Let me in on your secrete, please!!! 🙂

  • Reply Paige Of Midwest Darling February 3, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Okay so the first part wasnt too bad, I was pretty much just muttering about how’d I’d totally take that furniture off your hands for you. But the second room is pretty bad, Is that like a bar area?

    • Anna @ D16 February 3, 2011 at 9:17 pm

      YES. I’d swear the previous owners were operating a speakeasy out of the basement if the bar weren’t made of materials that look extremely late ’50s/early ’60s. I guess they had a “rumpus room” down there at some point?!

      I kind of like the bar area. I think I’m going to keep it intact and turn it into a potting bench!

    • paige of midwestdarling February 5, 2011 at 3:30 pm

      EEEK. whenever I hear rompus room I think of my friends parents house from highschool. Years later I found out they were like hardcore swingers. swingers bar at door 16. ha jk.

  • Reply priscilla February 3, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    My basement stairs are starting to get weak and actually feel spongy. I’ve taken to using the Bilco doors to bring laundry down to my own cellar of horrors. Plus I’m tall and always hit my head on a beam. Plus there are snakes.

    • Anna @ D16 February 3, 2011 at 9:19 pm

      Oh god! I can’t imagine going in through the Bilcos every time. You have my sympathies!!

      (If it’s any consolation, the new stairs weren’t too pricey. Get a quote from someone local—you might be surprised!)

  • Reply dewi February 3, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    As an apartment dweller I dream of a magic basement door for a place to dump my junk.

  • Reply jennifer in sf February 3, 2011 at 4:24 pm


    This is kind of making me glad I only have an apartment to store things in! I can’t even imagine what would happen if I had a basement. I’m pretty sure I’d end up on the Hoarders show.

  • Reply elia February 3, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    I had a basement like that, only smaller but it was damp and crumbling.
    I had a bad case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
    I think we stored boxes and packing for everything we ever brought, oh and stuff we ripped out of the house because, you know, just in case we might need it.
    I have no basement now, but I have a garage… I am still a hoarder.

  • Reply Erica February 3, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    One of the most frequent searches that brings people to my home renovation blog is “creepy basement.” I had a fairly similar situation (sans wood paneling) but with the added bonus of a dirt floor, plus piles of dirt from when one of the walls tumbled in and dirt from outside came in.

    I found someone on CL who wanted the dirt for fill (go figure). I also found someone else on CL who took out every piece of junk I had down there — for free — b/c the junk (wet cardboard boxes, broken tiles, the odd can of motor oil and congealed bug spray) included a yard of copper piping. For free — up the rickety stairs and out to his car. FYI.

    • Anna @ D16 February 3, 2011 at 5:46 pm

      For free! Wow. See, where I live, they just take the copper piping without asking first. (And they don’t take your junk along with it.)

    • Erica February 3, 2011 at 7:05 pm

      Yeah, totally gratis junk removal. I actually posted the job on CL in the household services section and had about a dozen people respond saying they’d do it for free in exchange for the copper. It’s definitely worth a shot!

    • Anna @ D16 February 3, 2011 at 8:05 pm

      I don’t have any copper to sweeten the deal, though! I think that might be a problem. 😀

      We actually have a really good junk guy that we’ve used several times now. He’s not free, but he does a very good job! We may ask him if he’s interested in doing the paint cleanup, too…

    • Lena February 4, 2011 at 10:34 am

      how about offer one of your extra eames chairs instead? or something else you KNOW you don’t need but was too good to not take home.

    • Anna @ D16 February 4, 2011 at 10:55 am

      Trust me, my junk guy doesn’t care what an Eames chair is! Also, they’re really not worth more than about $25 apiece. They’re not pristine examples or rare colors or anything.

      I’d really just rather pay him money — he has a family business, his kids work with him, and he’s a good guy. I’m not looking for a way out of paying him, really!

  • Reply lsaspacey February 3, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Guess what Anna? This is exactly what the basement laundry room in my apartment building looks like, crumbling bricks and all.

    Who likes to do laundry? Not me!

  • Reply Monica February 3, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Your post just scared my cat. Not the pictures of your basement, but the movie teaser. 🙂 She was all snuggled next to me and when I hit play she almost fell off the couch.
    Your basement kind of reminds me of my Grandmother’s. She collected canning jars though.

    • Anna @ D16 February 3, 2011 at 5:47 pm

      Oh no! Sorry, kitty!

    • Monica February 3, 2011 at 6:28 pm

      Oh, that is all right. Emma recovered quickly and is on to her next nap.

    • chris February 3, 2011 at 11:24 pm

      Ha ha ha

      I’m that scared cat! No offense it’s just bringing back memories of wicked older siblings locking me in the basement on a lark!

  • Reply dean February 3, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    …that Leatherface photo is hilarious.

    • Stacy February 4, 2011 at 12:03 am

      It’s nice to see that he’s keeping things sophisticated by wearing a tie. I’m glad I don’t have a basement because that’s all I’d be able to think about now! Well, there’s always the attic, I guess.

  • Reply jen February 3, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    my basement is worse! the spider webs are bigger, and my unfinished concrete floor has cat puke stains. no one is allowed to enter my dungeon, and the basement zombies have tons of hiding spaces within/behind the junk i need to sell at the yard sale i was going to have in spring 2010.

  • Reply Rebekah February 3, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    The zombies are pretty lucky, I counted 5 Eames chairs for them to lounge / molt on!

    • Anna @ D16 February 3, 2011 at 8:15 pm

      HAHAHA! Zombie skins.

  • Reply Siobhan February 3, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Martha’s basement is way scarier than yours. Does she have a craft bench in every room of her house?

  • Reply Jenna @ sweet fine day February 3, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    Basements totally scare me. In fact, when you were tweeting about your basement, it reminded me that I wanted to do a post about the one I grew up in (also all that rollerskating talk reminded me too, I just have to see if I can find photos of it when I go back to my mom’s). Also, I’m totally rolling my eyes at Martha’s basement. Of course if had to look like that. That’s not normal people basement.

    • Jenna @ sweet fine day February 3, 2011 at 6:03 pm

      gawd, the basement in the house I grew up in. The wording totally made it sound like I grew up in a basement.

  • Reply Hypatia February 3, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    Sadly, I’m actually jealous of you for even having a basement, lol! And no, the pictures don’t change that. It really doesn’t look that bad. We have a crawlspace, kind of typical in our neighbourood. What I wouldn’t give for a basement…any basement. Though I might draw the line at one that’s infested with horror movie villains.

  • Reply momo February 3, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    I must also say that I am relieved there is a secret grotto in your beautiful home, Anna!!!! Even Ludwig II of Bavaria had his own little lair like that in Neuschwanstein, though I’m not sure he had a Leatherface! 😀

    We are getting our roof cavity dustproofed and made into a storage loft, we desperately need to stash things away!!!! Although I was slightly peeved when Tim suggested we put a mattress up there for when my mother visits. MY MOTHER, IN THE STORAGE LOFT!!!

  • Reply Clare February 3, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    Oh thank god! I can stop feeling so terrible about our crap-filled sleepout/ second bathroom (which is pretty much as scary as your basement. When I have to try and explain to people how bad it is, I usually say that it’s the kind of place you might lock up a kid you kidnapped. Also, weirdly, it has a shower and a toilet, but no handbasin. Has never had a handbasin).

    It’s good to see what’s real, even if it isn’t all pretty 🙂

  • Reply dw February 3, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Ohhhhhhhh. I didn’t click on the link right away for Martha’s basement, so I thought you were talking about this Martha’s basement (which totally rocks my world, BTW):

    • Anna @ D16 February 3, 2011 at 8:00 pm

      Oh yeah, OF COURSE I love that Martha’s basement, too!! 🙂 Those Marthas really know their basements, huh?

  • Reply Isabelle February 3, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    If you want to do something good for your house and heating bill, do something about the basement. You should isolate the ceiling and the stairs to isolate the cold from the rest of the house and to prevent these “leaks of warmness” that might additionally contribute to the humidity downstairs. That can save you up to 20% of your heating bill. Here in Switzerland it’s becoming obligatory to do that when making changes to the house.

    And we are in the middle of “junking out” our basement and attic as well. We have given ourselves a similar timeline. So let’s see who is down first getting abundant stuff out of the house. ;-))))

    • Anna @ D16 February 3, 2011 at 8:02 pm

      Isabelle, taking care of that kind of stuff is DEFINITELY on our to-do list! We finally finished taking care of insulating the attic to prevent heat loss in that direction, so now we can move downstairs. 🙂

  • Reply Reidunn February 3, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    I like the fact that you are showing pictures of the-not-so-pretty places in your house too. And I see the potential of a nicer bacement for your chairs to live in, eventually.
    I actually wouldn’t mind helping out with turning a basement into a zoombie free space. Removing paint and dirt etc. There’s something extremely satisfying with doing a job that has to show progress and change along the way. Ok, so you get dirty and tired on the way getting to the point when you can start organizing things to look like you have a system, but it feels good to be tired after hard work that pays off.
    (Do I make sense? I hope so. Anyway, I guess your basement will look like it belongs to your house in the end.)

  • Reply jenny February 3, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    What a fantastic space! Talk about potential! Really, it’s not so bad, Anna. The ‘worst’ part, of course, is that dump in the middle where things just aren’t sorted. I reckon you and Evan and a couple of hours, max, could have things stacked and sorted and then that area wouldn’t be so scary. Just put like with like, and maybe get a cheap set of industrial shelves (we have them here – the ‘no hammer’ metal and wood ones, and pop stuff on there, then it’s fine for a while.

    As for Martha’s basement – or one of her basements, let’s face it. Blimey, that’s nicer than my house. And the ironing table may have been built to suit her height, the washing machines of superior industrial quality etc etc, but I don’t believe she does her own ironing. Would you if you had her houses?

    Thanks for showing us the basement – letting the light in is the hardest part.

    JUst keep saying potential, potential, potential!

  • Reply Lori February 3, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    OMG. your basement looks like my car. I CANNOT wait to see this transformation

  • Reply Nina February 3, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    First time commenter but I have been reading your blog for a while now…finally mustered enough courage to leave a comment 😉

    I don’t think it’s that bad. Our basement is filled with more junk (yours isn’t even junk!) and broken washer/dryer that somehow made it into the basement before we bought the house and weirdly do not fit through the stairs or any of the windows. Just a little organizing… It’s on my to-do list as well.

    Have to admit I’m a bit creeped out by basements and I would not do the laundry in our old basement after my husband told me it kind of looked like the last scene from The Blair Witch Project had been filmed there…

  • Reply Sarah February 3, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    As terrifying as this all looks (basements are one of my worst fears…weird, I know), I am so excited to see how you handle this space! It actually looks like it’ll be an amazing project to tackle. I can’t wait to see what you will do with it!

  • Reply Lori E. February 3, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    “Hi, my name is Lori and I too have a disorganized dungeon for a basement.”

    And rickety stairs. And dark corners. And… Ah, Anna, this post was a balm for basement weary. And it makes me sad my brother and I threw away the cardboard Freddy Kreuger we kept in his closet to scare my mom. 🙂 I am planning a big, once and for all, clean out day before baby #3 arrives. Which is in approximately 2 weeks. Gulp.

    Can’t wait to see your after shots!

  • Reply Adam February 3, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    I totally forgot about the drop ceiling tiles!! It was so hot and so cobwebby! It’s funny, I didn’t notice any of the stuff down there this summer when we were moving the pea gravel through. I will say I’ve seen much worse, and I’m sure you and Evan will make it look like a whole new space in March.

    I’m going to have to do a post about my attic, as it is a lot like your basement! I’ve been putting stuff in there since I moved in and now I hate to go in there to get stuff. I did a basement clean out (it was mostly full of the previous owner’s junk) when I redid my bedroom, but it’s still not a place I spend much time. I need to do some cleaning of my basement walls, so I’ll probably be hitting you up for some advice. I never knew that stuff on the walls of my basement was called efflorescence!

    By the way, I’m proud of you for posting these these pics! I know it’s not easy for you, but like you said it makes a great motivator to get it under control!

  • Reply coral February 3, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    I think the most terrifying part of your basement is that all of the bearing wall/ columns blocking your view of leatherface.
    I have a similar situation and a strict policy that I will not do laundry after dark if my husband isn’t home. Too many times running up the stairs with the “creeps.”

  • Reply Brismod February 4, 2011 at 12:48 am

    It would make a terrific workshop area. And I agree, sometimes a basement should be left a basement if you don’t have a real need for the space. xx

  • Reply Kristina February 4, 2011 at 1:23 am

    The weird part about those super thick spider webs is that I’ve never actually seen a spider in one. Just my basement?

    PS: Love the puppy gates!

  • Reply Jane February 4, 2011 at 4:41 am

    Hi Anna,

    another first time commenter here and prompted to write not because of your beautiful decor but by your cellar. You are going to be amazed by this but I look at your basement with huge envy. In the UK very few houses have basements; maybe some older properties but mainly we just don’t have them. So I have the equivalent mess (and useful stuff that one is going to be getting round to using and washing machines etc etc) tucked in round everything else in the house. When my son goes back to Uni in term-time we put heaps of stuff in his room but it makes impromptu visits home rather stressful for all of us! So now I have ‘basement envy’.

    • Anna @ D16 February 4, 2011 at 6:56 am

      It’s the same in much of the US, actually! Basements are mainly only built in states where the climate dictates having that type of foundation. I was shocked the first time I went to Los Angeles and discovered that everything was above ground. 😀

    • CariStereo February 11, 2011 at 2:17 pm

      My grandparents’ house had a basement that we played in as kids… they do exist in Los Angeles, but they’re very rare!

      Last summer I filmed a horror movie in an abandoned house in the Adams neighborhood of L.A. The basement looked like yours (sorry) except the stairs going down to it were rickey and gave my hands splinters.

      Bright side: you can rent out your basement to film scary movies! 🙂

  • Reply Gems February 4, 2011 at 5:38 am

    This is so uplifting! Just to know that so many people have rooms/dungeons full of junk… I think I will be showing this to my partner as proof that other people too have rooms of stuff. Unfortunately in Sydney basements are very very uncommon and since we have yet to build our garage, our third bedroom has become our dumping lair. I hope to shift this stuff into our future… and then subsequently forget about it. All with the best intentions of course!

  • Reply Yvonne February 4, 2011 at 8:44 am

    I’m scared of the basement zombies too 🙂 What made me laugh, is that all the stuff in your basement is everywhere in no order. BUT the boxes for the mac equiment is nicely stacked on a chair not on the floor 🙂

    Greetings from Germany

  • Reply PhillyLass February 4, 2011 at 9:07 am

    I used to live in a sweet old Victorian that had been carved into four apartments and our basement looked just like this. I guess I’m weird, because it was actually a major draw for me– it was the only place I looked at where I had lots of extra storage space for the junk I couldn’t fit or didn’t want in my shoebox apt. I’m pretty sure the other tenants felt the same. Of course, folks who moved out and forgot about what they’d left down there were a bit of a problem. It also made me super nervous that a puddle would form on the floor just at the base of the stairs heading to the back yard every time we had even a little bit of rain. Maybe these kinds of basements just aren’t waterproof-able(?) Anyway, my two cents is that there’s nothing shameful about having a messy staging area for all the amazing spaces in the rest of the house. The tools, materials, and cast-offs have to go somewhere!

  • Reply Ceci February 4, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Hi Anna! Listen…do you really think Martha has EVER seen her basement? Her little workers probably set it up so they could work at their desks. Kidding…It’s just too perfect & I LOVE the light fixtures.

    Basements are meant to be messy. They are time bombs – there’s a lot of life lived down there.

    I was always afraid of our basement growing up. My brother had a chucky doll puppet thing that eventually ended up in the basement next to the furnace. I hated feeling like I had to wear a crucifix just to do my laundry (thanks to 3 horrible brothers) Talk about creepy! We did, however, have a really cool cubby under the stairs where we set up our storm center. It was like a little camp site.

  • Reply KC February 4, 2011 at 11:43 am

    I’m so glad you posted this! I’m in the process of trying to clean-up a very similar post-renovation basement (stone walls and Band-Aid colored paint too). I find myself leaving stuff that lives “down there” at the top of the stairs just so I don’t have to face the Pit of Despair. Your house is an inspiration. Your willingness to confront your basement has spurred me to go back into the Pit. Thank you!

  • Reply Ingrida February 4, 2011 at 11:44 am

    We just finished a month long partial basement project…
    Even though our living room still needs a complete gut rehab, I just couldn’t take it any more… we use our basement to access the backyard, along with laundry, construction workshop, storage, and dumping ground… and it was just so damn nasty down there… so I pushed to tackle it…

    Because of limited budget/time constraints, and because it IS the basement (there’s the potential for water, it can be damp down there, the guts of the house need to be accessible, etc), we only fixed up 1/2 of the total area to start (500 sf)… the other half, which serves as the construction workshop and dumping ground, will get organized, but in terms of truly fixing it up… we’ll probably only tackle that in the far future, once the rest of the house is complete.

    I have to say, it’s a completely different world down there, now that it’s fixed up… I love going down there… it’s so clean and bright… no zombies, Freddy Kreugers, or other unwelcome residents… it’s totally worth the effort!!! Do it!!!!

  • Reply Jennifer February 4, 2011 at 11:56 am

    will be watching your basement re-do with interest as your basement reminds me of our basement, and I haven’t the foggiest idea what to do with it! (love your blog!)

  • Reply donna February 4, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Anna, my basement is full of crap we put there when we moved in four years ago and we have still not even opened most of the boxes!

  • Reply Ashley February 4, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Don’t take this the wrong way, but this basement demonstrates that you’re human, Anna…we all have basements that look like that. You’re still a design superhuman in my eyes. I’m sure your basement will be shipshape in no time.

    P.S. How many Eames chairs do you have down there!?!

    • Anna @ D16 February 4, 2011 at 1:24 pm

      Definitely NOT superhuman, Ashley!! Remember, I don’t blog about the downtime… 😉

  • Reply LaDonna February 4, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    looks like a torture chamber for dressers and chairs

  • Reply susan February 4, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    I am so relieved to see these pictures. It actually gives me hope that I can also accomplish some much needed improvements in my own house. Seeing stuff like this is actually helpful to those of us not blessed with y’alls good design and diy skills.

  • Reply Matt February 4, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    your basement = my one car garage

  • Reply diana February 4, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    haha…the Martha basement is no basement at all, if you ask me 😉 Filled with natural light, matching furniture and vintage terra cotta basins, many people would die to have in their appartment! Lovely to look at, though.

    BTW: Sometimes I am glad our basement is tiny, and for the most part filled with wood, wine and old doors. Otherwise it would look exactly the same as yours! Good luck cleaning the old stuff out – I’m sure it’ll make a world of difference, and the zombies won’t have anywhere proper to hide anymore 😉

  • Reply Laura Gaskill February 4, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    Ha, I kind of have to agree with you about letting a basement just be a basement – the previous owners of our house finished the basement, but even with all that drywall and paint and even carpets, it’s still so, I don’t know…basementy. I would LOVE to have laundry on the main floor too, ah well. I think I am biased against basements because no one really had them in CA where I grew up, now out here on the east coast every house we looked at had a scary, obviously zombie-inhabited basement!

    Good luck! xo

  • Reply Anna (twelve22) February 4, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    My basement is in such a similar state! Except mine is also a wondrous playground for my cats, so there are bits of shredded this and torn up that in all the nooks and crannies. It’s where I put old rugs to die. Just today I had to spend over an hour in my laundry area (which is similar to yours, except my dryer is a 1950s Whirlpool that looks half awesome and half covered-in-rust, but — hey! — it still works), moving boards that could have been covered in spiders (they weren’t, phew) and scrubbing the utility sink.

  • Reply Fiona February 5, 2011 at 6:40 am

    Fhewwwww, what a relief to find out your normal just the rest of us !!!! You should see our garage……

  • Reply nicole February 5, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    i can totally relate. our basement is one of those places i don’t go unless i absolutely must. there’s not even a light switch until you get to the BOTTOM of the stairs. let’s just say i descend loudly and cautiously. and we still have our wobbly wooden stairs, and they’re flanked by plaster walls that are literally falling apart. that somehow seems to stay on the to-do list without moving its way up on the priorities. over the years, though, we’ve managed to dissemble and remove a massive coal burning furnace (plus the coal!) and get the space cleared enough that it can be used for storage purposes. the old bank vault is still there, although the door does not lock (perhaps a very good thing, after all).

    thank you for (bravely) revealing your dumping ground. it’s nice to know that you’re not perfect!

  • Reply the ravenna girls February 5, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    We should start a “Scary Basement” blogger series, because ours is AT LEAST this bad (when its not spider season. The funniest part of this post was that if you drop a sock you have to re-wash it, because I feel the same way, its that scary!

  • Reply leslie February 6, 2011 at 9:42 am

    Ok, this looks very similar to my basement! I dash up and down the stairs all day to keep away from the laundry monsters.
    However, I have been motivated to clean mine since I recently saw an episode of “Hoarders” where this woman’s basement was so hoarded out that they did not even notice that a homeless woman had moved in (she carved out a little space in them iddle of this enormous hoard) and was using the outside door to get inside! It was so crazy, but what was even weirder was that they were so nonchalant about it, at one point talking about how they nicknamed her “Scary Mary” when they would see her on the staircase!!!!! Whoa!

  • Reply Meghan February 6, 2011 at 11:05 am

    I’m dying. DYING.

    Balsa wood and dental floss? THOSE ARE MY STAIRS. YOUR HOUSE IS MY HOUSE. Except, dumped in Northeast Philly. And ours is complete with half-assed attempts at DIY electrical outlets (like, extension cords plugged in to outlets that are extended out from the wall….insanity). I frigging love it. You have a new reader!

  • Reply Süsk February 6, 2011 at 11:20 am

    I snorted my morning coffee out my noseholes when I scrolled down to see Leatherface in your laundry room. We too are renovating our house (a crumbling old cottage in North London that makes your basement look like the Ritz at the moment) and I stumbled across your blog looking for some inspiration. Loved it!

  • Reply Fritz February 6, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    Good post

    You are going to need a very large skip to tote that rubbish outta that Leatherface enclave…May the Force be with you

  • Reply Jessica February 7, 2011 at 12:05 am

    i just have to take a moment to tell you how much i love your blog, how inspiring your home projects are to someone about to purchase their own fixer-upper house, and how relieved i am to see that you have a horrific basement! it really makes me that much more impressed with everything else you’ve done, simply because it proves that you are a human!

    i could go on and on, but what it boils down to is that i secretly hope you never finish remodeling your home so that i always have something new to be inspired by. alright, for your own sanity, i hope you do finish (or as close as one ever does, i suppose!)

    thanks for sharing!

  • Reply laurenjanelle February 7, 2011 at 11:49 am

    I am actually scared by that. How dry is your basement? could you convert it into liveable, beautiful space?

    • Anna @ D16 February 7, 2011 at 12:55 pm

      I’m sure I could, but I don’t need or want to.

  • Reply Brigidanne February 7, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Anna –

    My dog won’t go into the basement, she only comes down the stairs to check if I am still there.
    If you come up with a good way to prevent the efflorsecence, let me know. I’ve scrapped the old paint off, wire brushed it off, installed the de-humidifier, and even tried Dry-Lock on one section of wall. It keeps coming back. I have to come up with a way to even out the cement floor. Old house basements gotta love them.

    • Anna @ D16 February 7, 2011 at 1:13 pm

      My dogs don’t even want to look down the stairs! They stop cold at the door and turn around. 🙂

      Yeah, it definitely still gets a little damp in our basement when we have days and days of rain, and even though it dries out again within a day, I imagine the efflorescence will continue to return. My biggest priority (aside from organizing!) is getting the paint off of the walls.

      If you can abrade the surface of your existing concrete floor, you should be able to pour new self-leveling cement on top. I must say, though…that sounds like a project I’d rather leave for my contractor!!

  • Reply keyse February 7, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    i know this sounds sad…but if you saw my basement, you might die. its way worse with no goodies stored away. but i rent, so i try not to think about it…

  • Reply Angela February 7, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    I have a similar basement complete with stone and mortar and spider webs and a toilet, yes, a toilet. It looks like a place you would chain a shameful family secret. There is a 50 year old freezer we were loathe to open when we moved in. I go down to the basement as little as possible. We won’t be doing anything special with it. It is holding our 100 year old house up nicely and that is all we will ask it to do!! 🙂

  • Reply Aleaha Bowen February 7, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    Thank you so much for posting the pictures of your basement ! Our basement is very scarily similar and we have been working on ours as well. We bought our house 4 years ago and it was built in 1927. For the last three and half years we have pretended our basement didn’t exist unless we tripped a circuit. We even tried to find a way to laundry in the bathroom, but after finding out the electrical work would cost two grand we decided to bite the bullet and work on the basement. Your pictures made me feel so much better! I feel like our basement has been our dirty little secret. We are almost done stripping the walls and will be patching leaking areas and painting. Can’t wait to see yours finished!

  • Reply heather February 8, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    That’s a whole lot of paneling. We have the same dusty basement issue and we have to vacuum it regularly. Laundry always has to be rewashed because I have butterfingers. We also hoard all kinds of things down there – but we do that in the attic too.
    Still, I kind of like my basement! At first it was creepy but one of the first things we did was to add lots of lighting throughout. It really helped with the creepy factor.

  • Reply mopar February 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Bwaaahhhhhhaaaaaahhhaa the evil basement zombies! Very funny post. But actually, your basement isn’t so bad…..

    Our basement is pretty much empty because it’s so wet I’m afraid to put anything down there. It was filthy with a dirt floor and rubble walls like yours, but then we had a puff back from a chimney relining. A restoration company came to clean it and it turns out *the floor is not dirt.* It is cement. Gasp. Now it’s immaculate.

    Anyway, not sure what my point is, but apparently it’s possible to clean out your basement in two days — if you have 11 people. Not sure what method they used to clean the walls and floors. I wish I knew.

  • Reply Designbird February 10, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Your basement is in the same leauge as mine. We moved in a year ago and haven´t found enought energy jet to get started. Show pictures when you´re done..I need all the inspiration I can get!

  • Reply Jill / Lune February 16, 2011 at 1:01 am

    Oh holy shit. That’s bad. But no fear – I also had a scary century old basement once, and now it’s super safe and comfy and not at all scary. In fact – we actually live down here most of the time. It’s unbelievable if you think how bad our basement used to be (brick walls, nylon thick cobwebs, a door to nowhere, and a peeling red wall hidden behind a beaded curtain which I can only assume served to house a satanic altar at one point.

    So – as you know I’m sure – all is not lost.

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