Image: Donna Griffith
Inspired by a TV icon, a devoted mom transforms her dreary basement into a dreamy living space for her daughter.
Designer Margie Doyle White used to love The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She admired the star’s independence, her friends, her great job and, of course, her lovely little apartment. So when Margie created a grown-up space for her almost-adult daughter Lexie, it seemed natural to take cues from the home of her vintage role model.
“I wanted it to be like Mary’s place but without all the ’70s touches,” says Margie. “Lexie was 17 at the time, and I envisioned a place of her own, where she and her girlfriends would love hanging out.”
The designer – who shares her Toronto semi with partner Mike, daughters Lexie, now 19, Halle, 17, and cockapoo Monty – set about transforming her 650-square-foot basement, with its dingy plaster walls and chipped orange terracotta floor tiles, into an “apartment,” complete with a cozy living area, two bedrooms (one of which doubles as Lexie’s office), a bathroom, a laundry room and plenty of storage space.
“The best way to make a basement not feel like a basement is by using bright and fresh colours,” says Margie of the new space’s dynamic decor. Layers of white radiate that desired freshness thanks in large part to Margie’s cheap-and-cheerful secret weapon: vinyl flooring. “It looks like beautiful whitewashed hardwood but is so durable and practical,” she says.
The cheeriness continues with furnishings in shades of lilac (Lexie’s favourite colour), pink (packing a girly punch) and blue (connecting to the rest of the house). “I used a lot of light blue upstairs and wanted to continue with blue down here – but in a different shade,” says Margie, who used an azure tone in major accents, from the furnishings to the whimsical laundry room wall tiles (not shown).
Perhaps the most dramatic use of this preferred hue is in the living area, where paisley wallpaper shifts Margie’s pattern play into overdrive. “This paper has a retro look, which works well in a brand-new basement,” she says. “It also suits Lexie’s personality. She loves vintage pieces.”
While the basement was inspired by a ’70s TV show, it is now very much a place where 21st-century girlfriends love to spend time. Case in point: Lexie has since left for school, and Halle has basically moved in...with nary an update needed.
Splashes of navy and pink amp up this Toronto basement suite’s light blue and white colour scheme. “This palette is welcoming and doesn’t make you feel like you’re below ground,” says designer Margie Doyle White, who created this space for her daughter Lexie. “It’s also beautiful without being overly feminine.” Margie found the living area’s bergère chairs at an antiques store and had them reupholstered in blue and pink. “Matching them would’ve looked too formal,” she says.
The bookcases boast a custom look that belies their budget-friendly pedigree. “I blew the budget on the millwork upstairs, so I fudged it down here,” confesses Margie. “These are big-box bookshelves I framed out with moulding for a built-in effect.” The shelves display mementoes from Lexie’s childhood, as well as the voracious reader’s large collection of books.
The basement’s playful paisley wallpaper is enlivened by large-scale artwork. “Before Lexie was born, I commissioned the artist who was painting her nursery to paint this cow for me,” says Margie. “We placed it above her crib, and it’s been with her ever since – she’s grown up with it.” Now, it makes a statement as soon as you enter her living quarters.
Margie added two bedrooms to the basement floor plan to increase the home’s resale value, but for now Lexie uses one as her office or as a guest room when girlfriends sleep over. “I separated them with a barn door, which I had painted a different colour so it stands out,” says Margie. “It’s like a piece of art.”
Lexie’s basement bedroom looks more like a luxurious hotel suite thanks to a soothing lilac palette and glamorous touches, such as the sparkling chrome-based table lamp. “I wanted to create a space Lexie would look forward to spending time in,” says Margie.