Taking the 'Wreck' Out of Rec Room Taking the 'Wreck' Out of Rec Room

If you're lucky enough to have a finished basement and a couple of kids, chances are you have what's known in America as a "rec room."

However, you may not be feeling terribly lucky about this situation; in fact, you may be sitting in the rec room as you read this, wondering if maybe the rec room is really the "wreck" room, and thinking that maybe just taking a bulldozer to the whole thing would be the best solution.

If your rec room is typical of many, you've used it as the place to toss the kids when they're being unruly or hankering after some loud MTV, and you've also made it the repository for any bad furniture you've been burdened with. When your great aunt died and bequeathed you her excruciatingly uncomfortable pink velvet settee, down the basement stairs it went. When your husband refused to part with his beloved framed poster of Claudia Schiffer, saying, "But honey, it's signed," you just tossed the poster into the rec room, where you hoped it might get swallowed up with the rest of the decorative flotsam and jetsam.

Well, this is why you're thinking, "wreck," and just holding your breath until the day the kids go off to college and you can get down there and redecorate. But you don't have to wait so long. The best way of handling the rec room is to apply the Three Sheffield Guidelines to it, and think of the function, mood, and harmony of the room.

Start with function. Chances are the rec room is asked to serve many purposes, and some of these may seem conflicting. It may be the room where there's a desk and computer where the kids do their instant messaging and occasionally steal a paper for History class off the Internet. It may also be the TV room, the laundry center, and the place where you stow anyone crazy enough to stay over night.

Let's say you really need the room to do all this. It doesn't have to be ugly as well.

One way to improve the function of the room is to use room dividers; Japanese screens will allow the light to filter through and will provide a bright, clean look. You can use them to cordon off the laundry area from the TV area or the study/instant messaging area. Making a small investment will help you to increase the function of each section of the room. A nice folding table for the laundry or bookshelves by the desk will help everyone feel more comfortable.

You can improve the mood of the rec room with just a few touches and a small investment of decorating dollars. Don't skimp entirely on spending money for the rec room; if your family is spending a lot of time there, it's worth making a few investments, each of which can really perk things up. A fresh coat of paint on the walls, a lamp that actually sheds light on the work area, and after a few hundred dollars, you've made the room go from being The Black Hole to being the Fairly Cheerful Pit.

One of the biggest challenges is lighting the rec room. All too often, the basement has flourescent lights, which make even the young and healthy look terrible. Try to use floor can lights or track lighting to brighten things up a bit.

Trying to bring some harmony to the rec room may seem impossible, but it isn't. The problem here is that the rec room is probably home to a mind-boggling array of styles of furniture and accents. Try to bring this all together by making pieces appear to belong to each other. Paint all the mis-matched wood furniture in one color, and match that to a patterned slipcover for the sofa and a lampshade in another color in that slipcover. Hey, you could even paint over the glass on the framed poster of Claudia Schiffer!

There's nothing that can cure the fact that the rec room is made for recreation, but it doesn't have to serve as the Bermuda Triangle of missing furniture, so you may not have to start looking up "Bulldozers" in the phone book.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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