An Unfinished Basement Turned Home Studio

Sep 13, 2021 | Business Topics, Home Projects, Photography | 7 comments

Why I Needed a Home Studio

Marc and I recently celebrated the first year of owning our townhome this past August. As we’ve been settling in, one of our ongoing projects has been figuring out my workspace (or rather workspaces).

Because my work focus has shifted so much in the last year or so, my needs have fluctuated between a place to refinish furniture, store retail paint inventory, blog, edit photos, take photos and store all of QVC’s products for their “Marigold” line. Because we’re no longer going into the studio (thanks so much, COVID), what used to be stored in their warehouse now needs to be at home with me. The over 100 individual products quickly overtook the den on the first floor, my office, our kitchen and the living room.

Long story short, I needed a true separation between work and home. The most logical place was at my parent’s house – specifically the basement workshop of the in-law suite where Marc and I used to live.

Now that I’ve transitioned over to visual content creation (as opposed to physical product creation), the basement workshop needed to be spruced up. I couldn’t have my photography gear and the Marigold products stored in a sawdust-filled workshop.

Long story short, I’ve spent the last few weeks sprucing up the basement workshop, transforming it into a proper studio. Now I can film for QVC down there when the weather is too cold to go outside. All of the over 100 Marigold products can be stored properly and not be scattered all over our townhome. My product photography setup can be left out all the time, and not have to be folded up when I’m finished a shoot. The list of benefits goes on and on.

I’d like to share the process of how I spruced up the basement, because it was pretty easy! If any of you have a boring unfinished basement, perhaps my studio will inspire you to do the same in your space.

Sorting, Demo and Cleaning the Basement

If you’re like me, you’re probably using your unfinished basement for storage. Before work could begin, I had to sort through all of the stuff down there. Most of it was leftover inventory from my antique booth space and upholstery supplies. Those are in the process of being sold off, so if you’re local, email me to swing by and shop! (

Home decor in the unfinished basement workshop

Removing Built-In Shelving

When my grandparents lived in the in-law suite, my grandfather built lots of shelving to house his tools.

While they were great for storage, they were permanently fixed to the floor joists. I could never get behind them to vacuum or dust. When water would seep through the cinder block walls, I couldn’t move them away to dry the wall out. As a result, they were mildewy inside and needed to be removed.

Basement studio makeover, Eight Hundred Furniture, Hand Made Shelves

My goal for the new studio would be to make everything mobile. I wanted shelving on wheels, giving me the flexibility to transition it from photography studio to QVC filming set quickly and easily.

Basically, all of the immobile storage needed to go.

Basement studio makeover, Eight Hundred Furniture, Paint Studio, Refinishing
Basement studio makeover, eight hundred furniture

As a side note, it’s kind of vulnerable to show photos of your basement. It’s not usually the prettiest space in your home. Maybe seeing my mess will make you feel a lot better about yours!

Demoing the Basement Dividing Wall

In addition to building his own shelving, my grandfather put in a dividing wall, separating the left side of the basement into two little “rooms”. I wanted everything in my new studio to be open, so we set about demoing the wall.

the dividing wall in the unfinished basement workshop

After moving everything out of the way, Marc and I used hammers to systematically remove the drywall. We didn’t go all HGTV-demo-day-knock-down-the-wall. Instead, we removed it piece by piece.

demoing the dividing wall in the unfinished basement workshop

Once one side of the drywall was gone, it was pretty easy to push the other side down.

pushing through the last layer of drywall

We removed the studs next, and my Dad came down to lend a hand.

removing the studs of the dividing wall in the unfinished basement

The hardest part about this step was removing that top two by four from the steel I beam. It was attached using some kind of steel plate, and it took us the better part of an hour to wiggle and pry it off.

To keep things manageable, we worked on one side of the basement at a time. It’s about 600 square feet (give or take), so it was easy to move things from one side to the other.

After we cleaned up the drywall, studs and wood from my grandfather’s shelving, it was time to seal the cinder block walls.

Sealing the Basement’s Cinder Block Walls with Drylok Extreme

(To seal the basement, I used a complete system of products by a brand called Drylok. I’m going to mention them a lot, so get ready. This post may sound like it was sponsored, but I promise it’s not. I’m so impressed with all of the products that I used, and I feel 100% confident in recommending them to you.)

My grandfather had sealed the cinder block walls when he first moved into the in-law suite with my grandmother. The sealer needed to be freshened up though, and there was efflorescence growing on the walls.

efflorescence on the cinder block walls of the basement workshop

Efflorescence is a mineral buildup from water seeping through the cinder block. It activates salt naturally found in the blocks, creating crusty deposits. It needs to be removed and cleaned before you seal your walls. I used Drylok’s Etch & Cleaner.

This dual-purpose product both removes efflorescence from walls and prepares concrete floors for painting. It’s mixed with water and needs to be applied carefully. I needed to wear safety glasses, chemical gloves and a respirator. The fumes are a bit strong and it’s acid-based, so you don’t want to get it on your hands.

Once the walls were free of efflorescence, I vacuumed the dust and cobwebs.

As my sealer, I used Drylok Extreme.

This product is pretty darn cool. It’s guaranteed to stop water and comes with a fifteen year warranty. In addition to reducing radon penetration, Drylok Extreme can be used indoors or outdoors and can be custom-tinted. (I opted for the Bright White.) You can apply it using a brush or roller (we used both) and it can withstand driving hurricane-force winds.

(Coincidentally, Hurricane Ida ripped through the Northeast just as I finished sealing the basement. Drylok held up beautifully, keeping the pond of water outside the house from seeping in. Literally 15 hours ago, President Biden declared parts of my county and the surrounding areas as disaster zones, allowing those impacted by the flooding to receive financial aid. I know a few small business owners who lost everything – hot water heaters, air conditioning units, flooring, drywall, inventory, electrical panels, gas meters, etc. It was pretty devastating in areas just 10 minutes away from our home. If you would pray for them, that would be amazing. The losses are extensive and many do not have flood insurance. )

The first coat was applied very slowly. I used a 1/2″ nap roller and went in small sections. Then, I back-brushed to fill in any pinholes.

painting the cinder block walls of the basement workshop in Drylok

The basement instantly looked brighter just with the first coat.

painting the cinder block walls of the basement workshop in Drylok

Once two coats were applied and dried, my attention turned to the concrete floor.

Sealing and Painting the Concrete Floor in the Basement

Before the floor could be painted, it needed to be cleaned with a degreaser and etched with the same product I used on the efflorescence. Again, safety gear was needed for the etching solution.

Once the floor was prepped, I applied two coats of Drylok’s Concrete Floor Paint in “Dover Gray”.

Drylok concrete floor paint in Dover Gray
painting the concrete floor of the basement workshop in Drylok's Dover Gray

The first coats needed to be thinned and applied by hand (which was probably the hardest part of the entire makeover). Once that coat was dry, the second went on full-strength with a roller.

Like I mentioned earlier, we worked on one half of the basement at a time. Once the left side was dry, we moved everything over, and repeated the whole process on the right. It was a lot of work, but the results made it worthwhile.

Mobile Storage

Once all of the painting was finished, it was time to figure out how to organize my new space. I knew that I wanted everything to be on rolling shelves, but that was about it. Deciding where things would was a bit of a stumper. I kind of rolled with it (pun intended) and moved things around a few times until it felt right.

I already had several of these shelves for the Marigold inventory, so I bought a few more for the rest of my stuff.

Now, I have an area for Marigold storage (which will need to expand for the 2022 season), photography, tools and my personal paint stash. During the QVC season, I can roll Marigold around for one hour shows and individual airings with ease. In the off-season, my photography gear can roll in and be set up permanently.

Best of all, if we ever do get water in the basement, all of my things are protected and up off the floor. During Hurricane Ida, my Dad’s side of the basement flooded a bit. The water flowed into my side, but my things were completely protected.

All in all, it took 6 gallons of wall sealer ($200) and 4 gallons of concrete paint ($130) to do the job. I purchased 4 wire shelving units on sale at $90 each, so my total was around $700 with the cost of paint supplies (rollers, etc.) While that may sound expensive, it’s money that is paid once. If I rented a studio, I’d be paying at least $700 per month for the same sized space PLUS utilities and insurance. I’d say this is the least expensive option by far.

The Finished Studio Workshop

Want to see how everything turned out? Enjoy this video tour!

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I'm Jenn Baker - Milk Paint lover, photographer, blogger, and QVC Guest Host. Click below to learn more about me and my creative business.  LEARN MORE ABOUT JENN

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