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My older sister September (yes, that’s her name despite the fact that she was born in January, long story but the gist of it is that my parents are nuts) has five amazing, albeit a bit rambunctious kids and a house that is holding on by a thread. Her husband is a principal at a local middle school, and because she has chosen to stay at home to raise the kids they’ve had to budget here and there where they can in terms of home improvement. Meaning, the cabinet doors in the kitchen are falling off, but at least the water heater is working!

Several weeks ago I stopped by her house to see how their basement renovation was coming along, and I’ll be honest. My first thought was, oh dear. This is going to take you guys ten years to finish. Because her husband was doing every single thing himself: from painting, to patching, to laying down every piece of tile:


And when I saw the arrangement of the tile my right eyebrow started to twitch and I began itching my neck uncontrollably. I mean, look at it. LOOK AT IT. That right there is a violation of every law of thermodynamics, am I right? No? I should up my meds? Point taken.

I guess everything I have ever learned from years and years of watching HGTV caused my nostrils to flare in agitation. I could see what an amazing space this could be and that it was headed in the opposite direction. So I said, Tember (that’s what we call her, you’re welcome to call her that, too), I’m going to take over and save you ten years of your life. In return, I only ask that you bow every time I enter the room. Fair trade.

And so began My Sister’s Basement Renovation. I asked around for recommendations on a contractor, and within a few days I had a tile guy staring at that tile with me in that basement, and I’m not even kidding, HIS RIGHT EYEBROW STARTED TO TWITCH. And then he started to point at some cracks in the concrete, and then the slope of the floor, and there goes my original budget!


Thankfully, we both agreed on a couple of design decisions 1) the tile needed to be bigger, and 2) it needed to be laid on the diagonal. HAHA! Look at me with the lingo! You know what that is? YEARS AND YEARS of worshipping Candice Olson.

What does that mean, on the diagonal? There is probably an official definition somewhere, but if I were explaining it to someone like me or my sister, I would simply say: think diamonds, not squares. Like this:


First, it’s a more interesting design, plain and simple. And second, I think it leads the eye more fluidly and elegantly than tiles laid in a square pattern. It immediately looks more intricate and expensive. Such a simple way to put a little dazzle into a design for no extra cost.

We also chose a bigger tile, mainly because we were going to be covering over 220 square feet of floor: one long hallway, one short hallway, the area in front of the wet bar, and a small bathroom. So I had my brother-in-law take back the stack of 12 X 12 inch porcelain tiles he’d purchased for the project and exchange them for a stack of ones that measured 18 X 18 inches. A bigger tile over that amount of square footage wouldn’t look nearly as crowded or bunched as something smaller.

You guys, look at me acting as if I have any idea what I’m talking about!

Seven days later the tile was in place and waiting to be grouted:



after3A few things:

1) Oh yes indeed, I had them remove that horrifying wet bar. I was not going to allow my sister to live with that atrocity any longer.

2) It’s still a work-in-progress, and all the trim work and errant holes and patches of paint will be fixed along the way.

Next up? Carpet. And a couch that seats a family of seven. Oh, and that one tiny request that my sister made before the whole thing began: a wall dedicated to BYU football. TALK ABOUT DESIGN DILEMMA. You can bet that it is going to be the best looking football wall in the history of football walls.


Design Inspiration

71 Responses

  1. badness jones says:

    I love tile on the diagonal, but after tiling the kitchen in our last house my husband has refused to ever do it again. I guess there's more cutting involved? Anyway – it looks great, and I want to put down hardwood when we renovate the kitchen in this house so I don't have to worry about hiring a contractor behind hubbie's back to come and lay tile on the diagonal while he's at work. What a relief!

  2. 1eyedmonkee says:

    Yes, please DO share when you find that couch and tell us all the details…we need one that I'm comfortable on when it's 2 a.m. and I can't sleep, big enough for the grown up kids and their spouses when they are here and wash 'n wear enough to not be screaming at the grandson or the 100 lb. Bernese Mountain dog. Come on Heather – we are expecting miracles from you!

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  4. Guardian Basement says:

    Great blog post. It really helps figure out what people need to make home improvement easier. Be sure to take a look at my website http://www.guardiandry.com/ and let me know what comes to mind. Take care

  5. minkiehuoise says:

    how do you get a shower and toilet water to go up hill in a basement bathroom

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