The problem

This basement was a big, multipurpose space that served as an office, a TV room, a playroom and a guest bedroom. Like most finished basements, there was a lot of usable space, but it was sorely in need of a better layout and a visual makeover.

The solution

Designer Candice Olson sectioned the basement into designated zones so the room could be used more efficiently, and everyone could get a piece of the pie: The kids got a play zone, the adults each got a work zone, and everybody now gets to kick back in the lounge area. Plus, guests no longer have to sleep out in the open.

How it happened

• The homeowners like the great outdoors, so Olson reorganized the living area with nature as her inspiration, hanging a forest-inspired wall mural behind the TV.

• The room was sectioned off into his-and-hers workstations with ample storage, a children's play area and a separate guest bedroom.

• The basement's old drop ceiling was terribly ugly, so it was replaced with a coffered-style ceiling system. These lightweight PVC strips clip right on top of the existing drop-ceiling T-bars, a quick and easy way to give a dated basement ceiling an instant style lift.

• The floor was finished with a highly durable modular carpet-tile area rug that's kid-friendly. Each panel is removable and washable to handle the inevitable spills.

Best tricks

• Like many basements, the windows in this space were small. Olson used one of her favorite designer tricks to create the illusion of larger, above-ground windows. She installed mirrored panels below each window, then covered the entire area — window and mirror — with wooden shutters. The light is reflected off the mirrors through the gaps in the shutter slats, making it seem as if the windows are much bigger than they really are.

• The homeowners' existing sectional sofa was not old at all and was big enough for the living area, but it looked sloppy because it had too many back cushions. Olson tossed all of them and had new ones made using a contrasting patterned fabric. This simple makeover transformed the sofa from flat to fabulous.

Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service. Interior decorator Candice Olson hosts "Candice Tells All," which appears on HGTV.