Home & Garden

From boring basement to convivial cantina

Eugenia and her daughter, Maricela, are the female half of a fun-loving Mexican-Canadian family. Maricela loves Mexican folk dancing and cooking traditional dishes with her mom, and when they entertain, it's in the style of the parties back home, filled with music, food and dancing.

They've had their hearts set on turning a room in their basement into party central — a perfect place for the fiestas they love — but when I met them, the room was unfinished and being used for storage. Eugenia and Maricela wanted a space with the energy, warmth and flavor of their favorite Mexican cantina — and they wanted it to reflect their heritage without an ounce of cliche. As soon as I heard "fiesta," I knew I had to help them make it happen.

To kick things off, I chose a super-durable porcelain tile for the floor that looks just like wide-plank hardwood. It not only looks great, it's heated to keep tired tootsies toasty when the dancing shoes come off.

With all that dancing, guests are going to need refreshments, so we've created a satellite kitchen. Food prep will take place upstairs, but close to the action we now have a stylish and functional serving area with a funky entertainment sink and faucet, an under-cabinet microwave for reheating tasty treats and a sleek black cook-top that blends right in with the black-quartz countertop. A narrow paneled fridge column blends in with the cabinetry for a discreet presence, and there is ample storage for glasses and serving dishes. And highlighting this serving area is a cool, transparent globe light fixture.

The big story throughout the whole space is color. I was inspired by the incredible colors of Mexican textiles, but I also wanted to add a contemporary flair. So in the clean, white kitchen area, a chili-pepper-red glass tile backsplash brings serious sizzle. On the opposite wall, rich red paint adds depth and makes the perfect backdrop for a vinyl graphic — funky feet for instructional dance steps.

And the brilliant colors continue with the fabrics. The true jumping-off point for the color palette was the accent fabric, a new twist on a floral pattern in spicy red and guacamole green. The vibrant colors also make beautiful cushions for our huge sectional sofa. You see, when the dancing stops, family and friends can curl up on the rich, chocolate-brown sectional to relax, converse or watch TV. Across from the sofa, store-bought, ready-to-assemble cabinetry in espresso and fiery red houses the TV and all the media gear as well as adding much-needed storage. Functional and fabulous, it makes a bold statement and ties in beautifully with the spicy red walls and backsplash tile.

Often, tiny windows are common to basements. But there's nothing common about our cantina. So to add a little more drama, I've covered the small window behind the sofa with a full, wall-sized, translucent blind. It gives the impression that the window is much larger than it is, and the washed linen adds a lovely finishing touch to the space.

With inspiration from Mexico, we said "adios" to Eugenia and Maricela's cold, bland basement. Now it's spiced up, spectacular and ready for a party. How divine!