An Interior Designer Turned Her Basement Into the Perfect Work-From-Home Space

Natural textures and layered light sources brighten Rasheeda Gray’s subterranean studio.

home offices dining room

The glitzy chandelier, set on a dimmer, was original to the house, and Rasheeda Gray repurposed it from the dining room. The mirrored closet doors serve two purposes: They reflect light back into the basement space and give it the illusion of being larger than it is. To make the space feel homey, Gray opted for dining chairs from Meridian Furniture instead of sterile office seating. The padded barrel backs provide additional comfort. Photograph by Rebecca McAlpin

This office was featured in our “The Art of the Home Office” article. See more home office design inspiration here.

It took a few years (and some readjustments in their main living spaces) for Cheltenham interior designer Rasheeda Gray to convince her husband to give up his basement man cave, but her new business was booming — after a long stint in marketing, she launched Gray Space Interiors Design in 2016 — and she needed more room to accommodate client visits, blueprint reviews and her growing staff.

So out went the recliner sofa and Eagles green wall stripe, and in came a contemporary, clean-lined studio. The changes were largely superficial — a palette-cleansing wash of white wall paint, a statement peel-and-stick floral wallpaper from Etsy vendor Coloritto to serve as a backdrop for Zoom meetings — and also budget-conscious: Instead of investing in built-ins for storage, Gray ran four Ikea Kallax units (not pictured) the entire length of one wall; woven shades covering glass-block windows are from Home Depot.

The room’s statement pieces include a multifunctional Transformer Table, which can contract to 18 inches and expand to 118 (necessary for keeping a six-foot distance during group brainstorms), and African Princess, an oversize photograph from wholesaler Revelation that inspired the room’s design. “It feels powerful and feminine at the same time,” Gray says. “I wanted to curate that feeling in the office as well.”

Still, Gray couldn’t fully commit to working underground without a few key comforts in place, and neither should you. Good lighting, of course, is crucial: Here, a central chandelier, recessed ceiling bulbs, and LED strips hidden in the tray ceiling make up for the lack of sunshine. Gray also recommends adding an electric purifier to circulate the air and a portable heater for colder months, to keep things warm and toasty.

Rasheeda Gray of Gray Space Interiors, Jenkintown
Style philosophy: Timeless yet contemporary, with hints of global influence
Secret Philly resource: Abington’s Bardol Wall Covering for perfect-every-time wallpaper hanging
Best WFH advice: A footstool does ergonomic wonders during long hours at the computer.

Published as “If You … Want to Convert Your Basement” in “The Art of the Home Office” in the December 2020 issue of Philadelphia magazine.