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If you are new to my blog, Welcome! I’m so happy you’ve stopped by I’m Jana Donohoe, an interior designer in Fayetteville, North Carolina, mom of 3 busy kiddos and Peloton addict! I’m making over my walk out basement into a proper home gym and an inspiring basement patio area for this challenge.

Not Familiar with the One Room Challenge

The One Room Challenge is a bi-annual event where interior designers, bloggers and design enthusiasts participate in transforming a space of their choice and blog about it every week for 6 short weeks, but this ORC we have been given 8 weeks due to the unprecedented times we are facing. I will be sharing my progress every Thursday for the next 8 weeks. So be sure to watch for those weekly updates. 

Catch up on week one here and week two here.

Can you dig it? Ya, I can dig it!

Much of this last week I spent digging in dirt, digging in dirt and even more digging in dirt. I think we probably dug up at least 30-40 wheelbarrows full of dirt in order to get our retaining wall the required depth it needed to be for support and water drainage. If anyone needs a good workout I have one I can recommend. It’s called power shoveling total body workout. This activity can burn 300-600 calories an hour and build some serious muscle! 💪🏋️‍♀️

DO I even need a home gym anymore? But seriously though, digging is hard work!

After we got the trench dug deep enough for the retaining blocks we had to add a mixture of gravel and sand at a min. of 6” deep. That equaled 1000 pounds of gravel we shoveled in the trench below. Holy gravel batman!! And we have 3000 more pounds to go.

The gravel base is an extremely important step in this process. Because we have clay soil here in NC this gravel base will help with water drainage and prevent the wall from moving or shifting to much when the pressure of the soil on the back side is pushing on the wall. We had to tamp down the gravel in several layers to compact it and level it out.

Finally, after leveling out the gravel we were able to lay the first row of blocks, making sure each and every block was lined up and level. The next few rows went very easily since the base layer was level it made stacking the rest uncomplicated. Until we realized we were missing several parts of our order. 1. The corner blocks for turning in for our 2nd row of blocks AKA the planter area and 2. The finishing top caps.

Then the rain started and has not stopped most of this week. Making an outdoor project hard to work on in mud and rain. So this saga will have to be continued into this weekend . Then we will immediately be onto the ground level deck. I guess it’s a good thing we have a long weekend coming up!

I hope things start to move a little quicker from here on out.

In other news…if you missed my post on IG stories about our new basement doors. Here they are. So much better don’t you think! They actually properly fit in the original opening. I opted for french doors with side lites to fill out the entire opening and let in as much natural light as possible.

I really, really wanted the accordion exterior doors but $6000 for doors was WAY out of my budget. If I make that kind of investment in doors, it is going to be my forever home. We would never see the ROI in this house.

Basement Patio Checklist

  • Level ground for deck and retaining wall✔

  • Install new french doors to gym ✔

  • Build retaining wall – Working on it

  • Build ground level deck with Trex

  • Install recessed lights in deck ceiling

  • Install Deck Ceiling system

  • Build storage under deck

  • Pressure Wash

  • Paint deck posts, storage slats, railings and door

  • Build New Swing set for kiddos

  • Refinish existing outdoor sofa frame

  • Reupholster existing outdoor sofa with sunbrella

  • Buy new outdoor lounge chairs ✔

  • Plant new bushes and flowers in ground and pots

  • Install solar lights


Work on the basement gym has been minimal since we have been focused on the outside space. But I did manage to remove all the old flooring and carpet from the stairs along with the hundreds of staples.

The plumbers also came by this week and we devised a plan to update pipes to PVC and reroute them to help minimize the amount of space I have to drop down the ceiling height. I only have 91” as it is and having to drop anymore is not ideal for gym height, forget lifting anything above your head, especially if you have a 6’3′ husband.

We also discovered our bathroom down there is completely blocked up and will need special equipment to go into all the pipes -we think to cut out roots that have taken over them. OH the joys of this business! Luckily I am not focusing on the basement bathroom but we do need to get it operational again.

After the plumbing is completed I can get my carpenter to frame out the closet under the stairs. Then on to electrical, sheet rock, paint, flooring and finishing touches.

Basement Gym Checklist

  • Demo Old floor and carpet on stairs ✔

  • Re-do/reroute plumbing line- Plumbers working on it

  • Frame out new closet under stairs and around ductwork

  • Add installation in ceiling for added noise barrier and heat/cooling

  • Run New electrical for lights

  • Sheet Rock and mud Ceiling

  • Install new LVP floors

  • Paint ceiling, walls, trim and stairs

  • Order and install artwork

  • Order New workout rug/mat

  • Order wall mural ✔

  • Install Wall Mural

This week was a bit slower then I would have liked but we still made progress. I hope this time next week I will be able to add at least 4-6 check marks to my lists above.

Check back for week four updates, and if you’d like please subscribe to my blog to follow along and watch for my weekly progress posts in your inbox. Be sure to follow along on Instagram and my instagram stories for behind the scenes sneak peeks and shenanigans.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read my posts and leave me your comments. I appreciate it!


Fayetteville, North Carolina

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Comments (5)
  • Ashley
    | 22 May 2020

    You are going to be a busy beaver! Can’t wait to see this transformation!

  • Janet Lorusso
    | 22 May 2020

    Oh. my. gosh. You could not PAY me enough to do all that digging and hauling – exercise benefit or not! I’m super impressed! And even more impressed that you know what you are doing with regard to that retaining wall and all that it requires! It’s great to check things off the list, isn’t it? 🙂

  • What a workout 🏋️‍♀️ I can’t wait to follow along on this space !

  • Suzi Rugg
    | 23 May 2020

    Yes totally agree, these doors will be great for this house- get the forever doors for your forever house!

  • Ilse Benard
    | 24 May 2020

    Wow you are working hard! Looking forward to seeing the end results!

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