8 Brilliant Decorating Tips To Brighten Your Basement
H&H’s Lauren Petroff shares her best tips to brighten your basement.
There’s a reason basements are scary places: decorating down there can mean contending with low ceilings and dim corners, weird bulkheads and chilly concrete floors. But the bottom floor doesn’t have to be at the bottom of the design heap. Given the same consideration as other rooms, the basement can become just as stylish as a main-floor living or family room. With easy fixes like fresh paint, thoughtful lighting and finishing touches like area rugs and artwork, any basement can be transformed into a space you’ll actually want to spend time in. Here are design editor Lauren Petroff’s top tips on brightening your basement.
Start by installing pot lights on the ceiling throughout the entire space for a good base level of light. They’re low profile, so they won’t make the ceiling look any lower than it already is, and you can put them on dimmers if you’ll be watching TV in the basement and want a home-theatre effect. Add floor and table lamps for ambient lighting.
Let’s face it: most basements are dark spaces. To instantly brighten yours, paint all the walls white or another very light color. The monochrome look will help the eye skip over any odd angles or bulkheads so the space appears larger. In this home office, white cabinets, desks and even lamps seem to blend into the walls, making the room feel sleek and airy.
When there’s lots of contrast between the walls, floor and ceiling, it makes the walls look shorter and the ceiling feel lower. Paint the ceiling and any columns or bulkheads the same color as the walls (preferably the fresh white hue mentioned in the previous tip!). Choose a flooring material that’s the same color as the walls or complementary, like these concrete-look porcelain tiles.
Breaking up the basement with different floor materials makes the space look cluttered; choosing just one material makes the space look larger. Polished concrete is a good choice for its durability and modern look. If you’re concerned about it feeling cold, install radiant heating underneath, and add color and pattern with area rugs.
In a space with little natural light, brick’s natural red-orange tones can look dark and dingy, so painting a fireplace (or brick feature wall) white can significantly lighten the room. To keep it from looking stark, add warm accents like this vintage chandelier and natural-toned rug.
It’s tempting to use the basement as a dumping ground for the items you can’t store upstairs, from unwieldy furniture to books you’ll definitely read again. That’s fine! Just make sure to add built-in storage like closets and bookshelves to conceal clutter. Here, shelves backed by horizontal panelling have a rustic feel, and Shaker-style cabinet doors keep the look relaxed.
You wouldn’t leave the walls bare in any other room and expect it to feel vibrant and warm. Artwork is a great way to add personality to your basement, and this abstract painting is full of color and movement. Hang it at eye level to give the impression of higher walls.
Basements may come in textures of concrete or linoleum and faux-wood panelling, but natural finishes help them feel more welcoming. Bring in organic elements and tones like sisal and wood that have tactile appeal, like this wood stool with a beautiful grain, and a vase of fresh flowers or small potted succulent for a hit of greenery.