17 Amazing Ways to Transform Your Basement into a Stunning Space
From major remodels to minor upgrades, here's how to breathe new life into your basement.
Whether it has been relegated to little more than a dusty storage place or you just never got around to doing much of anything with it, the odds are that your basement—more so than any other room in your home—isn't being used to its full potential. Aside from factors like time and money, one of the major reasons that's often the case is simply not knowing what to do with the space, or where to even begin the process of bringing your basement ideas to life.
"Think through how the space will be used now and in the future," says organizing coach and author Lisa Dooley. The opportunities are endless, but the key to taking advantage of them is making sure to be intentional about what you want right from the start, she says. Have a vision, make a plan, and see it through. And to provide some inspiration and help get you started, we've compiled various ways—from total overhauls to minor touch-ups—to transform your basement into the stunning space you deserve.
Add the right lights.
The biggest complaint about basements is the unsettling feeling of being underground, which derives in part from the lack of light.
John Monte, interior designer and owner of Elegant Simplicity, suggests recessed can lights as a good option for brightening things up and creating a more welcoming atmosphere. "We use a simple rule that for every 25 square feet of space, you should have a can light," he says. "For unique spaces or areas where more light is needed, you could also add a ceiling light in the center of the room with cans around it."
And if you really want to get the lighting right, don't let overhead instillations occupy all your focus and budget, advise Karen E. Laine and Mina Starsiak, the mother-daughter duo of HGTV's Good Bones through Trane Residential Partners. "Task lighting, floor lamps, table lamps, and decorative chandeliers are all great for creating atmosphere and helping your chosen theme flow throughout the space," they said.
Work with the little natural light you have.
While it's unlikely that your basement gets flooded with natural light, there are ways to make the most of even the little bit that does shine its way through. Nina Edwards Anker architect, interior designer, and founder of Nea Studio suggests "painting your basement floors glossy white and placing mirrors to amplify daylight." When hung properly, the mirrors will reflect the light and, in a sense, create the illusion of actual windows.
Paint the walls bright colors.
Opting for bright and airy paint colors for the walls is another great way to lighten things up in your basement. It also gives you an opportunity to have some fun by choosing colors that you really love, but are perhaps a bit too bold for the main floor of your house.
"Not only does this help with your efforts towards making it feel brighter, but it also creates the illusion of space," Monte says. "In contrast, darker colors will absorb more light and make your basement feel smaller.
Build a wine cellar.
If you can tell the difference between a cabernet sauvignon and a merlot with just one sip, wouldn't it be nice to have a place in your home to properly store and collect all those bottles you so greatly appreciate and enjoy? Well, you're in luck.
"The dark and cool environment in the basement is perfect for a wine cellar and doesn't require much to get it started," says Keith Melanson, a project manager at RenosGroup, a home renovation company based in Ottawa, Canada. "If you enjoy tasting or collecting wine, there's no doubt that it's worth the effort to indulge and create a space that supports your hobby."
Stylize your storage.
There is certainly nothing wrong with using your basement for storage purposes, but that doesn't mean that it has to be a dark, dank room full of cobweb-covered junk.
"Decorate your basement with shelves and storage furniture—this will allow you to hide all of your unwanted stuff," says Ahmed Ali of Centriq. "Walls with labeled baskets are great as well, especially for storing small items that you can't place anywhere else. This will create a much-needed breathing space in your basement."
Make a game room.
Always envisioned the kind of basement where family and friends gather to engage in some friendly competition? With the right accessories, you can make that vision a reality in no time.
"Add an entertainment console or an old-fashioned arcade machine and turn your basement into a game room," suggests Mark Wood, owner of National Pool Fences. Other fun games to consider might include ping pong, pool, or darts. Toss in a mini-fridge to keep cold beverages on hand, and your basement will be the perfect place for family fun night or any other gathering you may host.
Create a cozy reading nook.
Love to curl up with a good book on a rainy weekend afternoon? Your basement can easily become the perfect place to escape and quietly lose yourself in that novel you can't seem to put down.
"Bookworms like myself would always prefer a quiet, personal space where we can build a library of our favorite titles," says Wood, noting that it wouldn't take too much work to create such an atmosphere. "Just a large couch, ample lighting, and a mini-fridge can make your space a favorite hangout." Upcycle an old wooden ladder to place against your bookshelves, add some decorative candles and a cozy blanket, and you're ready for business.
Open your own home theater.
Skip paying for overpriced tickets and snacks every time you're feeling in the mood for a movie, and transform your basement into your very own theatre.
"Nothing beats the classic home theater basement where family and friends can stream their favorite Netflix shows on a big flat-screen television," Wood says. "Throw in fluffy reclining chairs and set your audio to surround sound for that perfect theater-like viewing experience."
Make a music room.
This basement makeover might appeal to parents with children who are just starting to learn a new instrument or adults who host practices for their rock band. "Make the room ready for recording and uploading your music to YouTube," suggests Wood.
If you're serious about your music career, make sure to get all the essentials, including a digital audio workstation and microphones. Decorate the walls with posters from your favorite bands, add some acoustic panels, and you're ready to rock on.
Swap out your stairs.
Another tactic to tackle the lighting problem faced in most basements is "to work with an architect to create a central 'well' in order to allow more natural light," says Gude Hudson-Gool of Watermark Homes. "You could use the well for the staircase and have glass stairs, which will allow light to pass through and brighten the room with natural light," she says. And if glass stairs are too pricey or not quite your style, you could opt for a spiral staircase that won't impede the light from above.
Add personality to your walls.
Adding decor to your walls can change the feeling of the whole space, helping you and your guests forget you're underground. As a couple of options, Megan Hersch, owner of Studio MG Interiors, says to "consider a peel and stick wallpaper from Walls Need Love or a gallery wall of photos or art." Whatever you decide, the most important thing is finding the right decor to reflect your personality and invoke the environment you want in your basement.
Change your basement with the seasons.
If you live somewhere with four seasons, Monte suggests rotating furnishings from season-to-season to respond to the changes in temperature and allow you to maximize your basement use. "A jute rug or breezy curtains are perfect for a cool and elegantly casual vibe in the summer, but in winter, layer soft rugs, install thicker drapery and add the right color and softness to create the perfect cozy winter wonderland," he says.
Add a rug.
Something as small as adding a rug can make a huge difference. "Basements can seem smaller when they are lined with carpet, try adding a rug to break up the space and make the area feel larger," suggests J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman, a Neighborly company.
Work in vertical lines.
Due to the underground nature of basements and their notoriously low ceilings, it can be a struggle to add height to the space. What you can do, however, is work with what you have by thinking vertically. "Vertical paneling and wainscoting make ceilings look higher than they are," Sassano says.
All too often, the couch that used to reside in your living room and the dresser that began its life in your bedroom end up in the basement. While these pieces might have looked lovely in their original rooms, they are probably too clunky for the basement. Instead, Sassano suggests, try "breaking up the furniture or purchasing new, compact furniture to give your space more dimension."
Alter the air.
Adding a dehumidifier can change the smell, air quality, and temperature of your basement and make the room more inviting and comfortable. "Basements by their very nature tend to be damp and chilly—definitely not the kind of space you want to spend a lot of time in, especially if they start to smell musty," says Courtney Keene, director of operations at MyRoofingPal. "Installing a dehumidifier and either a thermostat or some kind of portable heating and air device in your basement will help tremendously."
Keep it cohesive.
Many people think of their basement as a separate entity from the rest of their home, and you can feel it the moment you descend the stairs.
"I'd advise homeowners to make the design as close to the rest of the house as possible," Keene says. "Finish the walls and floors, bring in decor that matches what's upstairs, and treat the basement as if it's just another room. It helps keep the transition from being so jarring."