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How to Decorate a Basement

Learn How to Lighten and Brighten an Underground Space

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Basement apartment from HGTV's Income Property

RTR Media / Income Property

If you have a basement you probably struggle with the same problems as most people who have basements. They tend to be dark, dreary and hard to decorate. But with the right light, colors and attention to detail a basement can become just as beautiful as any other room in your home. Whether it functions as a rec room, an office, a bedroom or an entire apartment, follow some of these tips to create a beautiful basement.

Light

A layered lighting plan is of the utmost importance in a basement. Low ceilings and little natural light make the majority of basements dark and the only way to counteract it is with proper lighting. Start off with the proper ceiling lights. Pot lights usually work best. Track lighting is an option but if the ceilings are particularly low the tracks can take up valuable space.

Once you've got the ceiling lights, take care of the task and ambient lighting. Use a mix of table lamps, floor lamps and wall sconces. If space permits you can also hang a pendant or chandelier. There likely won't be space in the center of the room, but if you have a dining area or island where there won't be a risk of anyone hitting his or her head, it can be a nice addition.

Color The general rule is that lighter colors are best in a basement. Light and bright fabrics, floors and artwork will help lift up a dark and dreary basement – but they're not the only options. You can certainly go with darker colors as long as you have sufficient lighting.

That said, don't go with a dark color on the ceiling. It will become oppressive and heavy. A good idea is always to go with a lighter shade of the wall color or some version of off-white. It will make the ceiling appear higher which is exactly what you want in a basement. In a basement you want to draw the eye up and create as much height as possible.

Hanging art on the walls is another great way to incorporate color and pattern into a basement. Decide on the look you want and then go for it. Just be sure not to hang your art too high. Hang it at eye level to create the illusion of height above the piece.

Layout

A lot of people simply give up when it comes to the basement. It becomes a dumping ground for extra furniture and other stuff that doesn't have a home on the upper floors. If you want your basement to look good you should abide by the same rules you would upstairs and arrange items appropriately. Consider traffic flow and create conversation areas.

Flooring

When it comes to flooring in the basement there's one very important thing to consider – the dampness. No matter where you live there's a good chance that your basement will be a little bit damp. This is why you don't generally want to use hardwood flooring. The moisture can cause it to expand and become deformed. To get the look without the worry opt for laminate or engineered flooring. There are a lot of great options that look just as good as hardwood.

Whatever flooring you choose (whether it's vinyl, laminate, tile, etc.), continue it throughout the entire basement, even in different rooms. The continuity will make the space appear larger. Whenever you change the flooring it creates a visual break and makes a space appear slightly cluttered.

If you want to add some color and pattern use area rugs or carpet tiles. Wall-to-wall carpet is never a good idea in a basement because of the dampness. A rug can get a bit mildew-y, and if you ever have a leak or flood you'll have to replace the entire thing. It's much easier to get an area rug cleaned if there's ever any water damage.

Window Treatments

Basement windows may be on the small side but they're just as important as the windows in any other room. Fabric window treatments are always great and can be a terrific decorative element, but if you want to maximize light while still maintaining privacy there are some options. Companies like Hunter Douglas and Levolor make solid sheer window treatments that allow the light to filter through while still maintaining your privacy.

Painting Brick Something that's commonly found in certain types of homes (especially those from the 60's and 70's is an old brick fireplace. Occasionally they're beautiful old features that can be left as-is – but more commonly they're dirty, dated and covered in soot. To significantly lighten things up paint the brick. Some people are against the idea of painting brick, but there's no use in holding onto something that can't be cleaned and brings down the whole room. Paint it and you'll be amazed at the difference it makes in your entire basement.

For photo examples of some beautifully decorated basements check out this photo gallery of images courtesy of HGTV's Income Property.

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