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Basement Remodeling

Designing a Better Basement

By March 15, 2011December 6th, 2022No Comments

Tips for Creating a Lovely and Livable Lower Level

by Mina Fies

While a finished basement is often a project that occurs after a house has been built, it doesn’t have to feel that way.  Most home owners want their basements to feel cozy, comfortable and inviting and less like a basement. Here are six great ways to make your basement lovely and livable.

1. Use Multiple Design Scheme Choices

Avoid finishing the entire space with one design scheme.  Painting or decorating the whole basement the same way will make it look like one giant room that was finished as an after-thought.  You can vary the design in many ways.  For example, separate the space into a few rooms or use furniture in a way that creates a few separate areas.  Also, vary the wall colors in each space to add interest and personality.

2. Flooring Options

Certain floor types such as vinyl, tile and carpet have been the go-to flooring materials for basements because they are easy to install over concrete.   However, there are now other materials to consider. Carpet tiles are easy to install and unlike wall-to-wall carpet, colors and patterns can be alternated to create a custom look.

Want a more rustic look? Then engineered hardwood is a good consideration.  It is composed of a veneer over a few layers of pressed wood and is preferable material to hard wood because it does not expand and warp as much.  For a less expensive option, consider laminate with an image of hardwood printed on a rigid core and sealed with resin.  As technology has improved over the years, laminate products have become more and more authentic-looking.

3. Windows

To give your basement a homey ‘upstairs’ feel, take as much advantage of natural light.  Don’t obscure windows with drapes that are too heavy.  Use light-weight window treatments or none at all.  If your space lacks windows, consider digging an attractive light well outside the foundation wall.  Another less-expensive option is to create false windows by framing recesses in the wall and fitting them with daylight-spectrum fixtures.  Cover the recesses with a translucent material or blinds to mimic the look of real windows.

4. Wall Treatments

One of the issues with finished basements is that they can feel large and cavernous and lack personality.  Built-in niches and wall-mounted or wall-washing light fixtures are great ways to combat this.  These small additions can make a big impact.  Artwork, wall cabinetry, built-ins, and furniture pieces that draw the eye up break up the space by adding vertical interest and give your basement a main-level feel.

5. Color Choices

Light paint colors will make your basement feel airier and larger, whereas dark colors will decrease the perceived size of a room.

6. Lighting

Make sure that your walls receive adequate light.  Use multiple light sources, including some that wash the wall.  According to lighting designer Lisa Barter, “[recessed] can lights, unless they are adjustable or wall wash fixtures, typically don’t put sufficient light on vertical surfaces, which is where the eye perceives light.”  Consider cove or up-lighting to reflect light off the ceiling as well, and use lamps or accent lights to do away with shadowy corners.

With these tips to guide you and the help of your designer, your finished basement will be just as enjoyable and receive just as much use as the original levels of your home.  Infuse it with a little inspiration and a healthy dose of personality, and it might even receive more.

Synergy D&C: Designing a Better Basement 1

Above is an example of a light well framed by landscape timbers.  From

Synergy D&C: Designing a Better Basement 2

A finished basement with lots of visual interest on the walls: light, color and built-ins.  From HGTV


© Mina Fies is the Founder and CEO of Synergy Design & Construction, Inc.  To learn more about Mina or request your FREE Kitchen Remodeling Roadmap™ using our contact us page, please visit

This article may be reprinted when the copyright and author bio are included.

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