How to turn a basement into a homey hideaway

Whether you are looking for basement ideas for finishing your own family room, setting up an income basement apartment suite you can rent out, or setting up your own basement apartment, the challenges are the same. The basement space is one of the most challenging parts of a home to make feel inviting. They typically suffer from a lack of natural light, low ceilings, and less air flow than most would like. Luckily, there are ways to make this space not only livable, but desirable and inviting. Whether you are fully remodeling, looking for ideas to make a small basement space into a getaway, or trying to transform a basement apartment into a space that will attract a high quality tenant, you have lots of options to take any basement space from drab to fab.

Fake it til you make it. Is your basement room windowless? Whether it’s lacking entirely in windows (or just lacking a good one), don’t despair – you can fake it. This tutorial shows a creative way to make a basement room feel bright through faking a window.

Fake Window With LED Grow Lights
Finished Product from This Tutorial on IMGUR

Create height. Are your ceilings low? Floor length curtains (typically curtains that are 96” or 108” will be floor length, but measure your ceilings to be sure) will lengthen the look of your room. Be sure to select a sheer or semi-sheer curtain if putting it in front of a natural light source. Stay away from heavy fabrics that will shut out light entirely. If your window is in a high traffic area, and you need to obscure it for privacy reasons, consider an unconventional window treatment for privacy rather than curtains or blinds that will block out the light more than is necessary. This tutorial shows how you can create privacy without losing much in the way of light (that is easy to remove if you are renting).

Cornstarch and Lace Window Treatment
Cornstarch and Lace Window Treatment Tutorial via

Add some green. Dark rooms, especially in a basement, can feel lifeless. Nothing livens up a room quite like plants. They clear the air, and make a space come alive. It can be hard to have plants in a basement, but luckily, there are several options that thrive in the dark. If none of these options are to your liking, or if you don’t have enough natural light to grow plants, consider adding a grow light to add more options. Some ideas for your basement abode (or any dark space):

Peace Lily
Peace Lily via

Peace lily thrives in low light, and makes a dramatic statement. If you have pets or children who might nibble plants, this one is toxic.

Snake Plant
Snake Plant via The Sill

The snake plant does great in the relative dark, though is also somewhat toxic (but not particularly appealing to chew on, as it has a very woody texture).

Spider Plant
Spider Plant via

The spider plant can tolerate low light, and when happy, will produce many “babies”. Spider plants are a great choice to hang near a window.

ZZ Plant
ZZ Plant via Gear Patrol

ZZ plant thrives in the dark, and makes a stylish but low maintenance house plant. All parts of this plant are toxic, and hands should be washed after handling it.

Keep it light. Choose a light paint colour, but don’t create an entirely white space – be sure to add some contrast and visual interest so the space doesn’t seem institutional or boring.

Play with lighting. Create defined spaces with multiple light sources from different angles. Having some floor lamps, table lamps, or candles (real or otherwise) makes a space feel much cozier than if your overhead lighting is all you use.

Contemporary basement bar lighting
This contemporary basement bar uses lighting to define a space. See more at Decoist.

Create a focus. It could be a dramatic piece of art, a mantle, contrasting colours, or some interesting wall paper. If the room has a clear feature to work with (like an exposed brick wall or other visually interesting details), go with it; if not, figure out where the focus in the room should be, and draw the eye in. This could be as simple as some interesting throw pillows, or as elaborate as the fake window above.

Stay away from carpets and rugs. If you are installing a new floor, choose something that will reflect the light. Hardwood is an ideal choice, but this is not always possible in basements. Consider painting a concrete floor with a semi-glass paint, or buffing the floor if you can. Carpets, though warm and inviting, will make a basement space seem smaller (and if your basement is at all damp or prone to flooding, they can get very musky).

Reflect & refract. Add mirrors to make the most of any natural light you might have. Hang mirrors opposite any windows or doors that let light in, or use mirrored tiles to create a cool modern look. If you have a deep window well, you could also experiment with mirrors or mirrored art objects that will catch the light and refract it in in unexpected ways.

Banish clutter. Find storage solutions like armoires and storage chests to keep any knick knacks out of sight – or even better yet, sell them on Kijiji!

Let the sun in. Clear out plants and objects outside in front of windows. It seems like a no-brainer…but if your windows are being blocked by hedges, flower beds, or a fence, clear it out if you can. It will make a big difference to the total amount of light you receive.

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