Ask the Expert

Basement design dilemma

Q: We want to maximize how we use our home by creating a usable space in our basement. But with limited light and low ceilings, this lower level feels pretty dark and unappealing. Any tips to help make it feel warm and inviting and, as a result, more usable?

One of my favorite remodel transformations for a client was a dark lower level room with low ceilings. We turned it into an amazing family room/game room by focusing on a few key elements: paint colors, flooring and lighting.

First, embrace the darkness of the room with a strong paint color. Go bold and dark with your wall color – like navy, charcoal, red, chocolate or dark green. I would paint the entire room floor to ceiling in the same color. This brings unity to the room and will make your room appear larger. If you have the option to paint the ceiling, keep it very light so it draws your eye up and will make the ceiling feel higher. Paint color options for the ceiling would be white, cream or a light blue, if it complements the wall color.

The flooring in your room would be beautiful in a luxury wood vinyl. I would recommend selecting a medium color – darker than the ceiling and lighter than the walls. Wood brings a warm and inviting feel to any room. Vinyl plank is durable and, in case of moisture in your lower level, can be removed and reinstalled. Adding area rugs is another great option to bring warmth to the space.

The last key step in your design challenge is the lighting. Selecting fixtures that can either be recessed into your ceiling or have a minimal profile on your ceiling would be ideal. Try to limit any fixtures hanging down from the ceiling to light over a counter or bar area, game table, to highlight art, or other specialty area. The less distraction there is on the ceiling, the less you will notice how low the ceiling may feel. Adding table or floor lamps in the room and having light switches on dimmers can also add a warm and an inviting feeling. Lastly, select a warm color temperature bulb for your fixtures.

Whether you use this room for a theater/game room, office, exercise room or play room, if you follow these three key elements, you can create an inviting and fun space for years to come.

Chanda Wahl is the owner and lead designer at Designer Interiors, based in Soldotna. She has a bachelor’s degree in Interior Design, over 20 years of experience in the design field, and is an ASID member.