We know the situation: You love your cute house, but you simply need more space. Though with today’s unpredictable economy, maybe now is not the best time to pack up and spend big bucks moving to a larger home.
But perhaps it is time to open that creaky door to your unfinished basement.
If your dark and musty basement gives you the heebie-jeebies, you’re not likely to spend any time down there (no matter how crowded it gets upstairs). But if you give it a DIY zhuzh, the basement may just become your go-to hangout spot.
So here’s some budget-friendly inspiration to transform a bare-bones basement into an area so comfy and relaxed you may never move.
Paint, paint, paint!
Painting is one of the cheapest basement improvements you can tackle. A new color on the walls can instantly transform a space.
If picking paint colors paralyzes you, there are a few ways to go here. You may lean toward a palette of whites and neutrals for a fresh and brighter downstairs look. Or you can embrace a dark and moody paint color for an intimate and cozy vibe.
“One of the biggest myths in design is to go with neutral walls when there’s no natural light, but I’m a big fan of the opposite,” says Heather Goerzen, design editor at Havenly. “Dramatic paint is a fail-proof designer method to transform a dingy basement into an intentional space to relax and entertain.”
Cover exposed ductwork and pipes
Unless your basement has a finished ceiling, you’re likely looking at an ugly jumble of exposed rafters, ductwork, and pipes in various textures and colors. So give your ceiling a uniform, clean finish by spray-painting all the exposed elements in one color.
Just remember it’s essential to choose an all-purpose primer on the metal elements to block out stains, discoloration, and peeling.
“Consider lightly tinting the primer if using a color that’s not white,” says Matt Kunz, president of Five Star Painting, a Neighborly company. “The top coat should be a high-quality acrylic paint applied in two coats.”
Spruce up the floor
One of the easiest fixes for a dingy basement is nonslip concrete floor paint. But if you’re feeling a bit more creative, you can turn that depressing concrete canvas into a statement floor. For example, you can stencil on your favorite design, create a checkerboard pattern, or even make a hopscotch game in the kids corner.
“And if you’re going for a seamless paint from wall to wall, allow your color palette to guide you,” Goerzen says. “Perhaps a bold black floor. Or you can embrace a weathered lime wash look with soft sandy tones.”
Other options to consider for all or some of the flooring are peel-and-stick vinyl laminate flooring and interlocking foam mats, which come in various colors and patterns.
Create a cozy seating area
Just because you store your camping chairs in the basement doesn’t mean you have to use them when hanging out there. Instead, buy used furniture on popular secondhand websites.
Then consider adding the affordable tried-and-true Ikea Billy bookcase. You can dress the bookcase up with paint or wallpaper and layer shelves with books, artwork, and your favorite trinkets.
Finally, hang curtains with an easy-to-install ceiling curtain track to define separate areas.
“It’s all too easy to treat a basement as an overflow space with just a hodgepodge of decor, rather than purposefully identifying anchoring elements to create a statement,” says Goerzen.
One solution to create a defined look is to add artwork.
Art can be pricey, but you can pick up inexpensive paintings at garage sales and thrift shops. Or order a print online and use a secondhand frame.
Get creative with mood lighting
Is anything more creepy and sterile than a single bare bulb on the basement ceiling? (No, not really.) So don’t forget to give your light fixtures a little love, too.
“Layered lighting is your best friend when creating a cozy and welcoming space, especially in a basement,” says Goerzen.
Once you have your lamps picked out, Goerzen suggests placing them so that the light falls on different vertical planes. So pair a shaded lamp on a side table with a taller floor lamp next to an accent chair to illuminate the space.
Eliminate the musty smell
Even the swankiest basements aren’t worth spending time in if they smell musty. Yet basements are notorious for holding on to moisture.
“High humidity and moisture are an ideal environment for mold, mildew, and dust mites, which can cause allergy and asthma problems for you and your family,” says Tim Tracy, national sales trainer with Groundworks.
If you don’t have untreated moisture issues, an easy way to get rid of musty smells is with a good dehumidifier.
Just buy one to match the square footage of your basement. Tracy recommends a self-draining unit that empties into an existing gravity drain on the basement floor. That way, you won’t have to remember to empty it when the bucket is full, which could be a couple of times a day in humid climates.
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