Update a Dull Basement, Ask Angie's List

A change of lighting and furniture, and a splash of color, can really change your basement. (Photo by Frank Espich)

In some homes, basements are light and airy with adequate windows and space to help you forget you’re in a subterranean room. Others might need some help. If your basement feels musty and dank, check out these ideas on how to breathe some new life into the space.

It’s all about lighting
Make sure windows are sparkling clean and unobstructed from the exterior to let natural light in, and approach basement lighting as you would any room – just remember you’ll likely need more.

Recessed and under-cabinet lights work well in areas where you might have food and drinks, such as a wet bar or kitchenette. A pendant light or chandelier above a table is ideal for spotlighting the immediate area. Around the TV, use dimmable lighting. Have a cozy reading nook? Put a lamp nearby. Consider a strand of bare-bulb lights or holiday twinkle lights for extra sparkle.

Create open space
Open-concept is all the rage when it comes to primary living, dining and cooking areas. Extend the same idea to the basement to provide a sense of spaciousness.

Start with the stairs. Remove a wall (if structurally possible) to open up at least one side of the staircase and offer a view into the room. Get creative with the beams and support systems to maintain an airy feel. If you need to hide pipes, beams or wires, build a half wall or box to conceal the less-slightly components.

Purposeful decor
Use decor to achieve a warm, yet open and airy feeling. Strategically placed mirrors make the space seem larger, and bounce around the beams from your new lighting scheme, shining light into previously dark corners.

Dress basement windows with normal treatments, which helps the room feel finished. If your basement is cooler, use a ventless fireplace for warmth. These units are typically freestanding, and don’t require a chimney or flue.

Eliminate any remaining “dungeon-like” vibes by bringing in some live plants. Some plants do well in low-light scenarios, and nothing says “fresh” like a touch of flora. Moldings, such as baseboards and chair rails, can also play a big part in defining a space. Select trim that’s appropriately sized to make the room seem bigger.

Embrace color
Lighter paint colors will make the room appear larger, and there’s no need to make everything in the room beige.

Use your neutral-colored walls to feature brightly colored artwork that’s spotlighted with accent lighting. Select furniture pieces that pop – maybe a turquoise couch or hot pink bar stools. Add a complementary colored rug or plush throw pillows for a cohesive look.

Look for a finish, perhaps in a bookshelf or coffee table, that’s luminous and reflects light (without being too glittery…unless that’s your thing, then go for it!).

Let floors and ceiling flourish
You want to reflect light and brighten the space. To accomplish that, choose a polished hardwood, tile or shined concrete that’s sophisticated and somewhat reflective.

Carpet is the typical go-to for a chilly basement, but if your wallet allows and you want to rip out old flooring, consider radiant heat under the new floor.

Paint or stain can go a long way with both the floor and ceiling. Paint bare, exposed rafters for a dramatic effect. Or use a stencil to create a unique pattern and give floors some flair.

By Staci Giordullo, Angie’s List (TNS). Staci Giordullo is a reporter for Angie’s List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit AngiesList.com.