Dive below ground level with these easy basement ideas. (Psst – these ideas can also be applied to cellars!)
If you’re blessed to have a home basement, why not turn it into design worthy of using every single day? With just a few key, simple furniture purchases, an old basement can be transformed into a refreshed living room. All you need is a small sofa or sectional, a cozy rug and some counter space – and you’ll be well on your way to hitting home base(ment)!
What Is a Basement, Anyway?
A basement is a room of the house that is below (or partially below) the ground. It can be accessed by stairs and often has no windows. It is usually used for storage space. Finishing a basement with usable furniture and décor, however, is becoming more and more popular in homes with basements.
Basements are most popular in American homes north of the Mason-Dixon line. In snowy climates, the start of a house’s foundation must be below the frost line. This helps to prevent pipes from cracking and freezing. Since the foundation already needs to be so deep, making use of that extra space as an extra room of the house is simply a matter of practicality. (Just because a home is built in a snowy climate, though, does not necessarily mean it will have a basement: It all comes down to the frost line. In Georgia, for example, the frost line is much closer to ground level than colder states, leaving inadequate space for an entire basement. Another reason why some Southern states don’t have basements: Limestone bedrock tends to make up the majority of the ground in certain parts, which can be extremely hard to dig into.)
1. A Quiet Escape
Enter at your own respite! This quiet basement marries relaxation lounging with sophisticated design. First, note the matching accent chairs, bookending the hearth of a fireplace. Second, note the nesting coffee tables – easier to take down a flight of stairs than one big table! Finally, note the “little touches,” like the wall art, cozy rug and end table. Here, each decoration – from the wall art to the mantle decor – is chosen with scrutiny and care for its aesthetic value. Neutral colors, from crisp charcoal to light cream, make this basement one in which it’s easy to decompress.
Image credit: @darlene
More about the look above: This basement design feels open because of the furniture placement. Note how when you enter the room, none of the furniture backs are facing you – everything’s positioned in such a way so that it is easy to access seats, as if the furniture itself is welcoming you. When designing your basement, pay attention to how it feels when you first enter – not just when you’re sitting in it. Basements are notorious for feeling dark and gloomy, but an open entry can have a tremendous impact on a lighter, more open feel. (One last note about the look: There’s no TV! If you have a basement space that’s been collecting dust and are unsure what to do with it, consider transforming it into a lounge/conversation area. In an age of digital screens everywhere, a dedicated basement without any can be just the thing; a space for digital detox and one where you can get away and that’s literally underground!) Best for: Entertaining and hosting guests – but you can also use this space as a reading nook!
What’s the Difference Between a Cellar and a Basement?
Both a cellar and basement are rooms in a house below the ground level. (A basement can be partially below the ground, while a cellar is completely below the ground.) The main difference between the two is in purpose. A basement is a room that can be used for lounging or as a bedroom or spare room. A cellar is designed for storing wine. Whereas it is possible for some basements to see sunlight, a cellar will be closed off completely to natural light for the purposes of wine storage.
How to Use Your Basement as a: Game room. Just picture this: Foosball table in one corner, air hockey in another, gaming console in a third and a pool table smack dab in the middle. (Hey, one can dream!) A basement is kind of the perfect place for kicking with friends and gaming. It’s tucked away from the rest of the household members (a plus if you and your family tend to have different sleep schedules); this same underground seclusion also makes it partially soundproof – so you and your friends can hoot and holler and cheer all you want, as loud as you want, without worrying about disrupting any other household member who may be just upstairs.
2. Basement Bar
Whether you’re working with a wine cellar that has been designed for the preservation of wines and spirits – or simply an empty basement you want to transform into an underground bar, getting started with decor is easy. Start with the big things: First, choose bar stools and floating shelves or a wall-mounted storage case. Even if you already have the storage built into a bar, you’ll want above-the-bar shelving to display bottles and decor. Secondly, choose wall décor like the mirrors and sconces shown above. Finally, finish off with counter décor. Above, the decorations on the bar itself is kept to a minimum for a cleaner feel. Image credit: @blytheinside
3. Chill Out
The basement of the meditator’s dreams, this look credits a bunch of throw pillows, placid wall art and a spacious sectional for its laidback feel. Except for the coffee table, the entire look is almost in black and white and grayscale, and the natural look of the coffee table delivers a brighter punch because of it. Another key detail about this look is the floor lamp – its black stand blends in perfectly with the art frames, which creates an aesthetic magnetism. The eye is also drawn to the sofa’s legs, which also match with the frames and the lamp! The lesson here is to match your details – you’ll get more definition and cohesion. Image credit: @yarabou
How to Use Your Basement as a: Home theater. Another perfect way to use a basement: a home theater! It’s naturally dark, so no need to draw the shades – all that’s left to do is hit ‘play’ and pass the popcorn! (For seating, try these home theater recliners; it’ll be hard to tell the difference between your home theater basement and an actual movie theater!)How to Use Your Basement as a: Home bar. Keeping wine bottles in a basement is as practical as it gets; The ‘underground’ factor keeps the air colder, and temperature swings are kept to a minimum (if not completely obliterated). But serving drinks in a finished basement is also as cozy as it gets. Make sure to outfit it with a woodsy home bar and bar stools, wine storage and countertop décor for an extra-stylish feel.
4. For the Collector
This basement is for the collector, period. It’s full of fun things everywhere you look – and yet organized and fresh thanks to practical shelving, stylish pillows and accent chair and a light, bright table. We’re loving how the games and collectibles shine as décor in their own rights – and the giant wall shelving hutch to tie them all together. Also, take a look at the corners; plants are incorporated everywhere you look and in even the smallest of spaces, from the potted plants on the shelves to the hanging plant on the right. Since most basements don’t have much natural light, opt for plants that thrive in dark spaces: Snake and Zanzibar gems (also known as zeezee plant) are the best! Image credit: @danie_does
How to Use Your Basement as: A bedroom. Use a basement as a bedroom. Whether you need the extra space for yourself or as a guest room, all you need to do is outfit the space with a bed and nightstand to really channel the space as one deigned for sleeping and decompressing. Another bonus to this is that most basements are dark: If you’re one to sleep in past sunrise, you won’t have any need to invest in light-blocking curtains!
How to Use Your Basement as: Wine storage. If you have a lot of wine to store, you don’t need to transform your basement into a home bar, you can also simply use it as a wine cellar of sorts. (If you’re the real connoisseur, you can even store barrels of wine!) You can even make it one that guests will love to tour. Incorporate shelves to display your most aesthetic bottles. Opt for decorative wine crates, racks and coolers (for serving and sampling). Hang art of food and drink to match the theme (and incite the appetite). (If your basement gets musty during wetter months, you may need an air purifier or dehumidifier for the sake of the wine and any wood storage containers or crates.)
This look proves that the bedroom-as-basement doesn’t have to look like a dungeon, and it doesn’t have to feel like living in Mom’s basement (even though it might be). Rather, it’s here to show you how living in a basement can be just as stylish as any master bedroom – if not more! To start, it’s got the space (most basements are big)! It’s also got the lighting, a seating area, a wall art gallery and incredible wood floors. Table lamps combined with recessed lighting create a bright and airy space, and metallic details, from the nightstands to the frames, reflect the light.
When decorating your own bedroom basement, consider placing a sofa; this will give it more of an immediate “living area” feel. (When living in a small space, “destinations” are important. Adding a sofa will help you to mentally separate the work/study/reading/tv-watching area from the place where you sleep.) Finally, notice the walls; they’re not white, but rather a calm, cozy shade of cream. Image credit: @built.in.style
Keep the Basement Clean – Even if No One Will Ever See It!
What’s perhaps the most important decoration you see in the image above, though, is not a decoration at all: It’s tidiness! This is huge, because technically, it doesn’t have to be kept tidy. After all, guests don’t exactly flock to the basement! A basement isn’t the first thing guests see in a home; in fact, it may never be seen. It’s out of the way, often hard to get to – and even if it weren’t those things, it’s the basement, the room of a house with a lot of connotation. Guests and even family members may avoid it – consciously or subconsciously – simply out of respect for privacy. They may also avoid it because it’s the basement, a room that suffers, thanks to TV and movies, a lot of bad press. Art and pop culture tend to spin this room as antisocial, where one goes to avoid society. It’s also often the case that the basement is where the “monsters” are. All of these stereotypes, of course, are just that: stereotypes! Crush the stereotypes. Keep your basement tidy, even if no guest ever does visit; your own sanity (and personal style) will be all the better for a cleaner basement.
6. Basement Art Gallery
This basement’s art gallery is so fun, because of everything in it. Include these things in your next gallery project: (Image credit: @galloway.estate)
- Clocks. Clocks are timeless (well, in a sense). Even if you ignore for a moment their amazing ability to tell the time! to keep society from collapsing!, they’re simply beautiful. A circle of numbers feels infinite yet simple. In a basement art gallery, it grounds.
- Framed art. Frames can really take your basement from “basement” to “sophisticated living room.” When you have a lot of pictures and paintings together, it can be disorienting. Frames are the decorator’s tool for defining each piece and preventing the whole from feeling like a dizzying sea of art.
- Color blocking. Play with colors. In the wall above, there’s red, brown, blue, black and gold, just to name a few! Do this especially if your wall art is above a sofa and the sofa is neutral – colors will help define the space. Paintings and photographs themselves will naturally bring color, but also try invoking splashes of it through frames.
- Typography art. If you spend a lot of time in your basement, stay inspired with typography art. (Typography art is art with lettering – sentences, phrases or simply single letters.) Shown above is a feature of the letter “G.” Choose single letters to signify the initial of a family surname or your first name. You can also try art that sends a fuller message. Think: ‘Keep on and Carry On’ posters of ten years ago, but in a more sophisticated canvas-and-frame, and with a less overdone message.
- Paintings. Lately, it seems that wherever there is a wall gallery, there’s a rule that says you have to have a painting of a scenic landscape. But remember, sometimes, rules are for breaking! Unless you do want a scenic landscape, try something different. A portrait of a goat. A close-up of a pineapple. A rendering of a classic car. Incorporate your favorite things and hobbies to make a basement gallery personal.
- Photographs. Variety is the spice of life. With paintings, disperse photographs. These can be photographs you’ve taken for a personal touch, photographs of you and family/friends on vacation and of memories you want to showcase. These can also be photography canvas – the photography version of an artist’s painting. As mentioned in the last point, choose subjects that appeal to you – not just what you think should be in a gallery!
7. Going Darker
For the smaller basement, a smaller, curated living set like this one is your best bet. You can still have a sectional, just downsize it. You can still have accent seating, just opt for one chair instead of two. And if you really want the second chair but don’t have the space, try a pouf; in the image above, a leather pouf looks so pretty, you’d almost be surprised to find out just how comfy/cozy it actually is! Also note the use of darker colors; it creates a cozier feel. Furry throw blankets, a short-pile rug and a distressed-texture wooden coffee table add comfort. Image credit: @Rhea Kuban
How to Use Your Basement as a: Home office. When working from home, it’s essential that you have a space where you won’t get distracted; If you’re working from home and own a finished basement, consider yourself lucky! Add to it a desk and comfortable desk chair if it doesn’t already have them; When the basement door’s closed and your 9-5 starts, focusing on your work will be easier than ever.
How to Use Your Basement as a: Reading nook. If you’re a reader, you know the simple pleasure that comes from a quiet spot. A basement is the perfect place for cozying up to a good book. Combined with a bookcase or shelves storing all your favorite books, you’ll want to furnish it with your favorite reading chair, a cozy pouf (for a footrest) and an end table (for placing a mug of your favorite beverage). A soft pillow and blanket are just extras – but will really make the look. Once your nook is all set up, close that basement door and get to reading uninterrupted!
Basement Home Office Ideas
In a way, the basement is the perfect place for a home office setup, since it’s quiet, removed and dark (read: non-distracting). Use this space for a desk and office chair, sans TV, for a focused WFH setup. While basements are dark, and while darker environments are helpful for focus, straining your eyes is a bad thing for number of reasons, so: if you are going to work down below, make sure to incorporate a desk lamp or overhead lighting for ease of reading!