Best Uses for a Basement / by Sharon Blaustein

A basement, or cellar-level room, can present a real challenge for designers. They often don't have windows, you may have to navigate around the boiler or other mechanical equipment, and they may have lower ceilings with ducts or overhanging pipes. All of these can be tricky to create a comfortable environment, but we don't believe in wasting space, especially in New York City, and there are tricks you can use to turn this room into a welcoming and useful area. Here are some of our favorite uses for the lower levels of your home! 

Bright Ideas

Without windows, people will often get the impression that a space is smaller and it can immediately feel claustrophobic. The best way to try to counteract this feeling is by bringing in the right amount and style of lights. Recessed lighting installed in the ceilings are a great choice, as this will help to give an impression of a loftier space and will save floor space for other uses. They are also less obtrusive than track lighting, but that can be another good option if you want to have the freedom to move lights around.

We prefer to use LED lights in many of our projects and they are an especially good fit for basements. They emit a lot of light, but they are more energy efficient and give off less heat than traditional incandescent bulbs. We also recommend installing a dimmer with any lights you go for, so you can adjust the settings based on the use. You can also read more of our tips on making a small space look bigger to get other ideas for the overall design of your basement! 

 Adjustable LED light designed for recessed installation.

Adjustable LED light designed for recessed installation.

The Modern Rec Room

A recreation room is a classic choice for a basement. It's been a recurring hang-out spot in many television shows and movies, and it's a definitely a popular option for families. However, instead of allowing your knick knacks and excess furniture to accumulate, going into the task of designing this room with a theme and plan of action will allow for a much more cohesive and aesthetically pleasing effect. 

 The infamous basement from That 70's Show is probably a pretty accurate depiction of the average family basement.

The infamous basement from That 70's Show is probably a pretty accurate depiction of the average family basement.

We take a minimalist approach in our basement designs. Being selective with the furniture that you use will help to keep the space feel more open and more enticing to spend time in. While it may be tempting to keep any extra boxes, seasonal supplies, or whatever else in your basement, nobody wants to hang out in your storage center! If you don't have anywhere else to keep certain items, try to keep things very organized and boxes out of sight, and you can still achieve a modern and welcoming rec room.

 An artistic wallpaper, well-appointed lights with the addition of a mirror and some greenery are all making this an ideal space for entertaining and relaxing.

An artistic wallpaper, well-appointed lights with the addition of a mirror and some greenery are all making this an ideal space for entertaining and relaxing.

For Your Viewing Pleasure

Another fantastic idea that we love for a basement is turning it into a screening room! While inviting guests to a showing at your personal movie theater might sound like a classy evening, this project is actually not much more of an undertaking than any other basement renovation. If you have enough space, you can also section off a smaller section to use for a screening room with pressurized walls.

These days, there are so many options for projectors at any range of price and display, you can absolutely find one that suits your needs and budget. Painting the walls a dark color and installing carpet or an area rug will help with the acoustics. Seating should be comfortable, but that and all other design elements to make it more cozy are up to your tastes! One detail that is also a popular choice is bringing in a vintage popcorn maker for a fun nostalgia feel along with a tasty snack.

 Instead of artwork or photography, we framed vintage movie posters in this basement renovation for an authentic theater impression.

Instead of artwork or photography, we framed vintage movie posters in this basement renovation for an authentic theater impression.

A Space to Relax

The most important thing about the basement is for it to serve a purpose that suits your lifestyle. If nothing calms you down more than organizing your thousands of shoes, then turn your basement into your own personal foot locker! However, we also think that a yoga studio is an inspired transformation for your basement (and your life) and can offer a wonderful space to breathe.

For any kind of workout facility, you want to be certain that the room is properly ventilated, and this is especially true in a basement. They are very prone to issues with moisture and it's important to consult with a contractor before beginning any renovation to ensure that the space is well-insulated and safe for any use. There are also humidity sensors, which you can program to send you alerts if the levels are ever rising.

Paint the walls a color that will help you relax (we love shades of gray), install a laminate flooring (or you can also opt for real wood if you're feeling confident in the humidity levels), hang some mirrors and you're ready to dive into a flow! Another great aspect of a yoga studio is that you can always pull everything up and reuse the room for different purposes should the need ever arise.

 Feeling inspired by this compact and simple studio space at Studio iO in Brighton. 

Feeling inspired by this compact and simple studio space at Studio iO in Brighton.