Help a potential future basement dweller
February 28, 2011 10:21 AM   Subscribe

Considering moving into a basement apartment, just can't get over the basement-ness of it all. Any strategies for making it feel more welcoming?

I'm moving in a couple of months and one of my options is a HUGE ground-floor duplex where most of the living space is in the basement. There's room down there for a living space/office space and separate bedroom.

The two things I'm having trouble getting over are:

1. The lack of natural light. There are two small windows and a door that leads to a set of steps (which leads to the private backyard). The bedroom has no windows, just another door to the back patio. It's not pitch black down there, but definitely not as sunny as I'd like.

2. While the upstairs kitchen/dining is outfitted with nice hardwood floors, the entire downstairs area is this gross tile. It makes the whole environment all the more basement-y.

The space is great (even if the layout is kind of weird) and the price is right, I just wish I could get over the dank feeling of it all. I want it to feel like a home, not a place I go to play WoW for 37 hours straight. How do I get over it?
posted by kmtiszen to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Good lighting, area rugs and hanging curtains/tapestry on the walls, or painting the place in a light, bright colour (if allowed). My den is a finished basement, and we used carpet tiles, red paint & ceiling to floor natural linen curtains to make it non-basement ish.
posted by kellyblah at 10:25 AM on February 28, 2011

You may find a dehumidifier helps if it really feels dank down there.
posted by orange swan at 10:34 AM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Besides what kellyblah said, mirrors can also help maximize the light.
posted by orange swan at 10:35 AM on February 28, 2011

If you live in even a *slightly* humid area make sure you get a dehumidifier! The last basement unit I lived in was awesome, but the tile floors always seemed damp and we eventually had a mold problem. It was gross. Seconding the area rugs and curtains, I'd suggest not only getting lots of good lighting, but make it interesting. In a darker space the lights are going to be centre stage, get some tiffany style or something else that'll throw some colour around. Also start a collection of interestingly framed mirrors and hang them in the darkest corners, they'll help bounce around what light there is making the space look bigger and full of windows. If there's enough natural light for low light house plants get a few, if not get some nice artificial ones. I think nature/gardeny things translate to bright outdoor feelings.
posted by Carlotta Bananas at 10:35 AM on February 28, 2011

Use lots of lamps (no overhead lighting) with incandescent bulbs. Don't let a single fluorescent bulb sully your warm cozy space. Fluorescent bulbs instantly destroy all things good and comforting in this world. Then get a nice big cheap rug. I've gotten a couple from this place, and been thrilled with all of them (quality and price.) Invest a nice big mirror, and put up some real wood shelves for books and plants and unique objects that you feel connected to. Hang some things from the ceiling if possible (a plant or interesting bell or something). I also think strings of white christmas lights carefully strung along the top or bottom of a wall, or around a window, always warm up an area, but you may strongly disagree. I happen to like them. Those are some things that I would do. Good luck!
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 10:37 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know a lighting designer who lives in Seattle. He's got a bank of daylight balanced fluorescent tubes in his office, hidden behind sheer curtains. On rainy days or when he's just feeling down from lack of available light, he turns them on.

Personally, I'd be worried about waking up. I am VERY sensitive to light, and tend to wake with the sun. I put dark curtains on my windows two months ago, and now I sleep in WAY too much.
posted by mollymayhem at 10:41 AM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have a particular hatred for basement apartments ever since my wonderful one flooded. Before you commit to this apartment, be certain it never gets water. Ask the landlord, ask neighbors. If there's any "well, it happened, but only once since I lived here," run!
posted by clone boulevard at 10:42 AM on February 28, 2011

Don't think "basement."

Think "my comfy hobbit hole."

What's in a comfy hobbit hole? It's warm and dry (oil-filled space heater, dehumidifier), there are candles and fabrics and comfy chairs and throw pillows and space to lounge about. Outside, there's a big comfy deck chair, a deck box filled with blankets, and a firepit for cold nights under the stars. Your door has a window on it ($200 at Home Depot), or maybe there's a locking screen door to let in light and air.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:57 AM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

In addition to the good suggestions above, I suggest you consider furnishing the upstairs dining space so that it's 80 percent about hanging out in the areas with natural light and only 20 percent about eating. If it's usually just you, then a small cafe table will do and you'll enjoy having a couch or comfy chairs in the space where you can enjoy the light. You can put your big dining table downstairs instead and create a cozy environment for communal meals there. It will be dark anyway when you host dinner parties and there will be plenty of people to help schlep the food, etc. from the kitchen.
posted by carmicha at 10:58 AM on February 28, 2011

I lived in a basement my senior year in college. Fabrics (rugs, bedding, curtains, wall hangings) helped make it look warmer. I also hung a lot of Christmas lights, college-student style, to make it cheery. In addition to good lighting design (and high-quality fluorescents are FINE in a basement, we just installed them in our tiny-window basement on purpose, they're beautiful), accent lights such as mini paper lanterns or Christmas lights or rope lights or lava lamps or whatever adds some interest and brightens it up a bit.

(We did a cool thing with purple rope lights and SFF movie posters in our basement that looks not collegey at all, just classy-nerd.)

If you're in the US, Target always has all kinds of fascinating accent lights at back-to-school time for dorm-dwellers. We got some adorable paper lanterns and some cute side-table lamps for our basement then.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:03 AM on February 28, 2011

Bright blinds!
posted by K.P. at 11:06 AM on February 28, 2011

Seconding the incandescent bulbs. I don't want to step on any toes, but fluorescent lights lend an instant chill to the room. Maybe it's just the hypersensitive painter in me, but even the nicest fixtures can't change the quality of that light. Lots of people aren't sensitive to it, so maybe it's not a big deal to you. But if you are trying to do everything in your power to warm and cozify a space, opt for warming incandescents (even going so far as one yellow-tinted bulb, or one yellow lampshade somewhere in the room).
posted by wombat stork at 11:10 AM on February 28, 2011

All you people bitching about fluorescent lights really need to learn about color temperature. Your favorite movie, with that beautiful bright daylight on the actresses face? Color corrected fluorescent lights. I can't recommend them for everything, but if you want bright, daylight replicating light, look into daylight tubes (5600K). I'd still use halogen or tungsten lights for task specific lights, but to get a bunch of daylight-y ambient light? Fluorescent.

someone who lights things professionally
posted by mollymayhem at 11:54 AM on February 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

Use lots of lamps (no overhead lighting) with incandescent bulbs. Don't let a single fluorescent bulb sully your warm cozy space. Fluorescent bulbs instantly destroy all things good and comforting in this world.

I live in a basement apartment, and this is absolutely the truth. CFLs are for people with huge windows. For us in the caves, incandescents is the way to go. The GE Reveals are my favorite. I, too, have found mirrors to be helpful in opening up the space.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:54 PM on February 28, 2011

No window in the bedroom would bother me a lot more than the lack if light to be honest.
posted by fshgrl at 12:54 PM on February 28, 2011

Yeah, I live in a basement apartment set-up, and have seasonal worsening of my depression. I use high color temp fluorescents that replicate daylight, in addition to my prescription Sunbox.

Incandescents? Sure, it makes a place look cozy, but I eat chips and sleep on the couch and don't move ever. The last place I lived had artistic incandescent lighting, and I had seasonal depression all summer.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 1:04 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I did three years in a basement flat, +1 on the light walls, mirrors and bright painting on the walls.

The constant temperature is something I still miss. Always warm when you get home in the autumn and winter and cool in the summer, so you can actually get a good night sleep, no matter how hot it got outside
posted by Z303 at 2:22 PM on February 28, 2011

A mirror in a basement can improve things, but only if the lighting is good in that area. If lighting is only so-so, put mirrors horizontally as close to the ceiling as you can. Put the mirror(s) as close to light sources as possible.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 3:12 PM on February 28, 2011

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