Unbasement my basement
August 30, 2006 12:21 AM   Subscribe

Help me make my new basement room feel like a non-basement room. Specifically, paint, lighting, and other decorating ideas.

So I'm moving into a new place and it's slightly underground. It has reasonably-sized windows but they start halfway up the wall. Some light gets in but not as much as a normal above-ground. The whole place looks kind of bleh because it has dark beige carpets and light beige walls. Also the overhead light in my room is hospital-bright so it feels very artificial. I want to make it look brighter, funkier, more lively. It's not really that bad right now but I think it could be a lot better. (I've never done any decorating before.)

I can repaint the walls - they are due for a new coat anyway, so the landlord will pay - though I will probably have to paint them back when I move out, probably in two years, so I should avoid colors that will take four coats to apply and four to paint over. I saw this thread which is great - any further suggestions for colors?

Lighting-wise, a friend is going to sell me a few lamps. I thought maybe if I used the lamps instead of the overhead light, or maybe in combination with the overhead light using a lower-wattage bulb. then it might feel more warmer and more welcoming. Any thoughts?

Other ideas - plants. I think having a bunch of plants would help. Though I don't know if they'll get enough sunlight? those near the window will be fine but elsewhere I don't know. Would houseplants thrive on artifical light? I've never owned any before!

posted by PercussivePaul to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Lamps are definitely better—I prefer them greatly to overhead lights. That said, definitely get at least a torchiere or two with bright "daylight" bulbs to make sure you have enough light to see and to combat depression, which can set in without enough light. (See Seasonal Affective Disorder...) Don't use fluorescents if you can help it...
posted by limeonaire at 12:25 AM on August 30, 2006

I know it's pretty obvious, but get a few mirrors where ever you can. They'll help a little with space and light problems. Some crazy bright art on the walls might also help 'brighten up' the place.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 12:29 AM on August 30, 2006

Plants would be good, but you want to get something that doesn't need lots of direct sunlight. This is a good place to start.

In case the article doesn't work for you (RS's website is wonky about subscriptions), the plants they recommend are the ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema), and the cast-iron plant (Aspidistra elatior).

My current basement apartment (English style) is a buttery yellow color, which seems to work pretty well. I'd recommend warm colors over cool ones, which might just look bleak in low light. Yellow looks great in lamp light, and you can experiment with colored lampshades—my favorite one has an orange/red striped shade, which makes for lovely warm light.
posted by timetoevolve at 12:40 AM on August 30, 2006

I second the mirrors, get nice framed ones and if possible place them so that they reflect from the few windows you do have.

I'd also make use of fresh flowers whenever possible. Keep some in a vase on the table or coffee table to brighten up your cave a lil bit. ;-)

Get a dehumidifier and run it - it will help prevent mold growth in a basement apartment and also help with the musty-basement smell.

In your lamps, make sure you are getting bulbs that shine true white rather than yellow - it will help. If you have plants, use full-spectrum bulbs.
posted by tastybrains at 6:02 AM on August 30, 2006

Also, lamps that start at the floor would be a good idea (like these). That way you get light on the floor, not just shadows of the objects you set the lamps on. Hanging lights are nice too.
posted by blackkar at 6:33 AM on August 30, 2006

Oh my word, you are me. *I* just moved into a basement apartment with no natural light (two very small windows). Definitely paint fun colors, get colored rugs, and do not use the overhead light. Get lots of lamps instead. Flowers and plants help. And yes, things do get moldy quicker, so a demudifier is probably a good idea (I haven't gotten one yet, but probably should/will).

Some pics of my new place. Still in progress.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:34 AM on August 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

Also get some DampRid and stick it in your closets to de-moldify.
posted by radioamy at 8:50 AM on August 30, 2006

You're definitely right to get plants; they make a place homey fast. Get advice from a local nursery with experienced staff. Philodendrons have nice big leaves, they can grow big and traily, and they're hard to kill (most common mistake to avoid is overwatering).

Any possibility of getting rid of the beige carpet? You could also put down an oriental-type or other patterned rug on top of the beige to demark your main sitting area; I find this helps make a place feel more pulled-together and homier.

Depending what your window situation is, you could get brightly colored (eg bright orange rough silk?) curtains, which would always be pulled to the side, to frame the window and catch the light.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:23 AM on August 30, 2006

Is there any possiblity your landlord would let you have an electrician replace your overhead light switch with a dimmer switch ?? Could you afford to pay for it yourself ?? Might help convince him.

Your landlord would have to give him access to fuse box/circuit breakers. If the circuits aren't clearly marked, it's possible that power could be interrupted to other tenants while the electrician is working.

I have dimmer switches on all my overhead lights at home, and I LOVE them.
posted by marsha56 at 10:06 AM on August 30, 2006

I saw on HGTV a way to make windows look bigger - put shutters on the window and open them, then put the same kind of shutters below the window and close them. It will fool your mind into thinking that the windows are really big and go all the way to the floor.

If you like the idea of shutters you could have a Caribbean theme to the room.
posted by cda at 11:25 AM on August 30, 2006

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