Transform your basement into a living area, laundry, bathroom or workspace you can use now — without a full renovation
We’re always looking for more space in our homes, it seems, whether for extra storage, an additional living zone or a new spot to decorate. Often, valuable space can be found in the basement, but fully developing this square footage can be expensive. Add up the costs of framing, flooring, drywall, electrical and finishes, and your project may run into the thousands of dollars. Introduce new decor, and you’ve got an even pricier endeavor.
But there are ways to enjoy that below-grade space while avoiding the hefty price tag of a full remodel. Partially finishing your basement can offer warmth, style and comfort, as well as that extra space you’re craving. Here is how to get the most out of an unfinished basement without breaking the bank.
Keep the ceiling exposed. This smart basement renovation reveals a key secret to enjoying a partially finished basement: Keep the ceiling open. We don’t all have the advantage of deep basements with high ceilings, and we need all the help we can get, height-wise. While there are some stylish drop-ceiling panels now available, keeping the ceiling joists open and painting them a bold color, such as black, creates the illusion of depth, helping the ceiling to recede and become less noticeable. The added advantage is that your wiring is available to you without having to cut into drywall.
Ditch the drywall. A shot of this basement from a different angle shows that in the living area, the concrete foundation walls and floor of this 1920s house have been given a clean coat of paint. Paint is quite often the quickest and least expensive way to freshen and update a room.
Another tip is to drywall only some areas of the room, as this photo shows for the wall where the bike is mounted. A limited use of drywall can demarcate spaces, add interest and keep costs down. In this remodel, a cool partition of corrugated metal offers an interesting alternative to more traditional walls.
Capture the power of white. This basement obviously gets a lot of natural light, thanks to the fact that it is a walk-out basement-style space. But a great way to provide the illusion of light and to add ceiling height is to paint everything white. In this room, with the exposed ceilings and walls painted a crisp white, it’s hard to tell where the walls end and the ceilings begin.
Here’s a look at a fully buried, partially finished basement that uses the white paint trick to illuminate the space. This basement-turned-apartment is complete with kitchen, living, bedroom and bathroom zones. The white walls and open, white-painted ceiling make it bright and livable when not much natural light breaks through.
Establish a focal point. Go ahead and furnish your unfinished below-grade space as cozily as you would your upstairs, finished rooms. A great way to do this is to furnish around a focal point. Here, the designer created a focal point for the room by adding a bar and a shelving area with space for a TV, books and games. Graphic rugs and large, soft furniture and lighting bring warmth and life to the space.
Note that this basement is, like the other examples, mostly unfinished. The ceilings are open, the concrete block wall is painted, and it appears the concrete floor is as well. Finally, the owner chose white wall paint. This room shows how this simple formula for a basement can form the backdrop for a cozy living space. The finished decorative and soft furnishing elements add the comforts that make the space feel homey.
For many of us, basement laundry means a dark and dank place to toss the clothes in, pull them out and quickly run back upstairs. But this doesn’t have to be the way we choose to live. A little effort can convert an ugly space to one where you’ll want to spend time.
Get creative with paint and decor. This basement laundry is left nearly entirely unfinished, but with some creativity it’s become a clean and bright corner nonetheless. The exposed ceiling joists are painted a deep charcoal, the concrete floor is a fun red, and wood shelving and furniture add interest and utility. A throw rug warms up the floor, and what appears to be reclaimed wood boards frame off a private bath.
In this laundry corner, which is essentially a small niche, the machines are found in a spot next to the furnace. The infrastructure of this laundry space is simple, but it’s wholly functional and done creatively. The counter and the shelving are useful and offer plenty of space for folding and organizing, and thanks to the cheery lime paint, they also brighten the area. The simple yet stylish utility baskets complete the look.
Install cabinetry. The money saved on finishing flooring, walls and ceiling can often be better spent on cabinets in your basement laundry area. This basement is a new build, and the concrete floors are sealed, the stairs are painted a deep gray, and the ceiling is left exposed. There’s a clean white bank of cabinets with a countertop, adding storage and a place to fold. This technically unfinished space is inviting as well as practical. Additional cabinetry can be used for a variety of things, like storing dry goods, linens or out-of-season clothing.
Build a Bathroom. Adding a bathroom to your basement can be a worthwhile venture. In addition to being functional, it adds a lot of value to your home. But basement bathroom additions are costly, especially if you don’t already have the plumbing and drains roughed in. If you’re lucky enough to have this option, finishing it on a budget will be rewarding.
Leave it open. Another way to save some money in your basement bathroom is to skip the walls altogether. Here, a section of the basement is used for the bathroom, which is open concept. The shower is made out of a tiled curb with a curtain bar, giving it a modern look when privacy is not a concern. The toilet, not seen in this photo, is in a separate, walled-off enclosure behind the wall with the towel bar.
Workspace. Workspaces are often hard to come by, and if you can designate a corner for one in your basement, you’ll be glad for it. Surprisingly, it doesn’t take much to create a bright and functional zone out of, well, nothing.
Furnish and decorate. This basement office room works so well because it really has everything you need. Again, this is essentially a raw basement that has been cleaned up with paint. Two collapsible tables are tucked into a corner to create ample desk space. An antique-style armoire and side table add hefty traditional elements that dress up the zone and offer storage. An area rug warms the painted concrete floor, and the bright task track lighting is layered with the warm glow of a table lamp. The pretty butterfly mobile finishes this space.
Make a rug statement. This workspace, painted entirely white, is anchored by the bold purple carpet tiles set out in an interesting shape. Carpet tiles are a cost-effective option for basement flooring as they can be purchased by the box and laid out to separate a zone or add warmth to a bare concrete floor.
Make a spot for the kids. Kids come with a lot of stuff, from toys to books and crafts, and a neat little work area in your basement is the perfect spot to organize it all. Here, the worktable is placed under the window for maximum light, kids’ artwork is displayed, adding bold pops of color, and a trendy wallpaper wall provides graphic interest. This ceiling, like the others, is left open and painted white like the walls. There is drywall and finished flooring, but this space could work just as well with painted concrete flooring and walls, or a minimal use of drywall.
Source: Nicole Jacobs; Houzz Contributor. Interior design consultant and writer of home design, real estate and lifestyle articles.