Like the old coin adage, there are two sides to basement apartments. Dark, cold, small, are labels sometimes applied to them.
But we prefer to listen to confirmed basement dwellers who beg to differ. They say cozy, comfy, and cooler in summer.
And basement apartments with their low light are perfect for those who work nights and sleep days.
So yes, it’s all about how you see them. Like that other old adage about the half-full glass versus the half-empty one, it all depends on how you view basement apartments.
And how you view them depends on how you decorate them. So let’s begin!
Tips for Making Your Cool Basement Apartment Cozy and Comfy
Below are some tips to decorate your basement apartment and make it cozy and comfortable.
Not All Whites are Alright
Contrary to the old Rolling Stones classic, Paint it Black, you may want to paint it white, but not just any white, and not necessarily all white.
Yes, white is bright, but white is not universally right when it comes to every room, and in every light.
Pure tones of white can be overwhelming, even jarring in small rooms. The key is to find the right undertone.
A blue undertone imparts coolness while one of yellow suggests warmth.
Your best bet is to visit a paint store and bring home a handful of cardboard paint chips in several tones of whites.
Or if you want to test how different whites will look on different walls, go to a store that will give you small sample cans of paint.
Bring them home do you can apply a few brushstrokes in different rooms and different walls so you can see how each color looks from different angles and in natural light, lamplight, and under ceiling lights.
But if in the end, if you decide that white is not going to work, take a look at light blue and grays.
They can enhance whatever natural light you get plus they make rooms seem more spacious.
How to Speak White with an Accent
If you choose to forego white for the walls, you can still use it to accent the wall color you do choose.
White or off-white wainscoting can add a comfy country touch.
And white chair rails rimming a room will attract the eye and make the room look both longer and wider than its actual dimensions.
Repurposing wallpaper as ceiling paper is an exciting possibility – if you’re not afraid of heights, that is.
One wallpaper company designs embossed paper that suggests a tin ceiling.
Papering yours with this pattern will draw the eye upward making the ceiling appear higher.
At the other end of the color spectrum, using a darker color can also raise the roof, or in this case, the ceiling; bringing forth thoughts of a night sky that seems to go on forever. Try navy blue if you dare!
Accent Walls and What They Can Do
Speaking of accents, you can designate one as an accent wall; one that will draw attention to it as soon as guests enter the room.
When done well, an accent wall can make any small basement room appear larger than it is in reality. The color does not matter as long as it differs from the other three walls.
A deep rich color will work well as long as it’s not too dark or too bright.
What you want is a subtle color that will allow the wall to appear to recede into the background, thereby expanding the room.
What you do not want is a color that makes the wall the center of attraction which has the opposite effect.
As to which wall to pick, you want the one that appears to be cramping the room, hemming it in.
In a bathroom, you might choose the wall opposite the door while in a small bedroom, the wall behind the bed can work.
Another creative option that gives the illusion of height is to pick a wall and hang a panel of drapery from wall to ceiling.
It has the effect of stretching it. You can also achieve this stretched effect by filling the wall with artwork or framed photographs arranged gallery-style. Both have the same effect since they draw the eye upward.
And if you position a large decorative mirror strategically on an accent wall, it will do double duty, providing the illusions of both space and light.
Use Small Area Rugs on the Floor
Once you decide what you will do with the walls and the ceilings it’s time to look at the floors.
Since basements are on the ground, the floors can be damp, cold and, although you may not want to think about it, there’s the possibility of a flood or a leaky pipe.
For this reason, many basement apartments have poured concrete floors covered with either tile or engineered wood.
Either of these can be attractive and even high-end but not conducive to a warm cozy atmosphere.
Rugs can be the answer, but not just any rug. Stay away from wall-to-wall carpeting.
Wall-to-wall carpeting will not work due to the humidity and the ever-present hint of moisture seeping up from deep under the floor.
Entirely covering such floors will promote the growth of mold and mildew.
Plus should a leak develop, a carpet that covers the entire floor will soak up the water and delay your discovering it.
Small area rugs in high traffic areas can be the answer but make sure they are not too thick and pay attention to the fabric.
- Cotton rugs are easy to clean. You can vacuum them, throw them in the washing machine, or even wash them by hand, plus cotton feels soft and comfortable on bare feet.
- Polypropylene or other synthetic material area rugs and runners have the advantage of machine woven construction which makes them strong and durable even in punishing rooms like entry vestibules and bathrooms. And their man-made material is easy to clean. Just vacuum it regularly and spot clean with a mild color-safe carpet cleaner.
- Outdoor/indoor runners work well in hallways, or even in front of sofas and chairs, where you stretch out while watching TV or reading. Rubber-backed runners can also serve as pathways through the living room or through the vestibule at the entry door.
- Be sure to choose a material that is not only durable but soft, warm, and comfortable as well. Blends of polyester, cotton, and viscose rayon will provide all four.
- Geometric patterns and stripes work well since they give the floors the appearance of added length.
Use Multi-tasking Furniture
Since your space is limited, shop for furniture that serves more than one purpose.
Couches that convert to pull-out beds can accommodate out-of-town relatives and friends. Coffee tables with drawers or shelves can provide storage space.
And if you’re an avid reader, while your basement apartment living room may not accommodate a bookcase, devoting a wall on which to mount shelves not only gives you a mini-library, it’s yet another way to accent a wall.
Treat the Windows
Basement-level windows can provide a view for peeping toms, nosy neighbors, and curious passersby unless you obscure the view with some sort of window treatment.
Privacy blinds and solar shades will block prying eyes while also allowing light into the room.
If you’re looking for a delicate soft look, go for honeycomb shades.
And if they’re made of polyester, they will also absorb the sounds that are part and parcel of basement apartment living.
They also preserve heat in winter since the fabric that makes them honeycomb not only stops heat from exiting through the window, it circulates it back into the room.
Venetian blinds are another attractive option. They come in a palette of colors that can complement your walls and furnishings.
They’re easy to hang and their slats come in a variety of widths you can open as much or as little you want: perfectly horizontal to let in the light, or upright and vertical to thwart the curiosity of all who happen to be passing by.
Floor-to-ceiling drapery panels partner well with window-length curtains.
The drapes will give the windows a lush decorated appearance while the curtains will let in the light.
As to the curtain fabric, sheer materials let in an abundance of light but provide a minimum of privacy. Opaque ones do the opposite, The choice is up to you,
Just Accept It
If you do too much to give the illusion of size, you run the risk of ending up with a jumble of well-intentioned aesthetics gone rogue.
Instead of struggling to make your basement apartment appear big, why not embrace it? Especially in the bedroom!
Paint the wall a moody color that is complemented by low light. Or for a luscious rich effect that defies its compact size, paper the walls with a floral print wallpaper.
But make sure it’s removable since you’ll probably have to restore bare walls when you move.
But you never know. You just may come to love your basement apartment so much now that you’ve decorated it, that you may not want to move when your lease is up!
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