A basement family room adds to your usable living space, and it can even increase the value of your home. The basement family room should be a cozy hideaway where you can unwind away from the hustle and bustle of the main floor. Whether you have a small, dark basement family room or a cavernous space with a garden view, here are some important design tips that’ll help you maximize your space and create a true underground oasis.
The Big Question: What Does Your Family Need?
To get the most out of your family room, create it to fulfill your needs (and desires.) For example, if the family room is where you binge-watch Netflix or play video games, make sure you have comfy seating that accommodates all viewers. If the kids tend to sit on the floor, purchase some oversized floor pillows. If you often eat dinner or fold laundry while you watch TV, consider a large, firm ottoman that can serve as a makeshift dining/folding table. Create spaces that accommodate game-playing, reading, studying, working out, crafting, or cocktail mixing, depending on what your family likes and needs to do downstairs.
Balance Function with Beauty
For most homeowners, a basement renovation budget won’t be as generous as, say, a kitchen reno budget. To keep costs under control, you’ll probably want to take a minimalist approach and work with what you have whenever possible, including the existing layout. Keep decorative accessories and non-essential furniture to a minimum, and choose stylish but inexpensive fixtures, furniture, and flooring.
Create Dynamic Lighting
Basements are notoriously dim, and they can be quite big. A combination of overhead, focused, ambient, and task lighting will help you get the best use out of your basement. Wire the lighting in sections so that you can turn the lights on at one end of the basement without turning them all on. Install recessed or pendant lights that shine on areas where you always need adequate task lighting, such as over a desk or workspace. Install ambient lighting to create atmosphere when the overhead lights are off. Consider installing a smart lighting system that lets you control your light sources with a remote control, which even lets you change the hue and brightness of the bulbs.
Choose the Right Colors
It’s best to avoid dark walls in the basement, which can make the space look darker and smaller. Instead, choose lighter, brighter colors like light blues and grays, which promote calm and relaxation. In a smaller basement room, choose white or very light paint. Try painting just one wall a brighter color to give the room more depth. In a very large basement, consider wallpaper on one wall and paint on the others to break up the space. Neutral, earthy colors like warm beiges and tans are also great for the basement family room.
If you use your basement family room for lots of different purposes, you’ll probably need ample storage for craft supplies, games, toys, DVDs, and other items. Depending on the size of your basement, a wall of built-in shelves can provide all the storage you need. Floor-to-ceiling cupboards can store little-used items, such as camping gear and seasonal decorations, out of view. Store toys in small bins that fit on the shelves or in large, attractive bins or baskets that are stored out in the open.
Choose the Right Flooring
Flooring options for the basement family room should be durable, easy to maintain, and water resistant. The best flooring options for the basement are laminate, vinyl planks, ceramic tiles, and engineered wood.
Laminate flooring closely resembles hardwood or stone, but it’s much more affordable, which makes it ideal for the basement. Laminate flooring is made of pressed layers, including a moisture barrier, a high-density board core, and a design layer, which is a high-resolution photograph that’s glued onto the core. The top layer is a clear aluminum oxide shield that protects against scratches, stains, water damage, and fading.
Vinyl plank flooring is another inexpensive option for the basement family room. Vinyl plank flooring resembles hardwood and is generally installed as a floating floor above a subfloor. Vinyl flooring is water resistant, which is a must if your basement is damp. Maintenance is easy, requiring only occasional sweeping and mopping. Vinyl planks can sometimes last 20 years or longer.
Ceramic tile flooring is durable and waterproof, making it another good choice for the basement. Ceramic tiles–and porcelain and stone tiles–keep your basement cool, and they give your space a minimalist vibe. However, if your basement’s concrete floor isn’t perfectly level, tiles may crack and break over time.
Engineered wood flooring is more expensive than laminate and vinyl plank flooring, but it most closely resembles solid hardwood. That’s because engineered wood is made with real wood veneer glued to a base of quality plywood or other strong material. Engineered wood is more water-resistant than hardwood, although you’ll want to wipe up spills right away to prevent damage.
Solve the Humidity Problem
Basements are notoriously damp spaces, since they’re underground. But the moisture in the basement can usually be controlled with a dehumidifier. Portable dehumidifiers plug into an outlet, and you can place them in the dampest spots. However, you’ll need to empty the collection bucket daily. Whole-house dehumidifiers are built into your HVAC unit and drain through the system. Before you renovate your basement, make sure it’s completely waterproof to avoid damage to the floors and walls down the road.
A Rumpus Room for the Ages
As you design your basement family room, draw inspiration from your upper rooms and from your favorite design sites on the Internet. Create a list of wants and must-haves, and do your due diligence in shopping around for the best deals on building materials, furniture, and fixtures. Soon, it’ll all come together, and so will your family–in your new subterranean hangout.