5 interior design tips to maximize your basement space


EVEN THE MOST Casual horror movie viewers know that basements are where the protagonists go, as TikTok teens would say, “become lifeless”. For interior designers, however, the most bewildering part of these spaces isn’t who (or what) might be lurking on the prowl, it’s often what’s in plain view: their decor. .

Too many homeowners treat basements “like a second-class space where old furniture and random trash will die,” complained Anelle Gandelman, founder of A-List Interiors in New York City. “A basement is not the place to soothe your husband with his ugly leather recliner,” echoed West Palm Beach, Fla. Designer McCall Dulkys.

Here, the architects and designers share five other frequently encountered underground mistakes and suggest less frightening alternatives.

STRANGE-SHAPED OPPORTUNITY In a basement in Oyster Bay, NY, interior designer William Cullum has created a wobbly welcoming space.


Don Freeman

1. The “all things” space

New York designer Elizabeth Gill lives in fear of families asking her to turn their basements into an all-in-one combination of gym, game room, family room, caveman and more. mother-in-law. “Then I get the look and a ‘Can you make this all work? »», She declared.

Instead of: To prioritize. “Determine the most important use of space and make it the focal point,” Ms. Gill said. Any additional living space can be a bonus in a crowded home, she said, “but you’ll end up using a functional and complete space – not cluttered with a lot of things that detract from the original design.”

2. Fateful ceiling

A common feature in basements, suspended ceilings suspend large tiles in a metal grid, leaving room to conceal recessed lighting, ductwork, and other mechanical items. But they are level with a room, contributing to the dreaded cave-like feel and threatening to behead your taller friends. Other misguided attempts to hide the conduits also bug the design pros. Washington, DC, designer Melissa Sanabria’s pet peeve is soffits whose bottoms have been painted to match ceilings and sides to match walls, creating a two-tone effect.

Instead of: According to New York designer Robin Wilson, high-end 8-inch-deep fixtures, which require drop ceilings, are a thing of the past. Use new shallow LED ceiling lights. Hide ducts and pipes in a drop-down wall that looks designed and useful around the perimeter of a ceiling, advised designer Tamara Gorodetzky in Bethesda, Md. When a soffit is unavoidable, “paint the walls, ceiling and each side of the soffit the same color so that everything is gone,” Ms. Sanabria said.

3. Pall-Casting

Leave the flickering fluorescents at “The Exorcist”. Basements are dark spaces, “and improper lighting creates patchy, shaded areas,” New York designer Rozit Arditi said.

Instead of: Even if you go for a moody man cave, “you need good lighting that can be fully lit and also dimmed for a cozy atmosphere,” said Charlotte, North Carolina designer Layton Campbell. Incorporate a mix of light sources such as floor lamps, table lamps and sconces so you don’t depend on a single ceiling light, Ms. Arditi advised. Linear LED track lights on the ceiling can help lead the way from one space to another, said Mary Maydan, architect in Palo Alto, Calif., Who installs them with a 90-degree bend as they pass through. ‘a hallway to a The dining room. “It creates continuity and makes the hallway an invitation to enter the next space.”

4. Neglected corners

Irregular areas of the foundation are often covered or turned into closets. “But especially in widely open basements, these weird and unusual shapes provide special moments for decorating,” said William Cullum, senior designer at Jayne Design Studio in New York City.

Instead of: Tearing down walls and rearranging spaces is expensive, so be creative with what you have and use it as an opportunity to try something you would never risk on the first floor, Mr Cullum said. For a basement in Oyster Bay, NY (pictured above), Mr. Cullum fabricated a bench seat that conforms to a polygonal footprint, established by the breakfast room above, and installed curtains on an existing steel beam, creating a special reading nook with a cozy, tent-like feel. “It’s a small retreat in a big space,” he said.

5. Wannabe Wood

The dark and damp 1970s-style paneling looks hopelessly dated and usually represents a “total departure from the rest of the house,” said architect Margie Lavender, manager of Ike Kligerman Barkley in New York City. Old-fashioned panels are not moisture resistant and can be a place for mold to grow, Wilson added.

Instead of: Ms. Wilson uses a thin brick siding or dry wall with cement instead of paper, typically used in bathroom renovations, to prevent mold growth. Stick to light colors to maximize limited light, Ms. Lavender advised, and consider a high-gloss tile accent wall, in either cream or robin’s egg blue, to add texture and reflect the light.

Metro Notes

Strange basement decor

The first rule to avoid a spooky basement? Get rid of those old one-eyed dolls.


Chris Lyon

“I completely panicked when I entered a basement that housed a collection of antique dolls. Listen to the spooky horror music. —Layton Campbell, designer, Charlotte, North Carolina

“A complete barbecue with a fireplace on one end and a wood-burning fireplace on the other side. I can understand a caveman, but having two fire-generating things in a basement could mean your house is on fire. —Robin Wilson, designer, New York

“I was asked to help a client showcase his collection of medieval torture tools. ” —Tracy Morris, designer, McLean, Virginia.

“Each wall was covered with dispensers of PEZ candy. It was quite the collection. —Sterling McDavid, designer, New York, NY

“A toilet in the basement without any kind of enclosure.” —Luke Olson, Senior Partner, GTM Architects, Bethesda, Maryland.

“A potential client had a hot tub in the basement. It was strange and immediately looked like a strange castle dungeon with the smell of chlorine and mold. —Miriam Verga, designer, Mimi & Hill Interiors, Westfield, NJ


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