15 Basement Ceiling Ideas to Finish Your Lower Level

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The basement is one of the first places homeowners look when they want to expand their living space. It's the perfect spot for a playroom, gym, guest bedroom, office, game room, media room, or pretty much anything you need. If you're really feeling ambitious you can even add a wet bar and a bathroom. But let's not get too ahead of ourselves. Right now we're focused on the ceiling.

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Most lower-level ceilings tend not to be very high and feature a mishmash of obstacles to work around, including exposed pipes, wood framing, and ductwork. Sure, there are elaborate ways to deal with these architectural features, but it's also possible to create functional and attractive ceilings with inexpensive and readily available materials. The first things that you need to consider are: What condition is your basement ceiling in? What is your budget? And what design style are you going for?

The type of materials you choose will have a huge impact on your bottom line, but keep in mind that faux finishes can help you get the look you want without spending quite so much money. Perhaps you want to cover the whole thing with fresh new drywall or ceiling tiles — such as acoustic materials, carved wood designs, or metal sheeting. Or maybe you like the industrial look of ductwork looking industrial? In that case, just paint over the exposed pipes and beams. Lighting can often present yet another home improvement challenge as well since a lot of basements don't have windows. Are you looking to hang some stylish pendants or to install recessed cans?

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Regardless of the unique basement ideas that speak to you, you want your space to be functional and livable. To help you achieve that goal, here are a handful of stylish ceiling options that will undoubtedly transform your subterranean space.

15 Basement Ceiling Ideas

1. Hide only the bits you don't like.

The most common challenges with basement designs include exposed beams, pipes, ductwork, wires, and other fixtures that protrude into the room. However, sometimes all you want to do is hide a few key elements. In that case, leave most of the ceiling exposed, and just hide certain items behind strategically placed fabric or plastic, as seen in this bedroom by Crü. Sometimes the simplest solution is also the most stylish.

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2. Paint everything black.

Follow the lead of interior designer Leanne Ford and paint your basement ceiling black. She chose a high-gloss finish for actress Shay Mitchell's speakeasy-inspired bar, which reflects light from the vintage-style pendant and window. We love the moody vibe the dramatic shade gives this intimate watering hole. Plus, this is one DIY project anyone can tackle.

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3. Or, embrace a two-tone look.

If you're fine with the look of exposed pipes, but you want to give them a modern facelift, take a page out of Emily Henderson's design playbook. In this industrial basement remodel, she opted for a two-tone painted ceiling in black and gray. The monochromatic home office color scheme continues throughout the rest of the space with the help of gray pendant lights, concrete flooring, and streamlined black desks.

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4. Cover ceiling tiles in fabric.

If your basement ceiling is already covered in ceiling tiles, or you are adding a new system, consider giving the utilitarian element a swanky upgrade. For instance, this wine cellar by Amy Storm and Company features fabric-covered ceiling tiles divided by a black frame, which blends in seamlessly with the rest of the modern design.

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5. Go with classic white paint for an exposed basement ceiling.

Lower levels have a tendency to be dark as a result of poor lighting, a lack of windows, or a combination of both. But don't fret, because you can quickly and easily brighten things up with a few coats of white paint à la Lauren Koster's cozy boho setup. We're also fans of the charming blush pink door.

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6. Install a not-so-standard drop ceiling.

A drop ceiling is one of the most common options for a basement. Sometimes referred to as a suspended ceiling, it consists of a metal grid hung on joists by a frame and wires. Tiles or panels — available in varying shapes, sizes, styles, and materials — are placed inside the openings of the grid. Think acoustic, tin, PVC, or fabric tiles versus the same old same old. While drop ceilings are a little more difficult — and more expensive — than other options, they offer one of the better solutions if you want your ceiling to look truly finished. Plus, they provide easy access to pipes, wiring, and ducts, since they are removable.

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7. Add artistic flair with wallpaper.

If your basement ceiling is flat, or will be once the renovation is complete, why not add a little extra flair with wallpaper? We spotted this whimsical idea showcasing a blue sky with clouds on Rebel Walls, but there are plenty of other designs to choose from that are budget-friendly, easy to install, and delightfully unexpected.

8. Add a corrugated metal ceiling.

Corrugated metal is another low-cost material to consider for your basement ceiling. While this modern look by Restructure Studio with steel joists is pretty sophisticated, you can also install the metal sheeting yourself. Keep the panels unfinished or paint them in a color that speaks to you.

9. Work in some wood beams.

Consider adding wood ceiling beams (even if they are only decorative) to your basement for a rustic vibe, like this living room design from Chango and Co. It's a somewhat easy and relatively affordable way to dress up boring white drywall, resulting in a cozier atmosphere. To save a little money, you can opt for faux wood instead — no one ever needs to know.

10. Fancy it up with some faux brick.

While not all of us can live in a basement apartment with a ceiling clad in brick like this stunning home by Loft Kolasinski, the idea certainly got us thinking about how we could recreate the look in our own homes. Installing faux brick on the ceiling could create the same old-world effect without blowing your entire budget. Not to mention, this approach is certainly unique and would make your lower level far from boring.

11. Set the mood with string lights.

As previously mentioned, sometimes lighting can be a challenge in the basement. Keep your lower level cheerfully illuminated by hanging some string lights overhead. Follow the lead of Unique Home Construction and pair with a black exposed ceiling. The end result will feel fun and festive. And the good news? The lighting is super affordable ​and​ removable, which makes it perfect for renters, too.

12. Opt for a dark shade of navy blue.

Been dreaming of a media room perfect for listening to your favorite tunes or watching the latest blockbuster movie? This gorgeous dark basement design idea from Rae Duncan proves that picking a dark color for both the walls and ceiling is a no-brainer. While a navy blue coffered ceiling might be a tad bit pricey, adding some simple beams and painting them in the same color will offer a similar effect at a fraction of the cost. Don't forget to hang a striking light fixture, like this brass chandelier, for added elegance.

13. Consider white shiplap.

While painting a basement ceiling in a dark color can be dramatic and chic, going with a glossy white on shiplap paneling can up the style factor, too. Waterleaf Interiors shows us how it's done with the help of this sophisticated farmhouse design.

14. Brighten it up with some recessed lighting.

Basements usually don't get a lot of natural light, but you can still keep your subterranean level feeling light and airy by using adequate lighting. The key is to install fixtures that won't dominate your space. If you're going with a drop or drywall ceiling, like this playroom by Magleby Construction, recessed lighting is a streamlined and clean choice. Be sure to install dimmers for when you want to curl up for movie night or even a midday nap.

15. Welcome wood ceiling panels.

Thin wood paneling — typically 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick — can cover an exposed ceiling, and it's available in a variety of designs. Fir plywood, hardboard, even oriented-strand-board (OSB) are even more affordable, but these less-expensive options typically require paint or sealant. We love the light wood ceiling tiles that Amy Storm and Company went with above this basement bar. The brass trim complemented by a pair of brass pendant lights is an especially nice touch.

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As an Emmy Award winning creative director, writer and producer I have worked on content for brands like Disney, BravoTV, TBS, Universal, E! and MTV. But I mostly love rearranging furniture and repotting plants at home.