Basements run the gamut from horror movie vibes to glamorous apartments, but no matter where your lower level sits on that spectrum, you're in luck. "If you have an unfinished basement, your home is literally sitting on a ton of potential," says Stephanie Purzycki, CEO at The Finish. "By finishing a basement, you add livable square footage to your home, which not only increases its functionality while you live there but also its value when you sell." Jodi Lester, senior real estate designer at interior design firm Modsy, agrees. "A finished basement adds so much to a home in all aspects — from property value due to the newly added square footage to the endless possibilities that the homeowners can do with the space."
Of the seemingly endless basement ideas, a few popular choices are to create a game room, office, or a family room. But if you're looking for a return on your investment, Purzycki says the most valuable options are home gyms, playrooms, and in-law or au pair suites — especially if you'll be adding a full bath to your home. "You can also add fun extras like a home theater or bar, but these may not be as valuable as more general use spaces when it's time to sell your home," Purzycki says.
While basements can conjure images of cozy movie nights and enviable guest bedrooms, beware: once you commit to a basement remodel, mentally and monetarily prepare yourself for what you'll find once you start digging. "Like with all construction and renovation, it comes with a risk of issues," says Lester. "You could encounter all sorts of minor to major issues that can eat into your budget." Because of this, Lester says, always go into a project with a contingency budget solely for unexpected expenses that will undoubtedly pop up. For example, if you have an older home, you may run into problems with elements of the property not being up to local building codes or no longer efficient.
Before finishing your basement, Purzycki says you'll want to take care of any outstanding water issues, like mold, mildew, or general dampness, as well as any pest issues like mice or termites. Also key? Insulation, so you can avoid that "cold basement" feeling. Other basement challenges include low ceilings and exposed ductwork, and there may be structural beams in the space that you'll have to design around. If you're creating an in-law suite or guest bedroom, be sure to check local egress codes to ensure the space has enough access and exit points.
One thing's for certain: You're going to pay a pretty penny for a finished basement. "Basements are an investment, but one that is more than worth it in the end," says Lester. The cost to finish a basement varies based on the location of the home and the extent of the project, but Lester says a 1,000-square-foot area starts around $40,000 to 60,000 to finish.
Ready to get started? Scroll on for 22 inspiring basement decorating ideas that'll turn any dark subterranean cave into a bright and inspiring living space.
1. Leave it a little unfinished.
There's a cool, edgy factor to certain elements of an unfinished space, like concrete floors and exposed beams. If a full remodel isn't in the budget, take design notes from this industrial-style guest suite to warm up your basement. Add plenty of table lamps and pendant lighting, as well as a cozy couch and oversize art to make this (slightly) unfinished space feel both welcoming and stylish.
2. Install a basement bar.
Think you don't have space for a wet bar? Think again. This basement design by Rini Kundu Interiors proves you just need half a wall and a few open shelves to create a fully stocked watering hole, where you can dole out refreshing aperitifs, snacks, and anything else you might need for happy hour or movie night. If your basement doubles as a guest space, include a coffee station and all the fixings to get the morning started on the right foot.
3. Commit to a basement apartment.
Whether for renters or houseguests, a basement apartment is a brilliant use of space. It's a big investment up front, no doubt, but will pay you back in rent checks or the company of your loved ones. To create a space everyone will love, keep the design minimal and modern — think structural light fixtures, cool wood paneling, and a bright white kitchen to combat a lack of natural light.
4. Meld a family-friendly space with a grown-up sense of style.
If your kids are growing and your space is evolving, think about how your basement can function for everyone. "When this couple became empty-nesters there was no need for a teenage hangout," says Billie Marie Tharaldson of Julian Interior Design. "We created a new destination for them within their home, that incorporated a wine cellar with a great area for conversation, and still found room for some of the fun games and activities the whole family could enjoy when they were all together."
5. Display your wine collection.
If you've spent years amassing an impressive collection of wine, dedicate a portion of your basement to a wine cellar, like Amy Leferink of Interior Impressions did for these homeowners who are "big wine people." Here, a compact but smartly organized cellar stores and displays hundreds of bottles, with a window to allow guests a peek in to admire without disturbing the cellar's temperature. "Using your basement to bring a hobby or passion of yours to life is a great way to maximize your home," says Leferink.
6. Create a space to study.
Sick of your kiddos leaving their homework all over your dining room table? Cheryl Kess Clendenon of In Detail Interiors recommends creating a hang-out space for teens in your basement, including a study space with a multipurpose table and comfortable chairs. It would increase the value of your home and your sanity: win/win.
7. Create an art studio.
Whether you're a weaver, an avid puzzler, or a collector of you-name-it, carve out a corner of your basement (or the whole enchilada) for your passion project. Mixed-media fiber artist Shelly Sazdanoff is more than a hobbyist when it comes to weaving, but you can still take inspiration from her setup. To the right, there's a pegboard to hang inspiration and a portable cart for materials, while a slim console and desk lamp — very important in a basement — are tucked to the left.
8. Got space to spare? Add a kitchenette.
Here, Amy Leferink of Interior Impressions designed a kitchenette and bar to create an additional level of living space. "They could host friends and family but also have some extra functional space for their day-to-day," says Leferink. Adding a kitchen is no joke, budget-wise, but would add incredible value to both your home and your everyday life.
9. Design a guest bedroom everyone dreams of.
Well done, Marie Flanigan Interiors. You've created a beautiful basement guest bedroom. There's only one problem: it's so beautiful — with its various shades of neutral colors and layers of textured textiles — that your guests may never want to leave. Take note of this space's symmetrical, balanced features, which inject a sense of calm and serenity.
10. Set up the ultimate hang-out zone.
The ingredients for an ultra-cozy family room hang-out: a plush sectional, a coffee table with a spot for drinks, a few lamps, and maybe an arcade game or two à la this design by In Detail Interiors. It's a basement makeover that the entire family, even your teenagers, will appreciate.
11. Invest in an oversize sectional sofa.
Chango & Co. didn't mess around when it came to this basement's seating, and if you have room to spare, you shouldn't either. For the world's best movie nights, invest in an extra-long sectional sofa that can fit your family members and many more. The bigger the couch, the bigger the TV, of course. You may never need to visit another movie theater again.
12. Double up on beds in the downstairs sleeping quarters.
Double the pleasure, double the fun in this basement bedroom by Marie Flanigan Interiors. The egress window makes it feel like anything but a basement, while the brilliant white and cream bedding and paint color makes sure whatever sunlight streams in is put to good use brightening up the space. By furnishing with two double beds instead of one queen you can accommodate more guests, especially if you find yourself hosting nieces and nephews, or even old college friends, often.
13. Turn your basement into a game room.
There's no better place for a pool table than the basement. If you've long dreamed of a lower level filled with games — whether that's arcade games, a foosball table, or a pool table — then what are you waiting for? Consider including a nearby bar, as Chango & Co. did here, so you can celebrate the winner with a toast.
14. Design a desirable en suite.
Never did we ever think we'd want a basement bedroom, until this one with an adjoining bathroom came along. If you'd create a similar space in your basement, your guests would be treated well and your home's value would skyrocket. The streamlined, minimal space has everything a visitor would need within arm's reach, and the concrete floors are a seamless transition between the bed and bath. Just add a few area rugs for a little warmth and softness underfoot.
15. Pack a punch in a basement bathroom.
And speaking of basement bathrooms, follow the lead of Chango & Co. and go big with your design. This high-contrast, black-and-white space showcases a graphic patterned wallpaper — you could also stencil a similar pattern if you have the time — and not much else. With a powerful punch using color or pattern, you can keep everything else relatively minimal.
16. Elevate a basement playroom.
Creating a sports-themed basement playroom that's not an eyesore isn't the easiest design challenge we've ever heard of, but leave it to (who else?) Emily Henderson to show us how it's done. By incorporating sophisticated, neutral materials like wire baskets, white walls, and touches of wood, you can create a space both you and your kiddos will love.
17. Design a space for grown-ups and little ones.
Instead of a toy room that looks like a tornado spun through it, how about designating a portion of your basement to a calm, minimal kid-friendly zone? Accessorize with a small rug (under an indoor swing!), patterned floor pillows, and a Scandinavian-inspired table and chairs set. It won't feel out of place located next to an adult living area.
18. Play up any and all natural light.
There's nothing dark or depressing about this basement. A space with this much natural light (how lucky!) can be easily transformed into an everyday living area without a hint of dungeon vibes. We love how Beige and Blue Design Studio made the most of what could have been an awkward half-wall by dressing it up with framed art and treasured objects instead. And don't even get us started on that window seat.
19. Prioritize self-care with a basement gym.
A few years ago you may have rolled your eyes at the thought of a home gym — would you really use it? — but now we all know what a sanity-saver it can be. Creating a workout space that rivals any exclusive, overpriced studio is both a great use of space and a great return on investment. Take note of this setup belonging to Michelle Adams, and use a sexy color palette of black, white, and natural wood. After all, your Peloton bike has to go somewhere.
20. Add instant charm with café lights.
When natural light is limited, you have to get creative with your lighting design. Lamps are a must, as are pendants, but what about string lights? In this cozy basement living room by Unique Home Construction, they give off a romantic under-the-stars feeling that makes you want to pop open a bottle of red and talk the night away. (That's not just us, right?)
21. Design an enviable WFH situation.
Working from home has never looked so good! A basement (especially one with a window) can easily be transformed into a sleek office space, as proven by this delightful setup from Beige and Bleu Design Studio. The mostly neutral space allows for a calming work environment, while the pop of pink in the chairs adds a jolt of energy. Storage is key to keeping a clean desk, so consider adding filing cabinets and open shelving.
22. Mount your TV above a slim fireplace.
TV or fireplace? Fireplace or TV? Why choose between the two when you can have both? To enjoy your binge-watching while sitting in front of the crackling flames, mount your TV above a sleek, streamlined fireplace as Chango & Co. did here. Complete the look with a slate paint color and an oversize gray sectional for an extra cozy space.