When designing a basement, you have an opportunity to transport your houseguests to a completely new place. By going all-in on atmosphere, you can make them feel like they’ve left your home and entered a fun, exciting place they’ve never been before. You can take them to a hazy poker room, a cozy movie theater, or a well-lit sports bar. Or you could keep things simple, welcoming your guests into an extra-comfy family room.
No matter how you choose to set the stage, though, you’ll need a thoughtful lighting set-up to back you up. Sure, that’s the case with any room. But in a space that’s low on windows, doors, and natural light, it’s particularly important. Good lighting is an absolute necessity in any basement. And if you’re willing to get creative, your lighting can make your basement more than well-lit—it can make it truly special.
Curious how to pull off this truly statement-making feat? We’ve rounded up 17 basements with truly great lighting set-ups—and we’ve highlighted a basement lighting idea worth bookmarking from each of them.
Use Recessed Lighting to Create Faux Skylights
Since basements often sit underneath other rooms, skylights are usually off the menu—but faux skylights are not. By elevating pockets of your ceiling and lining them with recessed lighting, you can create the illusion of skylights. Sure, the illusion will reveal itself once the sun sets and your “skylights” are still going strong. But hey—at least then, you’ll still have plenty of light.
Invest in a Fun Neon Sign
Neon signs aren’t right for every room in the home, but they can certainly set the scene in a basement. Paint your walls a dark color, and light them up with a bold neon mantra. Or pair kitschy wallpaper with some colorful neon iconography. Since neon signs are fairly easy to put up and take down, you can take a risk on a fun option—and swap it out if you grow tired of it.
Hang Bold Pendant Lights Over Your Bar
If your basement boasts a bar, you’re probably in need of some pendant lights. Snagging a striking set can be a fun way to add personality to your basement. Sure, you can stick with something sleek and streamlined. But if the rest of your space is lit with simple recessed lighting, why not seize the opportunity to transform your space with a couple statement-making fixtures?
Keep Light Low in a Cozy Game Room
When designing a space, more light is often better. But when it comes to basements, that’s not necessarily the case. Sure, if your basement doubles as a second living room, you probably want a fair amount of light. But if it’s a more thematic room—like a cozy game room—you probably want the light to feel hazy and dim. Add drama by pairing dark walls with a single spotlight. Or use lampshades to strategically diffuse the light in your space.
Stock Up on Sleek Table Lamps
Remember that overhead lighting isn’t your only option, so don’t just stop at semi-flush mounts. Enhance your ceiling lighting with a few table lamps—and maybe toss in a floor lamp for good measure. In addition to illuminating your basement, table and floor lamps can be a great way to dress up your space. Use them to add pops of color, touches of texture, and peeks of personality where you see fit.
Cozy Up Your Space With Ornate Lanterns
When lighting your basement, you may be tempted to get as much light as you can. And rightfully so—without enough light, basements can feel dark, cavernous, and overall uninviting. But there’s some joy in coziness, too.
If you’re crafting a lounge-worthy basement, consider ditching the basic bright flush mounts in favor of warm hanging lanterns. Instead of working against the darkness of your space, lean into it and make it work for you.
Let Natural Light in Where You Can
Basements aren’t necessarily devoid of natural light. Some are partially above grade. And if yours is, you want to let in as much natural light as you can.
Don’t worry about adding new windows or glass doors. Instead, focus on keeping the ones you already have unobstructed.
Keep your windows clean and your drapes open, or forgo window treatments entirely.
Mount Picture Lights Over Your Bookshelves
When your space is in dire need of light, it pays to get creative, and that means finding unexpected places to hang your lights. If your ceiling is spoken for and your walls are lined with shelves, consider mounting lights directly onto your trim. By mounting a picture light—which is typically used to illuminate artwork—above each shelf, you can keep the lighting choice looking intuitive, rather than out of place.
Add Drama With a Chandelier
Chandeliers offer a surefire way to dress up any space. And really, couldn’t your basement use a little drama? If your space is feeling simple, basic, or just too obvious, add an unexpected pop of glamour with a chandelier. And if you’re worried about the chandelier feeling incongruous with the rest of your low-key basement, stick with a sleek chandelier—rather than a grand, ornate one.
Backlight Drapes to Create the Illusion of Windows
Many basements are completely windowless. But with some clever design choices, you can make a space look window-filled—even when it really isn’t. How do you do it? Mount LED lights on one of your walls, and cover them with semi-transparent curtains. The curtains should be thick enough to obscure the source of the light, but thin enough to let plenty of light through. And depending on the look you want, you can hang the lights in window-like rectangles—or line an entire wall with them.
Light Your Space With Arcade Games
When lighting your basement, consider all the furniture you plan to put in your space. Does any of it give off light as is? Freestanding arcade games tend to be pretty bright. And if you own enough of them, you may be able to illuminate your basement—no added lights required.
If you don’t—let’s be real, most of us don’t—they’re still worth factoring into your lighting setup.
Use Lights to Segment Your Space
Your basement may be segmented into multiple spaces. You might have a kitchenette lining one wall and a game room lining the other. And even if you can’t build walls between these spaces, you can use lighting to visually separate them.
Instead of relying on the same overhead lighting for both halves of your space, consider stocking up on two sets of lights. Using recessed lighting for your game room and a row of pendant lights for your kitchenette can make the spaces feel separate, even though they’re in the same room.
Load Up on Recessed Lighting
If your goal is to light your basement as simply and efficiently as possible, recessed lighting is about to become your best friend. The low-profile fixtures sit inside your ceiling, so they hardly demand any space. And since they’re available in a range of different color temperatures, you can make your space exactly as cool and bright—or as cozy and warm—as you want it to be.
Mount Sconces on Your Gallery Wall
If you were asked to name every light fixture you could think of, sconces might fall toward the bottom of your list. But these oft-overlooked fixtures can be a game-changer in your basement. Why? Since they’re mounted near eye level, they can be a great way to disperse light throughout your space. Plus, they can double as wall décor—sprucing up a bare wall or even framing a carefully assembled gallery wall.
Make Your Ceiling Glow
Most light fixtures spread light down (think: recessed lighting) or out (think: table lamps). But cove lighting spreads light up, instead. Though you might not have heard the phrase cove lighting before, you’ve likely seen it in the wild.
Cove lighting typically stretches across the upper edge of crown molding or sits inside a ceiling pocket to bounce light upward—toward the ceiling. This creates the illusion that your ceiling is glowing. And while it might not be as bright as your average flush mount, it’s certainly a great way to set the mood.
Let Light Flow From Room to Room
When crafting your lighting set-up, don’t just focus on what new lights you can add. Think about how you can optimize the lights you already have. If you’ve been blessed with a multi-room basement, be sure you’re letting light flow from room to room. By trading wooden doors for glass ones—and by favoring sliding doors, which you can comfortably leave open—you can let your living room brighten up your game room, and vice versa.
Mix and Match Your Fixtures
Most lighting set-ups aren’t a matter of finding one perfect light—or even one perfect type of light. Instead, they’re about mixing and matching different fixtures until you meet your goals. That could mean hanging pendant lights here, mounting wall sconces there, and relying on recessed lighting to bring the room together. (You may need to sprinkle in some table lamps, too.)
Combining all these fixtures may sound a little tedious. But it will ultimately help you get light everywhere you need it. Plus, it’ll make the ambiance in your space a lot more flexible. (By flipping on some lights—and turning off others—you can customize your lighting set-up on the fly.)