Considering taking the plunge and finishing your basement? Whether you've already roughed out the space and just need a few design ideas, or you're ready to undertake a complete overhaul to double your family's living space, it can feel like a big (and often overwhelming task). The sheer amount of square footage in a basement makes it tricky for many people to envision the best way to optimize it, and the way most "finished" basements look—like a big, blank box—can be enough to zap the creativity out of any homeowner.
However, with a little ingenuity and some inspiration, a finished basement can become one of the most beloved parts of the home (not to mention, a selling point for potential buyers if done right). Most families want a basement that combines necessities—like storage space and guest lodging—with more fun and even frivolous pursuits, like a game room, home theater, lounge, bar, and workout space. Whether you're hoping to incorporate all of the above or just a few elements, planning is key. (We've all been in finished basements whose purpose feels unclear—like an oversized adult playroom or dumping ground for miscellaneous items.)
These smart space will help spark some inspiration for your own basement project. From fresh, unexpected ways to add character to a blank-slate space, to clever ideas to optimize your basement's footprint, these finished basements show us how it's done—and done right.
Here are our favorite finished basement ideas that the whole family can enjoy.
Glam Up Your Home Movie Experience
"Home theaters" are no longer synonymous with oversized pleather couches and clunky surround-sound speakers. As this dreamy movie viewing space proves, your home theatre can make use of glam wallpapers, elegant couches, and structured swivel-chairs—a chic solution we think Hollywood appreciate.
Create A Second Living Room Space
Chances are, the living room is the heart of your home—but when you're entertaining, have houseguests, or are hosting a play-date, your family probably ends up fighting over the space. Use your basement to create a secondary living room area, complete with comfy couches and all the creature comforts you need to curl up with a good book or movie. It'll help dispense with the drama, and give you a safe place to try out new design styles.
Take A Cue From Your Favorite Restaurant
If there's a restaurant or hotel that you find inspiring (or even particularly sentimental to your family history), the basement is a smart space to play with incorporating elements you love from more public-oriented places. Since basements have the potential to act as a sort of "home away from home", you can mix things up with a mini-kitchen (or bar) that nods at your favorite college go-to, or a guest room that reminds you of a beloved boutique hotel. This cozy little banquette area, nestled by a window in a walk-out basement, gives us instant cafe-chic vibes, and feels like a mini vacation that's always just a flight of stairs away.
That bold wallpaper your pinned years ago (and have been pining for ever since)? The animal-print carpet you fell in love with way back when? They can all find a place in the basement. Since it's entirely closed off from the rest of your home, the basement is the perfect place to indulge in your most over-the-top design sensibilities and let yourself have fun with it. Mix and match prints and patterns for a maximalist effect to infuse some character into the basement, making it a place that brings a smile to your face every time you head downstairs.
Set Up A Snack Bar
You don't have to commit to creating a fully functional chef's kitchen in your basement (unless you're into that), but creating a small area for snacks is always a good idea. From a wet bar that lets Grandma and Grandpa get a glass of water in the night without braving the stairs, to a little bit of counterspace equipped with a microwave for making popcorn on movie night, a small snack bar can make all the difference in turning your finished basement to a comfortable, convenient place to hang out.
Split Up Your Space
A fully finished basement will have (essentially) the same footprint as the entire first floor of your home—so it stands to reason that you need to segment it up in order to get the most out of it. While one giant expanse can feel overwhelming, divvying it up into various smaller areas that serve specific roles can make it both more enjoyable, and easier to decorate. Try adding a few small seating areas defined by area rugs, as well as a gaming space. a wet bar, or even a home gym—by giving each spot a reason for being and designing each area one by one, you'll be able to transform your entire basement in no time.
Add Some Character
One of the biggest challenges of designing a finished basement? It can feel pretty...blank. Since basements are usually finished in one fell swoop, it's easy to feel uninspired looking at a seemingly endless parade of plain drywall. The solution? Actively seek out ways to add in character—like these beautiful sliding barn doors, which transform a white box into a cozy and welcoming guest room *and* help close off the space in a purposeful, practical way.
Keep A Low Profile
Ever find yourself feeling claustrophobic, even in a huge finished basement? The low ceiling is probably to blame. The best ways to combat this? With two simple tricks: bright, ample lighting in natural sun-like hues, and furniture that sits lower to the ground. For a guest room space in the basement, opt for a bedframe and side tables that offer a lower profile to subtly trick the eye with scale.
Many finished basements feature recessed lighting—just be sure to use bulbs with a warm, natural glow that mimics sunlight, especially in a windowless space. Use pendants only if you have a designated "eat-in" area — dangling fixtures are usually too long in low-ceiling spaces like a basement.
Add Some Sconces
An alternative to recessed lighting that feels more personal and modern is adding decorative (and functional) wall sconces. These keep the ceiling from closing in any further, but make the space feel more like any other well-decorated, welcoming part of the home.
Create A Focal Point
Another smart way to add some personality to those blank walls? By creating a focal point in the form of a bold accent. Whether you opt for a contrasting paint job, a single accent wall of wallpaper, or a cool textural treatment like the one seen in this modern game room, giving your eye an engaging place to land goes a long way toward warming up the space.