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How to Brighten Up a Dark Basement

Basements can be dark, dreary, seldom-used places, especially in older Seattle homes. A basement renovation is an opportunity to create a living area that’s brighter and more inviting. In some cases you can even double the livable space of a home. Basement remodels also deliver a high return-on-investment when it’s time to sell. In this article we offer several reliable ways to brighten up a dark basement that will help you unlock the potential of the space right below your feet.

Why Is My Basement So Dark?

It’s no secret that the Seattle area sees heavy precipitation and cloud cover. But even on sunny days your basement may not be getting enough natural light. Sometimes the problem is heavy curtains, dark window blinds or thick landscaping blocking the windows. Other times the problem doesn’t have such a simple solution.

Perhaps your basement has very small windows or no windows at all. If you do have plentiful windows the design of your house may have features, such as wide overhangs like soffits or decking, that are blocking the light.

If your basement falls into any of these categories, you’re not alone! Most Seattle basements were built only for storage, but let’s talk about the possibilities for brightening them up.

What Am I Using the Space for?

First, consider what you’d like to accomplish with your basement renovation project. How will you be utilizing your new living space? Examples include:

  • Sauna or spa
  • Laundry room
  • Home gym/fitness center
  • Kids playroom or rec room
  • Extra living room
  • Home cinema
  • Bar
  • Rental Unit

Depending on the usage of your basement, you’ll want to adjust the light to fit the mood. A home gym or cinema room may not need much light, but you’d want plenty of lighting for a rental unit.

Ways to Brighten Up a Dark Basement

Once you’ve determined your basement’s newfound purpose, with the help of a interior designer you can begin to determine the best ways to make it lighter and brighter. The tried and true methods below range from an easy DIY project to a full-scale basement renovation.

Brightened Basement & Laundry Remodel

1. Repaint the Walls

One of the easiest, most affordable ways to lighten a room is by painting the walls and trim in brighter colors. If your older home’s basement was decorated in fake wood paneling, paint over it with cooler, neutral hues like white or light gray. Or, replace old paneling with finished drywall and add a fresh coat of high-quality paint! Choose neutrals or pastels, and only use highly pigmented colors if you want to achieve a moody look. Design note: For ceilings, dark colors recede and light colors advance, so choose off-white hues for your ceiling over white!

Modern Farmhouse Basement

2. Use Reflective Surfaces

Surfaces that reflect light brighten up rooms and make them appear larger. Light more easily fills the room as it bounces off of reflective surfaces, and all of that bouncing can add up to a much brighter space. Here are some remodeling ideas that incorporate reflective surfaces:

  • Glossy tile and countertops
  • Light and/or neutral flooring or carpeting
  • Large wall mirrors
  • Glass tabletops
  • Shiny decorative vases
  • Metal light fixtures and picture frames
Delightful Multi-Purpose Basement

3. Add Light Fixtures

Introduce even more illumination and ambience into your basement with layers of accent or task lighting just like you would in a kitchen or bathroom. Here’s how:

  • Recessed lights. These go in the ceiling without taking up valuable headroom. Recessed lights also don’t cast annoying shadows when they’re on, and blend seamlessly into any room.
  • Track lights. Many designers use track lighting to brighten a basement because most fixtures have short stems for lower ceilings. Place track lights around the perimeter of the room and watch in amazement as your walls get bathed in soft light!
  • Accent lights. Further embolden your room’s lighting and décor with table and floor lamps, task lamps and wall sconces.
Basement View from Stairs
Multipurpose Daylight Basement Remodel

4. Introduce More Natural Lighting

There’s nothing that can truly replace the sun’s invigorating rays, so invite more sunlight into your Seattle basement remodel by:

  • Replacing small windows and dark frames with new windows and white frames
  • Adding sliding glass doors if your basement has an above-ground access
  • Adding egress windows
  • Cutting back outside bushes and plants that impede sunlight
  • Using sheer window coverings instead of heavy, dark drapes or blinds. If curious eyes are a concern apply privacy film to the glass—the light can still get through but a passersby cannot see in
Modern Farmhouse Basement

5. Raise the Ceiling

Low ceilings not only feel cramped and confined, but they make it notoriously difficult to brighten up a basement. Higher ceilings inherently provide more space for reflective surfaces and windows. If the solutions we’ve mentioned thus far won’t add enough light, or your basement is in need of natural light, you may consider a house lift. This basement-brightening option literally involves raising your entire home up on stilts. The house is then lowered back onto the new, taller supports and you are able to transform your basement into just about anything! The same ceiling height can also be achieved by digging out a deeper basement. You’ll want to consult with a contractor to determine which solution is the best for your home.

Transforming your formerly dark and dingy Seattle basement into a bright and welcoming space is not only exciting, it also adds value to your home. At Model Remodel, we are expert design-build contractors with many bright and beautiful basement remodels under our belt. To get started making your basement dreams come true, please tell us about your project.

Written by Model Remodel

Model Remodel is a design-build, remodeling contractor located in Seattle, WA. For over 20 years we’ve been building with purpose, craftsmanship and sustainability in mind. We are proud to continually make the list of top Seattle contractors for our beautiful interior designs and homeowner-focused remodeling process.

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