5 Ways to Make Your Basement Work Better for You
Growing up I always wanted a finished basement (as I’m sure my parents did too with two teenage girls!), it is a secondary hang-out space, a space to keep all of your kid’s toys out in the open without going crazy, a theater room…so many options! So whether you have an unfinished basement that you would love to convert into useable space, or your basement is finished…but a hot mess…than read on!
If your basement is dark, unattractive, and not set up to really work for your family, well guess what? You will never use it. Shocker, right? But with a couple of updates or reworking what you already have in your basement you can turn it into an amazing space, no addition required. It’s like gaining free square footage! At the bottom of this post I have three more Basement Makeovers for you to check out, or find Real Postbox Projects right here for more ideas!
In fact I had a recent client who had the same problem. She was actually the Grand Prize winner of my GR Kids Free Room Design Giveaway and needed some help with her finished lower level. She wanted a better way to arrange kids toys without looking too childish, wanted a better furniture layout so the family could hang out together, and needed storage, storage, storage! This is what her room look liked “Before”:
And here is the 3D rendering I created for her of the “After” (read on to see how you can use these ideas for your own Basement Makeover!):
Basement Makeover Tip #1: Use Toy Storage that Actually Works
This may sound obvious at first, but think about it. Is your child REALLY going to keep his Legos color sorted? Or when all of the Barbies don’t fit into one box, they are going to end up a little bit everywhere. Which is the antithesis of being organized. So choose toy organization options that you will actually keep up with!
Toy Storage #1: Use a lot of small bins inside a cubby storage system
Be sure the bins are reachable for the kids so they can actually get out their toys (and put them away) on their own. I like smaller bins (under 15″) because they don’t fill up with too much stuff. Ever open up a toy box and not be able to find a thing? Exactly. One bin for toy trucks, one for dolls, etc. I would keep the storage system very loose and easy with small kids. And I love using canvas bins because they are easy for kids to use. Below is the simple, inexpensive Ikea cubby solution I suggested for my clients. Adding some pillows on top creates a reading nook as well! (And See Tip #2)
With my client I suggested an Ikea system but swapping out their primary colored basket bins with some cute (but adult design friendly) Target canvas bins (#17). They fit into the Ikea cubby system!)
Toy Storage #2: Use Laundry Baskets
In my house, we have toys that are too large for those small bins (thank-you FurReal Friends!), so I love using laundry baskets (#23) to corral those large items! Try a sturdy woven one, or a collapsable canvas basket in a fun print.
Toy Storage #3: Use Ottomans with Storage
Tight on space? Use ottomans or poufs that have a removeable lid with extra storage inside. Assign one for each kid and let them fill up with an ever rotating selection of toys.
Toy Storage #4: When in doubt hide it!
I love kid’s teepees, and in fact I selected one for Version #1 of their basement makeover (and paired it up with monogram pillows and a fuzzy faux bear rug! See #16, 20, and 22). But when unexpected guests arrive…throw those loose toys into that teepee and shut the fabric door! You could also add a large bin of books inside the teepee for a little reading nook.
Basement Makeover Tip #2: Be a Multi-Tasker
All rooms have a finite amount of space, and most people seem not to have enough. Choose furniture that can multi-task for your family. Remember in Tip #1 with the toy storage? In this Real Postbox Project I created an entire area with a couple of different functions. In between the two tall toy towers, I suggested hanging curtains in between. Behind the curtains they can add several shelves for larger toy items (they had some large Barbie houses they wanted stored out of the way!) AND add in a kid’s microphone and it can double up as a “stage area” for the kiddos! My kids would never leave…
I always design two versions for all of my Postbox clients, so in the second version (see above with Tip #1) I provided another budget-friendly Ikea hack for this toy storage area. In between two tall storage towers, lay a third tower on it’s side. If you add a cushion on top, you have a bench/reading nook.
Basement Tip #3: Break Your Basement Into Groupings
Most basements are large open areas…so how do you fill them up? Think about how you want the room to function. Watching TV? A game room? A playroom? In this Real Postbox Basement Makeover we added the following functions to the space:
A TV area: I suggested a comfy, but affordable sectional (#1) so the whole family could curl up and watch a movie together.
Craft Table/Snack Table: I added a table and chairs (#7 & #8) behind the sofa-this could be a space to eat snacks or work on crafts or puzzles. Plus since it is right next to the toy area, it’s the perfect Lego building spot.
Toy Storage: A toy storage built-in (an inexpensive Ikea hack) can double up as a performing stage for the kids, or a reading bench, depending on what version the clients choose
Window Seat: The family had a great bank of windows, so I suggested another Ikea Hack to create a window seat. This combo of extra seating and storage is always a winner!
Basement Tip #4: Add Lighting
One of the best ways to make a basement feel like part of your home is to make it bright and airy. If you have a walk-out basement you will probably have some great sunlight flooding in. If you have the budget, it will be well worth it to add recessed can lights or even a chandelier over your seating area to dress it up (this works best with 8’ or higher ceilings). At minimum, max out your lamps!
If your basement tends to be dark, stick with a light color on the walls. I love Benjamin Moore’s “Gray Owl” or “Balboa Mist” as two soft grays that go with EVERYTHING!
Basement Tip #5: Don’t Lower Your Standards with Furniture!
I know, the basement is the place where all of the mis-matched furniture goes to die. You get a new Family Room sofa and the old one with the worn out springs goes to the basement. Before you know it, you have an odd collection of furniture and hand-me downs that mimics a frat house. Instead, try something like this. Every single item of this Mood Board fits the “budget friendly” checklist!
I’m here to urge you that if you want the GROWN UPS to hang in here, make it look inviting.
If you have to keep your existing furniture:
-get the main sofa reupholstered (it’s like new for a fraction of the cost)
-get slipcovers to make mismatched chairs look cohesive (I like durable fabrics like twills, denims, and canvas)
-Paint wood furniture (add a clear shellac to help protect the finish)
-add cute throw pillows to help brighten up an old sofa
-a new area rug makes a HUGE difference, check out a place like Rugs USA where you can get one for under $200
If you can do all new furniture think about who will be using it. If this will be a kid hang out, stick with durable fabrics. Leather works great (easy to wipe up that spilled soda), as do dark colors. If you have itty bitty kiddos, I love a leather ottoman (no banging heads) and slip covered furniture.
When you boil it all down: If you want people to actually use the basement, make people want to spend time here!
For my client, I hope this is a space that the whole family can use, big or small! She got both fully custom designed versions of her Basement, along with material samples all packed up into a Postbox and mailed right to her!
If you are looking to update your basement, you might also like these past Real Postbox Projects:
Need some inspiration for your new project? Whether it is a basement project or another space, check out my PINTEREST page, where I have a board dedicated to every room in your house. Soak up those design ideas!
And if you want to work with me personally on your own project, drop me at line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can chat all about Y-O-U!
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