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Basements: 17 Ways to Lighten and Brighten a Basement, even if you don’t have Windows

Most basements are notoriously on the darker side, so most homeowners are looking for solutions to lighten up the space – both to make it more inviting and also to make it look larger.  Most basements are below the ground or partially below grade so the limited natural light makes things extra challenging.  So I’ve my top tips and tricks to your basement.

 

Some of these tips are obvious.  Others are a bit more creative.

How to lighten a basement that doesn't have windows

 

Related basement articles:

 

Please note that this article contains affiliate links which means I may earn a commission if you choose to buy one of the products I recommend.  You can read my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.

 

17 Ways to lighten and brighten a dark basement

1. Use a light paint color

I think that this one is fairly obvious, but where people get confused is in choosing which light paint color or which shade of white to use.tripped up is on.

 

lighten and brighten a basement - light paint color for walls- Alabaster

 

White is always a safe choice, and you really can’t go wrong with it.  Some of my favorite whites are Decorator’s White, Super White, Extra White, Alabaster and Snowbound.  (The first two are from Benjamin Moore and the last three are from Sherwin Williams.)

 

The lighter, the better.  But, don’t feel obligated to only use white. Some light grays, greiges, some light yellows, blues and greens can even work, as you’ll see.

 

If you are more of a color person, just choose a lighter shade and importantly one that reflects a lot of light.  In the industry, there is a term called Light Reflective Value (LRV).  This is a scale from 0 to 100 which shows how much of the light is reflected back.  (So a perfect white would 100 and an absolute perfect black would be 0.

 

You really want to choose something with an LRV of 60 or higher for the basement.  If you can find one that is 70 or higher, that’s even better.  (I’m assuming that you want a light basement; totally different if you are trying to create a media room or man cave).

 

Gray/Greige/Beige

Out of this bunch, I prefer greige as it’s a bit warmer than a typical gray but not as warm as a beige, so it’s more neutral and stylish so it tends to go with almost everything.

  • For a light cool gray, I’d recommend Olympus (LRV 69)
  • For a greige (mix of gray and white), try Agreeable Gray (LRV 60)
  • For a light beige, try Grecian Ivory (LRV 63)

Sherwin Williams Olympus White SW6253 - light gray for basement   lighten and brighten a basement - Agreeable Gray   Sherwin Williams Grecian Ivory SW7541 - paint colors for basement

 

If these are still a bit dark for you, ask them to cut in some white at the paint store.

 

Yellows

Yellows tend to reflect the light more than other colors, so it’s usually a great option. But be sure not to go too yellow.

  • Try Jersey Cream SW6379  as it has some beige cut in (LRV 75)
  • Try Pineapple Cream SW1668 (LRV 82) or Moonraker SW6701 (LRV 76) if you want some brighter yellows.  The first one is more yellow, the second has some green undertones.

jersey cream - good paint color for basements

Blues/Greens

I love blues and greens as they are peaceful. But, you must go on the lighter side.  Here are 2 options that are light and reflect a log of light.

  • For blues, Open Air SW6491  (LRV 70)
  • For greens, Window Pane SW 6210 (LRV 72)

Sherwin Williams Open Air SW6491 - basement paint color   Best paint shades forbasement paint colors - Sherwin Williams Window Pane SW6210

Where can you get paint samples?

It’s always best to test the paint colors in you own home and own lighting. The colors do look different pending your lighting and can even look different room to room.

 

You can definitely go to your local painting store to buy some samples (and a brush…be sure to paint with 2 coats), but I have a MUCH EASIER way for you. Check out SAMPLIZE.

 

paint sample from sampize

 

Samplize offers 12” x 12” peel and stick paint samples that are EASIER, AFFORDABLE and more ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY.

 

Here are a few reasons why I recommend Samplize to my clients:

  • Samples come right to YOUR DOORSTEP in 1-3 business days, pending on location
  • At $5.95, they’re more affordable than the samples/brushes/foam boards than traditional samples…and of course easier and way less messy
  • If you keep the samples on the white paper, you can move them from wall to wall and room to room

 

They are amazingly accurate as they are made with 2 coats of real paint, so they are color correct.

 

Visit the SAMPLIZE website HERE.

 

 

2.  Make the doors and trim white

white trim for basementWhen I visit many homes with basements in my area, I often see those cheap hollow wood doors and wood trim,   Paint them white!  So simple.  You’ll probably need a primer first, and then, just 2 coats of paint.  Just a regular semi gloss white.

 

 

primer for basement walls to make them look lighterFor the primer, I’d recommend a new primer product from Stix. This is a great bonding primer and it doesn’t smell (like oil based primers do) and it dries faster. Note: I would avoid other latex primers as they don’t bond as well on wood, and if you can’t get this one, then use an oil based primer and wait 24 hrs before the next step. Or, if you use this one, you should be able to move on to the next step in 1 to 2 hours.

lighten and brigten a dark basement

make shelving white in the basementDo the same with window trim (if you’re lucky enough to have windows.  Built-ins or shelving should be white, too.

 

It will make a huge difference both both by making the room lighter and making the space look more stylish.  If your molding is in bad shape, consider replacing or upgrading it.

 

3.  Use a light colored flooring

light hardwood floors in basement - how to brighten a basementFirst, whenever possible, try to use one type of flooring.  It just makes your space look larger.  Sometimes this isn’t practical in some areas of the basement (e.g. washer/dryer or furnace areas), but for all visible areas, try to be consistent.

 

Second, try to use lighter colors.  If you have hardwood or a hardwood look (e.g. engineered wood, wood look tile, vinyl planks, etc.), I would recommend a natural wood look, white washed or light gray color.

 

If you are using a tile, choose whitish, grayish or beige/greige sort of colors.  For carpeting, beige, greige or gray colors often work.  If you choose carpeting, make sure you choose a color and/or texture to help camouflage the dirt.

 

Check out this article on my top 10 flooring choices for basements for a lot more info on basement floors.

 

4.  Layer your lighting

recessed lighting for basementsLighting is super important (obviously).  First, I’d recommend that you get recessed lighting as it seems to work the best.  You can check out all sorts of DIY recessed lighting at Home Depot here.  And, they have some great options on Amazon here.

 

When lights are on the ceiling, they tend to add more light to the entire room.  But, an even smarter way is to layer your lighting  So have lights on the ceiling, on the end tables and consider lights in other places such as shelving.  The more light the better.

 

5.  Remove window treatments

If you actually have windows (or half windows), let the sun shine in.  Remove all plants and shrubbery from the outside.  On the inside, remove all heavy drapery.  Either use white sheers or remove them entirely.

 

 

6.  Use glass doors

This is a very creative solution. If you have more than one room, use glass doors in your basement whenever possible.  Obviously, these would not work for bathrooms or spare bedrooms.  But, if you have common rooms, either use glass doors or skip the doors entirely.  It all depends on how you want to use the area.

 

7.  Leverage mirrors

Mirrors reflect light and they can make you space look larger (obviously).  If you have a home gym, consider making 1 wall with mirrors. For regular rooms, think about substituting a mirror for some artwork.  Make sure the frame is intriguing.

 

You can find this mirror (and many others) here on Amazon.

 

8. Light furniture

Yes, get lighter furniture.  Consider white, cream or light gray sofas.  Use glass coffee table and end tables (or else light colored ones.  If your furniture is dark and you can afford to buy new furniture, think about getting a cozy light chunky wool blanket such as this one.

 

9.  Paint paneling

Yes, if you’re “lucky” enough to have wood paneling in the basement, you’ll want to paint it.  It will lighten up the space and bring it into te 21st Century.  And, of course it will help you sell your house faster and for a higher dollar amount down the road.

 

Here’s a nice before and after for paneled walls.

paint wood paneling to brighten up your basement

 

I have a whole article on how to paint your paneled walls.  And, while you’re at it, if there’s any other wood trim, paint that as well.

 

10.  Light area rugs

If your floors are dark or mid toned, then definitely add a fun and light colored area rug.  I understand that for many, basements may be the entry point through the garage and hence you want to camouflage the dirt. Check out this rug.

light area rug for basements

But, you can make up for that with a nice soft and light colored area rug.  Did you know they even sell them on Amazon?  You can explore them here.

 

Here’s one I just love.
light are rug to brighten up your basement

 

And, if you can’t find one you love on Amazon, check out my article on the 10 best places to buy area rugs.

 

11.  Paint shelving, cabinetry white and ceilings white

Yes, white white white.  Lighten and brighten.  And, if you don’t have a real ceiling and you have exposed pipes, create a ceiling and paint it white.  It will make a huge difference.

 

12.  Add plants

I know this sounds like an odd tip, but plants add life to the room (and oxygen)  The feeling of nature can do wonders for your outlook.  Just get plants that thrive in low light.

 

13.  Use metallic accents

brushed nickel door handles to reflect light in your basementMetallic accents are stylish, especially brushed nickel. And, because they are metallic, they reflect more light.  So take a look at your door handles or cabinet hardware for easy ways to upgrade and add light at the same time.

 

You can find these handles (and many other options) here on Amazon.

 

14. Add frosted glass or screens (with a light from behind)

tricks to make your basement lighterThis is a very clever trick as you can basically add another light resource and a decorative element.  Sometimes this works well on a wall or in a corner.  You can find this screen here on Amazon.

 

lighten and brigten a dark basement

15.  Paint bricks white

Bricks really make a room look smaller and they are rather dated if they are brick colored.  Paint these white too.  You can either do as a white wash or pure white, whichever you prefer.

 

16.  Add light colored artwork

For your artwork, try to choose lighter color pieces  And, hang them at eye level. This little trick of the eye makes that ceilings look higher.

 

17.  Avoid clutter

In some ways, this is the easiest way to make you space look larger and brighter because it’s free.  But, for some decluttering can naturally be challenging, especially if you’re busy and/or have kids.

 

But it’s a wonder to see what decluttering can do for your space and your outlook.  It will really take a weight off your shoulders  Your space will look larger.  Bonus: It will also be easier to vacuum.

 

Concluding thoughts on making your basement lighter

As you can see, the easiest ways to make a dark basement lighter it to add more lights (obviously) and light paints and materials the reflect light, coupled with light floors and light furniture  If you’re on a tight budget, I’d probably start with the painting as you can do it yourself and it will have the largest impact.

 

Related basement articles:

Basements: 17 Ways to Lighten and Brighten a Basement, even if you don’t have Windows

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