It's easy to find advice on decorating nearly every inch of your home. Kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, baths — even mudrooms and closets get attention. But the lowly basement gets short shrift.
These subterranean spaces present a host of decorating challenges, from low ceilings and limited natural light to never-ending battles with dampness and even flooding.
Yet basements can be untapped treasures.
Kathryn Bechen, author of the new "Small Space Organizing" (Revell Books), first tackled basement decorating while living in a tiny basement apartment. Years later, she preaches the same decorating techniques that helped make her underground rental into a cozy home: Decide exactly how you'll use your basement, and then either embrace its dark coziness or use colour, texture and the right furnishings to bring the illusion of bright, open space.
Bechen says it's worth the effort, especially for people with small homes, to convert a previously ignored basement into a family gathering spot, workspace or media room.
Here she and interior designers Brian Patrick Flynn, founder of decordemon.com, and Kyle Schuneman, an expert on decorating small spaces, offer advice on making basements beautiful.
RELATED: 30 Unique And Inexpensive Ways To Redecorate Your Home
Instead of spending loads on pricey chairs, reach for oversized cushions (in bright colours and bold patterns!) to increase a room's seating capacity.
Instead of buying expensive artwork, get creative with large collages, wallpaper scraps or maps or hang a beautifully patterned fabric from wooden dowels. Off-the-shelf frames with kids art can make your home unique.
Paint an accent wall a high-contrast colour (the brighter the better). All you need is a single quart to make the transformation happen.
Countertop in need of some life? Pop some plants inside colourful metal planters for a cheerful look at a cheap price.
Add this no-fuss centrepiece to a table! Ripened fruit in a wooden bowl is simple, accessible and chic.
Whether it's a single item or a group of items placed together, creating a major focal point can make a room look more spacious -- and can save you more cash than by spending money on several ornate pieces.
Uniform sets are out; mixing and matching is in. To create a gorgeous and trendy living room, dining room or table-setting, mix and match pieces from different furniture sets.
These classic colours can create dramatic space that looks expensive and has a lot of bang without the buck.
Use lamps that have shape and sculpture. Lamps that are too small can make your space look cheap and are often just as expensive as show-stopping lights.
This budget-friendly tip prevents you from spending loads when you can just revamp the old. Don't have the money to spend on a new media unit? Try an antique armoire.
Try turning old pillow cases and bedsheets into chic throw pillow shams.
To create gorgeous patterns and accentuate any space, all you need is cardboard, paint and an exacto knife! Detailing your home has never been so easy and budget-friendly.
A large decorative rug or hallway runner will hide scuffs and mask worn hardwood; it's much less expensive than having your floors refinished or sanded down.
Instead of buying new pricey storage units, cover old boxes of varying sizes with different papers and materials. You can even paint them!
Chalkboards and blackboards are an easy, budget-friendly purchase and add a fun touch to kids' rooms, kitchens and studies. You can even paint your own on a wall using store-bought paint.
The great outdoors is just outside your window. Collect branches and place them in a large vase or fill different sized jars with herbs, leaves and flowers to add colour to a beige room.
Oceanic accents are trendy and keep your budget in control. Giant clams and oyster shells can be used on their own for decorative purposes and can also make great bowls to hold anything from candy to potpourri. Sticking a variety of shells in all different shapes and sizes on different walls and frames can also make your home worth sea-ing.
Mirrors come in a variety of shapes, sizes and prices. Hanging mirrors on walls, or installing them in opposite windows or doorways, also creates the illusion of space.
Mixing high-end products that are on sale with inexpensive accessories will give any room a chic look that's on-trend for fall. So go ahead: combine high-end pieces with vintage accessories and flea market finds.
Hang eye-catching ornaments in your kitchen, like an eclectic collection of silver trays or pots filled with greenery.
An affordable way of making your house zen? Bring in pleasant sounds and smells with wind chimes, table-top fountains and aromatic candles.
To add a lift to a room, get some new paint and coat the walls. A cheap way to get your rooms looking clean and fresh!
Grouping together intriguing framed photos in interesting ways creates a unique presentation -- and is much less costly than displaying art, photography or building a shelving unit.
Changing cabinet handles, door knobs and drawer pulls can bring a whole new style and look to your existing cabinetry. Faucet handles are also a quick and cheap fix that can up the glam in a home.
Materials like painter's tape allow you to paint horizontal or vertical lines or create shapes like rectangles or squares on walls.
Hang fabric panels on rods that are wider than the actual window frame; this costs less than regular window draping and gives the illusion that your window is much larger than it actually is.
Upgrade your living area or bedroom with a small ceiling fan -- they often cost under $100.
Revamp large pieces of furniture with slipcovers. This, combined with changing around pillow shams and materials, will make it appear as if you've done a major reno or room overhaul.
Want a floating island in your kitchen, but don't want to spend the extra dough? Invest (barely) in a caster. You can even attach wheels onto one to create rollable storage.
Doing this craft yourself with iron-on decals -- and foregoing spending money on it professionally -- will add some oomph to staid home objects without breaking the bank.
LIGHTEN UP OR EMBRACE THE DARK
"Since there's usually a major lack of natural light in basements," Flynn says, "inject light by using muted colour and tons of white. What I often do is stick with muted greys on the walls, then use ultra-white on ceilings to help bounce light throughout the space. But to make it more punchy, I toss in a super-saturated accent colour such as fire-engine red, grassy green or orange."
White furniture may seem like a recipe for disaster, but furniture upholstered in white can work in a basement as long as you choose durable, washable fabrics.
Using plenty of floor and table lamps will also help, and Bechen says the old advice about mirrors shouldn't be ignored: Strategically placing a mirror opposite even a tiny basement window will help maximize light.
The opposite approach also works: Decorate with sleek, low-slung furniture in dark colours to create a sophisticated lounge effect, using the cozy intimacy of the basement to your advantage, says Schuneman.
He says this sexy lounge look isn't hard to accomplish, and makes a low ceiling less of a detriment. Have fun gathering ideas by visiting clubs and restaurants that feature this look.
All three designers believe basements are perfect spots for bold decorating. Experiment with colours you don't normally use or indulge in theme decorating that might feel like overkill if you did it throughout your house.
Basements are perfect "for having a retro moment," Schuneman says, since many of them feature vintage wood paneling and decorative touches that have been in place for decades. You're not creating a stage set, he says. But if there are vintage pieces already in your basement, why not amplify that look rather than removing it?
Another option: "Go for the feel of a little seaside cottage," Bechen says. Use shades of pale blue, sand and white in linen, light cottons and berbers. Go all out with seashells and decorative pieces with ocean or island motifs. Beach cottage style subconsciously reminds you of open spaces and sunshine, she says, transforming the feel of your basement.
And if your basement will be used as a media room, go with a movie theme by framing vintage movie posters bringing in some Hollywood style, she says.
CHANGE THE CEILING
"Many basements have drop-down ceilings, which are definitely practical since it makes for easy access to plumbing and electrical," Flynn says. But inexpensive drop-down tiles are often unattractive and look cheap.
"I usually recommend high-end ceiling tiles with architectural detail. They're double or triple the price of basic drop ceiling tiles, but they give a much more sophisticated look. Plus, you can install them yourself."
Another option, he says, is installing stamped metal tiles: "They have the look of an old school Victorian ceiling, but all you need to put them up is a pair of safety gloves."
If there is harsh overhead lighting, consider swapping out old fixtures (especially fluorescent ones) with something that radiates warmer, more flattering light. Or, Bechen says, at least swap out bluish fluorescent lights for ones with a pink hue.
WARM UP THE FLOOR
First, choose materials that can handle moisture.
Even basements that don't normally flood can still have a buildup of moisture. Schuneman recommends laminate flooring or vinyl floor tiles for durability and for style: Thanks to improved technology, he says, "there's some really rad stuff out there."
Bechen recommends cork flooring, which is durable, warm and soft underfoot. And Flynn recommends FLOR carpet tiles. "You can install them yourself," he says, "plus they can come up if the floor gets wet, then you can take them outside and dry them in the sun."
To keep new flooring in good shape, consider using a dehumidifier. And a freestanding fireplace can help banish both cold and moisture, assuming you have the proper ventilation to use one safely.
"Basements don't have to be all concrete and plastic," Flynn says. "I like to incorporate organic elements wherever possible, such as sisal on a stairwell. The rough texture is great for traction, and it creates more of an inviting, residential feeling upon entry to a basement."
Along with using organic materials, Bechen suggests bringing in plants — real or fake. If you have a small window, she suggests decorating near it with plants that thrive in very low light. High-end silk plants also can bring a sense of outdoors and open spaces, she says.
EMBRACE THE SILENCE
Tucked away from the main traffic areas of the house, a basement can be the perfect place for independent work or play.
"Some of the most practical home offices I've ever designed are in basements," Flynn says. "The office is separated from the noisiest parts of the house and it keeps private documents stored safely away from the hustle and bustle."
To bring some creative kick to his own basement workspace, Flynn put down pine flooring and then "painted it an orange and white zigzag pattern, and lightened up dark brick walls with white paint. It feels kind of like a loft that just happens to be underground."
Basements have also traditionally been great play spaces for children because they can cut loose without disturbing anyone. If the room will be used mainly by kids, Bechen suggests avoiding very child-centric décor, which they'll soon outgrow. You can use bold colours and perhaps hang your kids' framed artwork on the walls. But anything too preschool-focused will soon feel outdated.
Whatever the purpose of your newly redecorated underground space, Bechen says the more finished and detailed you make your basement décor, the more it will feel like the rest of your house.