A basement can be a great place to entertain guests in a home theater, enjoy a little quiet in a comfortable den, or knock out those to-do lists with an in-home office. However, many partially finished or simply neglected basements house little else than sorrowful glances. 

One of the easiest ways to update a drab basement is by adjusting the color scheme. The right paint choices for your basement can turn an uninviting dungeon into a lively, warm retreat.

Many homeowners experience frustration over the unbearable state of their basements, but what makes it so difficult for basements to become enjoyable living spaces? 

The following are common problems that plague basement spaces along with helpful tips for using paint and other techniques to overcome them.

Inadequate Lighting

Poor lighting lends many basements a dark and dingy air. In most cases, light paint colors open up a room, while darker hues increase warmth and intimacy. Many homeowners quickly opt for light colors, thinking that a lighter color is the obvious choice to brighten up a subdued basement setting. 

However, this theory doesn’t necessarily translate well to basements, because many lighter paints are actually designed to look their best in well-lit settings. Paint stores also use bright, florescent lights in display areas, which can be in dramatic contrast to the lighting arrangements in most basements. 

When applied in a basement with little natural light or a poor lighting scheme, lighter colors can appear stuffy and lifeless.

Helpful Tip #1: Explore richly saturated colors that don’t require an abundance of light to fully reach their potential. Both light and dark colors can be richly saturated, so a well-saturated blue might bring more energy to a room than a soft, unsaturated yellow.

Helpful Tip #2: Reserve lighter, unsaturated paint tones for areas that receive sufficient natural light or have ample artificial light.

Helpful Tip #3: Consider adding additional lighting, such as hanging fixtures, strategically placed lamps, or recessed lighting. Mirrors can also bounce light in darker areas of the room and give the illusion of space.

Lack of Focus

Many basements are multi-functional, which can exacerbate a decorating problem. Between exercise equipment, office and storage space, dated furniture, and recreational areas, a basement can become a cluttered, out-of-focus space, making decorating a real challenge.

Helpful Tip #1: Avoid overpopulating a room with too many colors by applying the 60-30-10 rule. Limit a room’s paint scheme and complementary décor to three main colors. Sixty percent of the room should be in the dominant color, thirty percent in the secondary color, and ten percent in an accent color.

Helpful Tip #2: If a plethora of textures and colors already competes to set a mood for the room, use complementary paint colors instead of analogous colors. Complementary colors sit across from one another on the color wheel and naturally pair well with each other. 

Analogous colors sit next to each other on the wheel and can create a bold and interesting contrast, which can be a great statement for certain rooms but might add tension to a busy basement.

Helpful Tip #3: Work with existing focal points in the room. If a large furniture piece, pool table, or architectural feature dominates the space, build your color scheme around it.

The Dark, Damp Dungeon

Unlike the rest of the home, basements are often unfinished or only partially finished, which creates added challenges to painting. In addition, many basements suffer from poor ventilation and moisture problems.

Helpful Tip #1: Basements attract water, so opt for a paint with a slightly glossier finish, such as eggshell or satin. Glossier finishes resist water and stains and have the added benefit of reflecting light better than a matte finish. Be aware that glossier finishes enhance any surface imperfections, so take care during preparation to create a smooth, clean painting surface.

Helpful Tip #2: Use low- or zero-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints whenever possible. VOCs are at their highest levels during and right after painting, so without ample ventilation, ordinary paints can be a dangerous indoor air pollutant.

Helpful Tip #3: Use concrete paint, available at most stores, for any concrete walls. Preparation can be labor intensive for painting concrete, but it will result in protected concrete, a durable paint job, and a more finished look for your basement.

Many basements just store household junk and wishful thinking. When you are unable to enjoy your basement space, it can be a source of frustration; but with the right paint scheme, you can create a comfortable, vibrant addition to your home.

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