Basement lighting ideas must be well planned because of the below grade location of this part of a home. With few windows – or none at all – the lighting needs to provide excellent overall illumination along with sufficient light for specific tasks, and to highlight features of the space.
Whether your basement ideas include living spaces, bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, or any other option, the lighting must work for the activities that take place, and allow the mood to be changed as required. And basements deserve lighting as aesthetically pleasing as that in any other room.
To make the most of a basement take inspiration from these lighting ideas and design expertise.
Basement lighting ideas
Ambient, task and feature lighting are key to any basement lighting design, when the space might include anything from a basement bar for entertaining, to a basement bathroom for overnight guests. Take a look at these basement lighting ideas.
1. Create a cozy atmosphere with basement lighting
If you’re planning a basement extension, a bedroom may well be something that’s included to provide a private area for guests. That was the case in this project by interior designers Run For The Hills (opens in new tab), and this bedroom uses a variety of basement lighting ideas to create the perfect ambience.
‘We love to use layers of light to create a soft and moody lighting atmosphere, which we did in this basement bedroom to create a feeling of zen,’ explains Mimi Pearce, senior interior designer.
‘We highlighted lovely art with picture lights and chose bedside lights to look beautiful, not just be functional with individual switching by the bedside. And we added targeted reading lights for lovely brightness without bothering the other sleeper. We also added a couple of brighter downlights just for cleaning. All lighting controllers are via a dimmer system.
‘The key to lighting a basement is to make it cozy – not trying to pretend it’s more light than it is,’ she adds.
2. Opt for wall lights
In a basement without windows and when circumstances or basement coversion costs preclude adding them, wall lights can be a sound choice.
‘Where we have had windowless/dark basement spaces we embrace textures and warm colors to make them inviting and cozy,’ says Lisa Schiller, director at Schiller Beynon Interior Design (opens in new tab).
‘Wall lights are key as they soften the space, creating interest and softer lighting, drawing the eye away from the ceiling. These particular wall lights are from Maison Sarah Lavoine (opens in new tab) and have a textile finish which offers comfort and works beautifully against the textured wallpaper.’
3. Introduce task lighting in a basement bathroom
To make the most of a basement, it’s worth adding a bathroom if possible and a skylight, as here, can provide excellent natural illumination for the space. But task lights are also key as part of the basement lighting ideas for a room that should be functional as well as appealing.
One option that is always worthwhile is to install wall lights either side of the mirror. They provide an even light ideal for the application of make-up or other bathroom tasks.
4. Swerve eyestrain when home working
If your small basement ideas include locating a home office there, plan adequate illumination for the desk area as well as overall to avoid eyestrain when working long hours.
Consider combing wall lights above the desk with a desk lamp which can be angled to boost the light in a specific area as required. Meanwhile, for the room’s ambient lighting if the ceiling is low, wall lights won’t compromise overhead space, great for basement ceiling ideas.
5. Think lighting layers
Layer lighting in basement bedrooms. ‘It not only brings a room to life, but helps to create a more flexible space,’ explains interior designer Irene Gunter, founder of Gunter & Co (opens in new tab). ‘In this particular bedroom, we combined recessed lighting with Linden lamps by Kelly Wearstler. The lamps don’t just look beautiful (particularly considering we customized them), but they also emit a warm, ambient light that is great for winding down in the evening.’
6. Boost natural light
Take natural illumination into account when contemplating basement lighting ideas. It can be optimized with decor so that less artificial light is needed.
‘Basement bedrooms need not be dark or dim,’ says Maggie Griffin, founder, Maggie Griffin Design. ‘With a beautiful window for natural light and pretty furnishings, you can make the most of the small spaces by outfitting the room with all of the creature comforts of main floor bedrooms. I recommend keeping colors light to make the most of the natural light.’
7. Make basement lighting aesthetically pleasing
While all lighting has a practical role to fulfill, it should also deliver aesthetically – and basements are no exception to the rule.
‘It’s important to give the same attention to detail when it comes to lighting in the basement as you do throughout the rest of the home,’ says Elizabeth Krueger of Elizabeth Krueger Design (opens in new tab). ‘Decorative fixtures, sconces, art lights and well-placed can lights are a beautiful way to ensure your basement feels finished and connected, and less like an afterthought.’
8. Illuminate a basement bar
If the basement is a space for entertaining, a bar is a feature worth incorporating. But how to light it? Follow the same rules you would in the kitchen positioning lights that will illuminate the countertop for preparing drinks and that won’t leave you standing in your own shadow. Wall lights are an ideal choice.
You’ll want to be able to change the mood, though, so just as in the kitchen, set these task lights on a dimmer switch so they double as mood lighting.
9. Bring a basement alive with lighting
Different circuits are essential to successful basement lighting ideas in a large space like this one.
‘The key to good lighting is to layer the effects,’ explains lighting designer Sally Storey, author of Inspired By Light (opens in new tab). ‘In this basement corridor to a games room, the general ambience has been created by the decorative wall lights at mid-level, and accent to the architraves using uplights with a narrow beam. Infill lighting provided by low glare downlights highlights the carpet, leading you through to the room beyond.
‘To create balance for different times of day, I would control the decorative lighting on one circuit, the uplights on another and the downlights on a third. By controlling these circuits individually, you can create different moods throughout the day and as natural light changes, which brings a basement space alive.’
10. Work safely in a basement kitchen
A well planned and executed lighting design is vital for any kitchen but it’s never more imperative than as part of basement kitchen ideas because the space lacks the natural light of a main floor kitchen.
Use ceiling lighting, LED lights under wall cabinets, or wall lights, and illuminate the kitchen island with pendants, too. And consider lights with a metallic finish to mulltiply the light in the space further.
How do I get the best lighting for my basement?
To get the best lighting for a basement you could consider remodeling to add windows or skylights. Not feasible? ‘If there aren’t any windows in the basement, opt for light paint colors, tile, etc,’ says Andi Morse, founder, Morse Design (opens in new tab).
‘Keeping it light in a space with no windows will help the room feel warm and inviting, whereas making it too dark could result in a dungeon-like feel. Also, paint all trim the same color as the walls. This will make the space feel larger and brighter.’
What kind of lights are good for a basement?
The lights you’d use in the rest of the rooms of your home are good options for basements with the caveat that you may be working with a low ceiling. If that’s the case, recessed lights are the way to go.
‘I recommend adding as many canned lights as you can and putting them on dimmers,’ says Andi Morse. ‘The dimmers allow you to modify the lighting depending on the time of day.’
Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.
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