Working the Room: What’s Popular in Basements Now
As the weather cools and people head inside, we break down 8 basement design features homeowners and pros are loving
When it comes to keeping those spaces fresh and functional, here are a few choices and details basement design professionals and Houzz users are choosing.
Trend No. 1: Rustic and Farmhouse-Inspired Details
What the pros say. As they have in so many other corners of the home, barn doors, distressed wall accents and reclaimed-wood features have spilled into newly finished basements. Homeowners often want to carry style elements from other parts of the house into their basement, says Bryan Sebring of Chicago area Sebring Design Build, and since farmhouse-inspired details are still big upstairs, he’s seeing a lot of them downstairs as well.
What popular Houzz photos say. This space, one of the most-saved basement photos on Houzz in recent months, features barn doors, weathered wood, white shiplap walls and farm-inspired art. Similar elements show up in many of the other most-popular recent basement photos.
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What the pros say. While basements divided into enclosed theaters, offices and game rooms used to come up a lot, pros say more homeowners have been opting for all-in-one open-concept spaces recently. This shift has driven a spike in airier general entertainment spaces with room for game tables, movie-watching and kids’ toys. Instead of constructing the elaborate, restaurant-style built-in bar areas that once were all the rage, pros say they’re doing lower-key beverage stations or pub tables that allow for a less closed-off experience.
“We aren’t doing as many sit-around, pub-style bars; we’re doing a lot of walk-up bars,” says Jason Schermerhorn of Denver design-build firm Basement Edge. “That way people can use a high-top table or something like that, something less permanent.”
Another popular way pros are blending bar and lounge areas: pulling up a high-top table and bar stools behind a couch, a setup that feels less rigid than a built-in bar and achieves the stacked theater-style seating that’s often coveted in separate theater rooms.
What the pros say. Along with liking the look and feel of open basements, homeowners are making the most of the flexibility less compartmentalized basements can provide, design pros say. The most common basement requests Sebring says he gets are from parents looking for recreational space for their kids. And ideally that space needs to be able to grow with the family.
“The two things I get is either, ‘My kids are young and I’m sick of the toys’ or ‘My kids are in high school and they want a space that all their friends can come over and I can keep an eye on them,’” he says. “From the time your kids are little to the time they go to high school to the time that you’re empty nesters, you want to be able to utilize that space in a flexible way.”
In Denver, where Amazing Basement Creations co-founder Zach Hawkins works, rising home prices seem to be prompting some families to make their basement even more multitasking, he says. Whether it’s for an elderly relative or an adult child, more homeowners seem to be adding apartment living space to their basement’s many uses.
What popular Houzz photos say. Multiple photos of this basement remodel in Edmonton, Canada, were among the most-saved basement photos on Houzz in recent months. The space — which includes convertible areas for lounging, working out and (thanks to a Murphy bed) sleeping — is a fitting example of homeowners’ push toward basements that can serve more than one purpose.
How to get the low-key look. Even a single feature doing double or triple duty goes a long way toward creating a more space-efficient basement. Can a toy cubby evolve into storage for luggage or outdoor gear? Can a spare bedroom moonlight as a personal yoga studio? Get creative.
How to get the full-out look. Deliberately adjustable anchor details like Murphy beds and untethered bars or dining tables make it easy to transform a basement again and again to meet your specific needs.
What the pros say. Basements, especially those that are entirely underground, are inherently dark. Lighting makes a big difference when it comes to carving out a room or rooms where people want to spend time.
Pros say they’re seeing more basement LED lights and fresher configurations of track lights (curved tracks, for instance). Schermerhorn says his team is installing more LED strip lighting underneath floating shelves in bar areas and above crown molding where there’s room for it.
While wall sconces, pendants over bars and other accent lights are used occasionally, Sebring says can lights remain the top pick among his clients, as they have for years.
“The reason why can lights are popular is because they point your eye away from how low the ceiling is,” Sebring says. “Anytime you have uplighting, you point it right at the ceiling, [you’re basically saying,] ‘Let’s just shine a spotlight on how low the sockets are.’”
What popular Houzz photos say. Can lights are the predominant source of brightness in the basement photos users saved most, though pendants, floor lamps and at least one statement chandelier appear too.
How to get the low-key look. When it comes to basements, the pros we spoke to say the brighter the better, especially when the basement has a squat ceiling and the darker days of winter roll around. Can lights give a nice even glow without shrinking the space. A few strategically placed pendants or sconces can add extra shine.
How to get the full-out look. With more lights, whether its electrical or natural, a cavelike basement can feel open and spacious.
What the pros say. The days of hulking built-in speaker systems look to be over. “High-tech features are getting smaller, and are more often wireless, so entertainment centers are getting smaller and sleeker,” Polymath Studio’s Sean Barnett says.
What popular Houzz photos say. In the handful of popular basement photos that include TVs, only sleek flat-screens with sound bars or TVs with no visible speakers at all can be seen.
How to get the low-key look. Schermerhorn says most homeowners he works with who want a high-tech basement entertainment area go for a sound bar and a few rear speakers.
How to get the full-out look. There’s no shortage of wireless and smart gadgets to trick out your basement these days. In addition to speakers, the pros say they’re seeing a lot of smartphone-enabled lighting, security and thermostat systems.
What the pros say. Instead of previously popular basement colors like beige and taupe, homeowners seem to be opting for gray, pros say. The trend echoes a similar preference for gray in other parts of the house. Renovating homeowners also ranked gray their top wall color choice in the kitchen and the bathroom, according to recent Houzz studies.
What popular Houzz photos say. Though white walls brighten up several of the basement photos users saved in recent months, gray walls, floors, couches and other details can be spotted in the most-saved images too. And gray doesn’t have to be boring. In this basement remodel, the team from Angela Todd Studios in Portland, Oregon, used different shades and textures of gray in the vintage vinyl tile flooring, bold prints and woods to give the space loads of visual interest.
How to get the full-out look. Pair the popular color with white accents to keep things bright and airy. Rich, textured woods warm the space.
What the pros say. Luxury vinyl plank flooring is becoming a more common basement request, pros say. In the Midwest, Sebring says carpet is still king, but the durable wood-effect vinyl planks, which tend to cost less than engineered wood options (though higher-end LVP still isn’t cheap, he says), are catching up. In the Denver area, Hawkins and Schermerhorn say it’s a top choice for many.
What popular Houzz photos say. The wide-plank, weathered style of LVP flooring that’s a central element in many recent popular basement photos is not only durable and usually more affordable, but it also can give a space a dose of rustic character.
What the pros say. TV areas and kids’ play areas are the most common finished basement project requests Sebring says he gets, but homeowners willing to invest more into their basements continue to use the extra space for fun features like wine cellars, saunas and party rooms.
“Higher-end basements are spaces that you don’t have upstairs,” he says. “Around here it’s a space where, when it’s cold, you can go down and have a really fun atmosphere.”
What popular Houzz photos say. The most-saved new basement photo in recent months, shown here, not only features the warm woods and neutral color palette that have proved popular in other photos, but it also has a high-end wine cellar space that wows.
Tell us: What basement features are you loving right now? Let us know in the Comments.
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