When it comes to creating additional living space and increasing value of your home, the traditional approach is either to build an extension or convert the loft. Extending requires sufficient plot space and – in most cases – approval from the local planning department, while by their very nature lofts tend to be more suitable for use as bedrooms, so the best option can be to convert or build a basement. As well as adding valuable space without altering the look of your home, going underground can offer more flexibility in usage. If you’re looking for space for a playroom, a home cinema, a bespoke gym, or – on a more practical note – to relocate the utility room in order to provide more space above ground, then a basement can be the perfect solution. And if you’re looking for a home office, it can make sense to utilise a basement to separate your working environment from your personal life.
The only potential drawback with converting a basement is that the ceiling height can be lower than elsewhere in the property so it’s worth looking at whether the floor can be excavated in order to increase the headroom. While adding to the budget for the project, it will most likely create a more inviting space, especially as windowless subterranean accommodation can easily feel less spacious than rooms above ground level. Greater ceiling height will help to prevent the space appearing oppressive, but whether you decide to increase the ceiling height or not, there are a number of additional ways in which you can give the impression of space without incurring significant expense. Our top tips for a light and airy basement conversion include:
Spend time to carefully consider the colour scheme for your basement. Opting for a neutral wall colour will not only create a feeling of space but will also permit the use of accented accessories and soft furnishings such as rugs and cushions. It can also help to create a contrast with dark pieces of signature furniture as these items can emphasise the lightness of the overall décor and make the basement feel more spacious.
Converting a basement can open up the potential for a number of new rooms, but it can be beneficial to avoid the temptation to overdevelop. Settling on an open-plan configuration, especially if the ceiling height cannot be altered, will give a greater sense of space, especially if the colour scheme is light and neutral. It is still possible to zone the space with furniture and storage but the more open the layout the larger and lighter the space is likely to feel.
Nothing will make your shiny new basement feel dark and dingy as effectively as excessive clutter. When it comes to lightening the space, less is definitely more, so focus on keeping your surfaces clear and stay disciplined about using simple storage solutions.
It’s a well-known technique, but introducing mirrors to a basement can certainly increase the perception of openness and space by augmenting any available light. Whether floor-to-ceiling or wall-mounted, a strategically placed mirror is guaranteed to open up your space.
As with the inclusion of mirrors, opting for flooring that has a sheen can help to lighten the space, especially when you consider that the floor can directly reflect your ceiling lights. Polished hardwood, tiles and shined concrete are all excellent choices to offer a bounce to any available light.
By far and away the most effective way of lightening a basement, however, is to major on creative lighting. It’s likely that the space will be entirely devoid of natural light – or at the very best may have a small ‘hopper’ window – and the potential lack of ceiling height can present problems with hanging pendant lights, so it’s important to think differently. Recessed ceiling lights can offer a high level of ambient light without generating significant levels of heat, and can they can often be dimmed to create different moods. If your ceiling height will permit, another option for ambient lighting is directional track lighting which, unlike fixed downlights, can offer the flexibility of moving the lights along the track to alter their focus. Freestanding floor and table lamps can brighten dark corners, while cleverly placed uplighters can bounce light off the ceiling and around the room. It can be more challenging in a pre-existing basement, but if the configuration permits it is possible to introduce a degree of natural light using skylights, sun pipes and tunnels.
As Simon Kelliher of Cambridge builders Refresh Renovations explains, converting an existing basement into an inviting open-plan living space can not only add considerable value, but also enhance the quality of the time your family spends together. ‘At Refresh we focus on helping our clients to look beyond the bricks and mortar in order to concentrate on ways to make their homes better meet their needs and aspirations. And top of that list for us is the objective of maximising the space in which they can relax and spend time together. Building an extension or converting the loft are without doubt viable ways of improving your home, but upgrading an unused basement into a habitable space can be a creative way of adding a fun place to play, read, watch TV or just hang out together. And far from being dark and unwelcoming, with some simple additions a basement space can’t feel light, airy and spacious.’
You might be interested in reading this case study of Refresh: Going Under – A Home Excavation.
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Refresh Renovations UK are Cambridge builders offering design and build services for basement conversions. To discuss how Refresh can add a new dimension to your home by transforming your basement, please get in touch today using the enquiry form listed alongside, or if you would like to submit a more comprehensive enquiry, you can do so on the Get In Touch page.