Okay, I have to admit, being a native California girl I don’t have much experience with basements, but when visiting my grandmother on our family farm in Minnesota, the first thing I would do was run down into her basement and jump on the couch or riffle through and twist off a top of one of her many freshly packed jars of jellied jams. If I close my eyes I can remember the smell: musty, damp, moldy, and…fabulous. Well, fabulous to me, as it was a reminder that I was in my grandmother’s house.

If you don’t share my unconditional love of musty and moldy smelling basements, and if yours could use some real freshening up, I recently watched a fantastic episode of “Divine Design” where Candice Olson, (and for the record, she is my FAVORITE designer on HGTV! Hi Candice!), elegantly and simply shares her tips on not only freshening your underground space, but actually making it shine.

Here’s what I learned:

Flooring: Because basement floors and subfloors are often uneven, a good option to try is a flexible vinyl wood flooring. The vinyl is forgiving with level inconsistencies, dampness and common wear and tear usually associated with this kind of space. There are many brands I easily found on-line.  I simply googled “vinyl wood flooring” and found many styles, from color to plank size.  Many are designed with a “rolled edge treatment” and even distressed grain to create a “faux-real” finish.  Finally, using this particular kind of flooring gives you both function and style. Nice.

Window Treaments: One of Candice’s most simplest and excellent tips to trick the eye is floor to ceiling window treatments.  Most basements, if they even have any, usually sport small high windows that scream “You’re underground!”.  With floor to ceiling draperies or light sheers, you create the illusion of a larger window which also helps the room seem taller as well.

Lighting: This may be an obvious tip, but what I’ve noticed in all of Candice’s basement remodels, is lighting…lots and lots of lighting.  Take down those florescent lights and replace them with pendant or hanging chandeliers (this also helps to define spaces).  Table and floor lamps (with beautiful light shades that allow lots of light) placed near sofa’s, desks, or in the corners of the room help brighten those dark areas and help create an airy atmosphere.  Recessed and track lighting also help with basements with minimal space.  Don’t forget the sconces!  You can express your personality and the tone of the room by hanging these near doorways, staircases, and shelving.  Quick trick:  mirrors!  These reflect and amplify all your light sources!

Textures: We’ve been talking about tips and tricks to “fool the eye” when it comes to your basement space.  Textures is another one way to help create distractions (in a good way!) from low ceilings, low light, and even the muffled sound from being underground.  Here are some ways to bring texture to your room:  Pillows (fuzzy, fringy, fluffy, furry, and coordinating patterns and colors), artwork (photography-black and white or bright and vibrant, framed posters, framed kid’s artwork, paintings, sculptures, vases), fabric/quilt/rug wall hangings, natural items (willow sticks or crafted balls, tall grass reeds in a vase or tall basket, fresh flowers and plants, wood shelving or mantels, bamboo wallpaper or shades, shells, sea glass, stones, etc.).  Clearly, there are numerous ideas.  When it comes to texture think about these senses:  touch, sight, smell, sound, movement.

Have fun with your basement space!  You can find all kinds of cool, fun, stylish, and functional materials, accessories, and furniture at your local thrift shop, flea market, Habitat ReStore or on-line at…and let the sun shine in!

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