Make Your Finished Basement With a Low Ceiling Feel Larger: 17 Pro Tips to Follow

Jenna Hall from RedFin
January 18, 2022

If you have a basement, you know how great it is to have the extra space for a movie room, workout area, or entertaining guests - the possibilities are endless. However, you may feel like your basement is cramped or uninviting since many basements have low ceilings and little natural light. The good news is, you won’t have to remodel your basement to make the space feel larger and look more appealing.

To get you started, we reached out to experts from Oakland, CA to Ottawa, ON to get their best tips on how you can make your finished basement with a low ceiling feel larger. From eye-tricking designs to utilizing natural light, keep reading to see what they had to say.


Bring light into the space

There are many factors that will contribute to making your space feel more open. Along with light, bright paint colors, your best bet is to install several low-profile LED Wafer lights with color-changing capability. Consulting an electrician will help you choose the right quantity based on the square footage of each room in your basement, along with the best color temperature to really open up your tight space. - MZ Electric

Try eye-tricking designs

Tricking the eye is the key when it comes to designing or decorating a finished basement with a low ceiling. Small tricks such as hanging pictures a little higher, compact furniture like a sofa with a lower back, and elements that add vertical lines, such as floor-to-ceiling curtains, give the illusion of height. Also, a light, uniform color on the walls and ceiling makes the space appear taller as lighter paint allows more light to reflect making the room more open. - Case Design/Remodeling

The easiest way of visually raising a ceiling is to use vertically striped wallpaper, this will trick the eye into thinking the space has much higher ceilings and taller walls than it really does. Also, hang your artwork vertically - this draws your eyesight up and really makes the space feel bigger and more expansive. - Housing.info

Consider adding mirrors in an unexpected way such as the ceiling. Not only will it make your room feel larger than life, but it will be a hot topic with your house guest. You can instantly add the illusion of space and grandeur by incorporating extra long drapes to bare windows. Ideally, choose drapes more than 98 inches long and hang 4-5 inches above the top edge of your window frame. - ModPunch Interiors

Take advantage of varying ceiling heights

If you have enough headroom to vary ceiling height a little, this can have a big effect on the sense of openness in the basement conversion. For example, you can drop the ceiling a bit or have pendant lights above a kitchen island. This will vary the ceiling and help the space feel more spacious. When you renovate a basement, you're often limited by existing structural elements like columns, nooks, and crannies. It's good to identify those elements early so you can design around them by building storage spaces like cubbies into those spaces that are hard to walk through. - How to ADU

Create space between you and your ceiling

Try incorporating low-profile furniture like low, comfy sofas and avoiding high wing back chairs. You can also paint the ceiling and walls the same color - this makes the line of the ceiling disappear and when lit properly, recede. - Liz Bianco, My Design Sherpa

 Even though you can't change the height of your walls, you can create an illusion of more space with low-profile furniture. That is, furniture that isn’t very tall. This creates an illusion that the wall is taller than it actually is. - The NoNo Bracket Company

Get creative with wallpaper and plants

We're seeing wallpaper in the basement more and more, and when you utilize bright tones, the additional light reflection enlarges your perception of the space. Another option to make any basement breathe uniqueness is plants. Most decorators confine their botanical expression to the upper levels of a home, but a few casement windows featuring indoor plants will help you set the mood for a subterranean soiree. - Realize Design

Be thoughtful with lighting

When building a basement conversion ADU, it's best to use recessed lights. But, these days, you don't even have to use canned lights. Rather, you can use flush-mounted LED lights that can connect to fire-rated blue junction boxes. That allows you to create a firewall separation between the basement and the main level. Also, you can try using large mirrors to add the illusion of more space. - Building An ADU

Utilize paint color and flooring

Choose the same paint color for the walls as your home’s main floor color, but ask the painters to tint the paint to 50% or 25%. This will give you the same color undertones, and in a darker basement, will help it to feel cohesive with the upstairs. For ceilings, choose a white ceiling with a flat sheen - the last mistake you want to make is drawing attention to the low ceiling. Out of all the colors, white draws the least attention and a flat sheen keeps light from bouncing off and grabbing your attention. Finally, make sure flooring matches room-to-room. This creates a feeling of a larger space while having multiple carpet patterns or flooring colors subconsciously compartmentalizes the rooms and makes the home feel smaller. - Dansie Design Build

Emphasize the height you do have, rather than focusing on the height you don't

Incorporate pieces that complement the height of your basement like tall curtains for a basement window, shelves and built-ins, artwork, or even an accent wall with vertical elements. This will pull the eye upwards to a dedicated focal point, which draws attention away from the ceiling and creates a sense that it's higher than it really is. Be sure to leave a few inches above any tall furniture, too; this will add some extra separation between the walls and the ceiling so the room doesn't feel closed in. - Erin Penney, Girly Geek

Fill the room with natural light

One of the best ways to make your finished basement with a low ceiling feel larger is to bring as much natural light into the space as possible. While egress windows are used as a secondary exit in case of an emergency, their size requirements mean that installing one will also create a lot of visible glass to let the sunshine in. - The Great Egress Company 

Make the space larger by removing the ceiling

You can actually make your room larger by removing the drywall on your ceiling and spray painting the floor joists, wires, and pipes white. If you don’t want to do any demolition to your basement, you could also try installing a chair rail lower than normal. Install it at 1/4 or 1/5 of your ceiling height and your ceilings will look taller and your room will look larger. - Designed Happy

Install an egress window

Usually only thought of for safety purposes, egress windows can bring in natural light to brighten up a dull and dark basement. A transom window can be added when installing into an existing opening to open up the space even further. For maximum brightness, use a light color like white for the well and frame to reflect sunlight and install your window on the side of your house that gets the most sunlight, usually the south side. - Easy Exit Egress Windows, LLC

Install larger windows

A finished basement with a low ceiling gives a small space feeling, so try enlarging the windows to give the impression of a larger space. This will also bring in more light and air to give your basement a fresher feeling - Open Door Windows and Doors Inc.

Expand the 5th wall

When you are thinking about a low ceiling, think of ways to expand that 5th wall. Stick to can lights versus anything that drops from the ceiling thus drawing your eye downward. I also prefer to keep the ceiling the same color as the walls - preferably a lighter color - so there is no definitive break in the wall and your eye continues to move upward. - K. Wilson Design

Give basement walls purpose

Often in basements, you have one wall or part of the room that can’t have windows since it is below grade or would not have any good quality light. Repurpose that wall by adding storage and built-ins. This gives function to the room and built-ins are a beautiful addition to any home. Keep your materials light, airy, and reflective to help make the space feel bigger. Consider a glossy kitchen cabinet to help bounce the light. Finally, design on the diagonal - having the movement in a small space move on the diagonal moves along the longest dimension which helps the space feel bigger. - Carrie Shores-Diller Inspired ADUs

Originally published on Redfin.com


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