How We Designed Our Basement to Not Feel Like a Basement 

A few tips from The McGee Home basement

11 May 2022 -

Designing a basement comes with unique challenges… 

notoriously dark and dreary, basements are hardly known for being light, bright and open spaces. When we started designing our own at The McGee Home, we knew that we wanted it to feel different; the question was how we would pull it off.  

We had big plans — from the moody skate ramp area to the cozy guest room to the open-concept lounge space, and we were lucky to work with the team at Killowen Construction to bring all of those dreams to life. In this post, we’re diving deeper into a few things we did to make our basement feel well…less like a basement. 

We’d like to thank our friends at Killowen Construction, Killowen Cabinet Co., Kohler, Bedrosians, Lemco Design, and McGee & Co. for helping us bring this space to life! 

Getting creative with the ceilings 

Low ceilings are often one of the biggest challenges in making a space feel elevated and open, and basement ceilings are typically lower than the ceilings throughout the rest of the home. Even in areas where you don’t need a grandeur vaulted ceiling, you still don’t want the rooms in your home to feel stuffy and prohibitive. Because we built our home from the ground up, we had more free reign on the height of the ceilings, but regardless of your starting point or budget, there are still factors that need to be accounted for. 

We started with a 10-foot ceiling in our basement, but we still had to find a creative workaround for the ducts that dropped down. Often when we start with an 11-foot ceiling, we fur the entire ceiling down to cover the ducts and create a true 10-foot ceiling, but we decided to keep the 10-foot height and conceal the ducts with beams to make it feel intentional. For more visual interest, we added T&G trim that spans the length of the entire ceiling, tying in with the details throughout the rest of our home. 

Adding layers of coziness in an elevated way 

We wanted our basement to feel cozy and give you the feeling that you could come in and put your feet up from the moment you walked through the door but still elevated and put together. The largest piece of furniture in this room is our big custom sectional, and we love how much space there is to watch movies as a family. A vintage console table behind the sofa, a marble coffee table, and two fringe ottomans pull the look together and give it a feeling of intention without taking away from the relaxed feel.  

“Our furniture in this space is all about comfort, but we still have a few dressy pieces to elevate the look and feel."

- Shea McGee

Always consider the lighting 

Lighting is one of the elements that can make or break the feeling of any room, especially in the basement. In The McGee Home basement, we did our best to make sure our wells were large enough to add as many windows as possible for optimal lighting. In many basements, though, window lighting is minimal or non-existent. Adding layers from every viewpoint — the floors, tables, and ceilings is important to create a cozy environment.  

We love the ambiance that a lot of lamp lighting brings, and incorporated lamps in nearly every room in the basement. We also chose really elevated cans for the ceiling that illuminate a softer, less intense light that makes a significant difference.  

Elevate your window treatments

In rooms with lower ceilings, we always try to draw the eye up as much as possible. In the basement, elevating your window treatments (figuratively and literally) can go a long way in making your windows, and therefore your ceilings, appear taller than they really are.  

We worked with The Shade Store to do custom window treatments throughout our entire home. In the basement guest room, we knew we needed to do something a little different to accommodate the minimal space between the window and ceiling. We ended up going with The Shade Store’s “Custom Track” hardware and their Ripple Fold Drapery in the material “Upton” and color “Wheat”. 

"One great way to make a basement room feel less like a basement room is to incorporate really full drapes that add weight and texture."

- Shea McGee

Date Posted
11 May 2022