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Building a Basement with more Light

Dark, dreary, dismal, dungeon like, a black hole. What are we talking about? The average basement! What makes it feel this way? A lack of lighting! If you are building new or renovating a basement and your goal is to create a space for relaxation and recreation, then lighting requires some thought and planning.

Maximize natural lighting: Enlarge existing windows and/or add more. Cover windows with light drapes and leave the option to draw them aside allowing daylight to spill in creating a brighter space. 

Plan for lighting options: Install sufficient outlets prior to closing up the walls and ceiling to allow flexibility in lighting choices.

Use a variety of light sources: Rather than a single lighting fixture in the center of the ceiling, consider layers of lighting. Try a combination of the following:

  • Track lighting: Easy to install and remarkably flexible, track lighting allows you to focus a beam of light where it will have the most impact. Multiple lighting fixtures (identical or varied) are attached to a track installed on the ceiling and are easily adjusted if you rearrange your room or furnishings.
  • Pendant lighting: These fixtures drop from the ceiling and hover over an area that needs illumination offering focused lighting, overall ambient lighting and/or colorful accent lighting. Pendant lights can shed light on a desk, sitting area, a bar, shelves, or a pool table. 
  • Recessed can lights: Offering bright light while minimizing shadows and glare, recessed can lights can illumination any area. 
  • Recessed light panels: Use large, rectangular florescent fixtures to create the illusion of a window. These false apertures are easy to install and, when equipped with daylight-spectrum florescent bulbs, mimic the patterns of natural light.
  • Up-lighting: Direct a light source toward the ceiling (instead of into the room or onto the floor) producing a soothing, even light without bright glare or harsh shadows. 
  • Floor and table lamps: The versatile lamp provides additional lighting, can brighten a dark corner, may highlight a feature and is available in many different shapes, sizes and colours.

Begin with recessed can lights above, add floor and table lamps below, use accent lights along the walls and add task lighting where needed. Don’t be afraid to layer multiple light sources in your basement to banish the dungeon atmosphere!

Take advantage of reflection: To create a more illuminated space, reflect the light you have. Use mirrors, shiny objects (vases, picture frames, etc.), polished floors, and light coloured walls to maximize reflection.

Trick your brain: Use landscapes pictures to trick your brain into perceiving more light! Try enlarging photographs of your beach holiday, purchase paintings of wheat fields from a local artist, and/or hang sunny pictures of locales around the globe. 

Try bright colours: Use splashes of bright color to banish the gloom; throw pillows, vases, lampshades, lap blankets.

Paint out the dark: If you have exposed brick or concrete block in your space, paint them white to significantly lighten the room. 

Install a fireplace: Easy to install and use, a gas or electric fireplace adds warmth and light

Turn your basement dungeon into a cozy retreat through careful layering of light fixtures, maximizing natural light, the use of reflection and the addition of colour. 

If you are renovating your basement and need advice and/or assistance, call the Calgary basement experts, Econo Basements at (403) 768-0256 or email at