After so many weeks (or months!) in self-isolation, we’ve all had plenty of time to stare at the walls in every room in the house. If we’re being honest, many of us are dying to refresh or redo most of them.

Even though the country is reopening, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised that we all continue to #StayAtHome as much as possible.

Before you pull out your hair, wondering how you'll continue looking at the same four walls you've been staring at for months, take heart: For families desperate to create a new gathering spot that they’re not sick of being in, the basement offers plenty of potential.

We've ID'd five projects well worth doing to transform your basement from a dank dungeon to a light-filled, inviting space for relaxation and fun—and even for entertaining, once you're comfortable having gatherings again.

1. Increase the comfort of your climate downstairs

If your family complains about hanging out in the basement because it’s too chilly, too damp, or just plain not cozy enough, this might be the perfect time to upgrade your heating, cooling, and ventilation (HVAC) system. It may not seem like a sexy revamp, but boosting the air efficiency in your home makes an immediate difference.

Interior designer Kate Rumson, on behalf of Trane Residential, says your basement should feel just as comfortable as the rest of your house.

“It’s important to keep your HVAC top of mind, and air quality and temperature can play a significant role in helping to enhance your quality of living and comfort level,” says Rumson.

She recommends looking into multizone HVAC equipment and creating a separate zone for the basement that can be controlled by its own smart thermostat. That will allow you to adjust it from your smartphone, tablet, or computer.

2. Brighten things up

Think of the word "basement" and the first thing that probably comes to mind is … dark.

Luckily, this is one of the quickest and least expensive things to fix, says Realtor® Leianne Messina, an affiliated agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Atlanta and owner/designer of Redneck Renovation.

First, roll on a coat of fresh paint for instant impact. Tired, fake-wood paneling all but disappears under white or light-colored paint, making the room appear much larger, Messina says.

Next, you’ll need to layer in some good lighting. Many basements make do with lamps, but it’s worth paying more to illuminate your space properly.

“I'm a huge fan of recessed lighting, because it’s stylish, and it doesn’t take up precious space in the ceiling,” Messina says.

You can also put in inexpensive flush-mount light fixtures from Home Depot or Lowe's that hang down about 3 inches, she adds.

And you know those tiny basement windows you barely notice? Rumson has a good trick for dressing them up.

“I always recommend going with extra-wide curtain rods, to create the illusion of larger windows,” says Rumson.

“Hang curtains on either side of the window, but never block the window itself. I would also recommend installing the curtain rods as close to the ceiling as possible, which makes ceilings look taller.”

3. Create a game room

If you already have a separate room in your basement that can’t become a legal bedroom, that could make a pretty awesome gaming room your kids will thank you for. Paint this room dark and dramatic, throw in a few oversized bean bag chairs, and see how long they’ll stay out of your hair.

“This setup is also perfect for watching movies, or for a man cave, where you don’t need much light,” says Messina.

4. Turn your dated wet bar into a kitchenette

Maybe you’ve been living in your house for a long time, and don’t even notice your outdated basement décor. If you’re lucky enough to have a finished basement that just needs a modern face-lift, there are affordable ways to do it, says Messina.

For example, remember when many basements featured a massive bar as a focal point? Turns out, you can incorporate this into your remodel.

“Because bars generally have plumbing in them, we can just repurpose those,” says Messina.

“I’d add a new granite overhang with seating, and then put in a kitchenette by adding a cooktop, a small refrigerator, and a sink.”

Having a kitchenette in the basement works especially well if you also have a bedroom and bathroom downstairs, as it makes the perfect guest suite, she adds. If you’re lucky enough to also have a separate entrance into your basement, you may even want to rent the basement out for extra income.

5. Create separation to make your basement do double duty

Why stop at using one huge area to lounge and binge-watch Netflix, when you can carve out multiple functions from your basement?

Designate one full wall for closed storage if you can, and then carve out specific spaces for entertainment, work, games, crafting, fitness, or whatever else you choose. For example, if your TV is hung on a wall, you can roll out a folding piece of fitness equipment and set it up for an instant gym when needed.

“Using furniture and rugs to define different areas is the best and easiest way. See-through bookcases, sofas, and oversized artificial plants are all perfect pieces to use for separation,” suggests Rumson.

Upgrading your basement can also boost your bottom line when it comes to resale value, she adds.

“Basements can feel as luxurious as any above-ground living space, making them ideal for entertaining guests and hosting family gatherings," Rumson says.

"So having a comfortable finished basement will make the house more attractive to buyers, because it provides additional living space and more storage.”

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