Basement Lighting Ideas

Create a well-lit basement using track lighting, recessed lighting, and other lighting fixtures.

Track Lighting

Track lighting can be a remodeled basement's best friend. It is easy to install, doesn't take up floor or wall space, and is remarkably flexible. Many systems, such as the one shown here, combine both spot fixtures for accent lighting and pendant or flood fixtures for ambient lighting. Track lighting also allows you to easily change the room lighting when you rearrange the room's furnishings or design--without having to change the fixtures.

Pendant Lighting Fixtures

Pendant lighting fixtures drop from the ceiling and hover over an area that needs illumination. But pendants do more than just shed light on a dining table, desk, or sitting area. Their sculptural shapes and glowing colors hang like a functional mobile, defining the space around them.

Depending on their design, pendant lights can offer focused task lighting, overall ambient lighting, or colorful accent lighting. A mobilelike fixture, such as the one shown here, is often coupled with a dimmer switch, allowing you to dial exactly the right amount of light to suit the occasion and your mood.

Recessed Can Lighting

If your remodeled basement has a finished or suspended ceiling, recessed can lighting is a great option. They contribute bright, focused light to just about any area. They're great for seating, dining, and crafts areas because the down lighting offers bright light while minimizing shadows and glare. They're also a game-room favorite--the recessed fixtures can't get hit by pool cues or battered by Ping-Pong balls.

Here, can lighting all but disappears into a ceiling above a sitting area, allowing the room's furnishings, artwork, and display shelving take center stage.

Combine Lighting Fixture Types

Many rooms benefit from a combination of lighting fixture types. That's especially true in basements, where daylight can be scarce to nonexistent.

This modernist basement home office uses recessed can lighting to illuminate the display shelves and walkway beside the desk.

A mid-century modern-style chandelier serves three purposes. It provides general ambient light to the entire room. Its location directly over the desktop provides task lighting for office work. Finally, its flamboyant style complements the design scheme.

Industrial-Style Lighting

With concrete walls and exposed structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, unfinished basements have all the bones of an industrial-style living space. If your choice is to burnish these elements slightly and leave them exposed rather than to cover them, consider adding industrial-style lighting to complete the look.

The simple metal-and-glass pendant lights shown here are a refinement of lights used to illuminate everything from factories to gyms, and they complement the minimalist exposed-beam ceiling of this industrial-style basement.

Lighting a Basement Studio or Office

This basement studio/office combines natural light, track lighting, and pendant lighting to create a bright, comfortable space for both creative and office work. A generous-size window allows daylight to spill in. Track lighting shoots tightly focused beams of light on artwork displayed on wall shelves. In the center of the room, a drawing table takes advantage of indirect daylight reflected by the walls and ceiling as well as a fixture suspended over the table. Finally, pendant lighting above the desk provides task lighting for office chores.

Recessed Miniature Can Lights

A galaxy of recessed miniature can lights shine down on this basement bar. The bright white light from these quartz-halogen fixtures accentuates the glowing wood cabinetry, the sparkling glassware, the granite countertops, and the stainless-steel bar surfaces. Each row of lights is on a separate dimmer switch, allowing the homeowner to dial in the precise amount of illumination needed: bright for lively parties or dim for watching the TV mounted above the back-bar.

Quartz-Halogen Track Lighting

Quartz-halogen track lighting excels at focusing a dazzling beam of brilliant light precisely where it will have the most impact. In this basement seating area, that's on the super-saturated colors and cartoonlike shapes of the modernist furniture and poster art. Symmetrically placed floor lamps on either side of the sofa offer additional accent lighting during evening hours.

A False Lighted Window

Want to bring sunny daylight-spectrum light into a windowless basement room? Build a false lighted window, and you'll create above-ground ambience. Such "windows" are actually easy-to-build custom light fixtures.

Just frame and trim a "window" opening in a finished basement wall, paint the concrete wall behind it reflective white, mount several inexpensive florescent fixtures on the wall, and equip them with daylight-spectrum bulbs. Then hang a translucent light-filtering window treatment, such as this gauzy accordion shade, and enjoy the even, filtered illumination. Combined with a recessed can fixture and a halogen desk lamp, it's all the lighting this room needs.

Pendant Lighting for High-Ceiling Basements

High ceilings such as this one can feel light and airy--or just big, anonymous, and empty. Pendant lighting creates visual interest and a sense of intimacy in tall rooms.

The sleek array of sculptural lights here creates a visual focal point--one that complements the room's modern design--at just above eye level. When in use, they not only provide area lighting for the dining table but--with the rest of the room darkened--they create the sense of a small, intimate space in a room that might otherwise feel uncomfortably large.

Recessed Light Panels

Light panels are large, rectangular florescent fixtures commonly recessed into suspended ceilings in commercial buildings. Here, four of these off-the-shelf fixtures were built into a false chimney above a gas fireplace to create the illusion of a four-paned window. Equipping them with daylight-spectrum florescent bulbs floods the room with simulated sunshine.

Uplighting Creates an Elegant Ambience

Uplighting involves directing a light source at the ceiling instead of horizontally into the room or down toward the floor. Uplighting produces a soothing, even light without bright glare or harsh shadows.

Many types of fixtures provide uplighting: in this room, the reading lamp next to the easy chair directs light up as well as down, as does the sconce on the far wall. Florescent tubes behind a valance on the partition wall also cast a glow on the ceiling. The resulting even, balanced illumination works well with the soothing neutral colors and soft textures of this basement living area.

Wall of Light

Florescent fixtures hidden behind perforated panels provide both a textural backdrop and broadly diffused illumination in this basement sitting area. The panels' minimalist style fits the room's modern decorative theme. Large orange squares painted on the wall behind the fixtures warms the reflected light, energizing the space.

Multiple Sources of Light

For even illumination, multiple light sources work best. This office has every angle covered, with light converging on the work area from above, below, and to the side.

The desk is offset from the window to prevent having to look into glaring sunlight while working. Daylight-spectrum florescent tubes behind a false window illuminate the desk; frosted glass diffuses the light. The false ceiling over the desk not only conceals heating, plumbing, and wiring chases, it houses a quartet of recessed light fixtures and, along it's edge, a florescent fixture behind a valance that reflects light off the higher section of ceiling. Uplights on the desk add to the ambience--and to the ambient light.

Ceiling- and Wall-Mounted Fixtures

Before turning basements into beautiful finished living spaces became popular, few homeowners would have installed a flush-mounted ceiling fixture or an elegant sconce below ground level. Basement ceilings were often too low--and unfinished walls too ugly--to even consider using such "upstairs" fixtures below grade.

Now, many homes are built with basement ceilings as high as those in the rest of the house, and they often receive elegant treatment. This tray ceiling with its elaborate molding features a central flush-mounted ceiling fixture drawing attention to the architecture overhead. A wall sconce ensures that the corner doesn't languish in shadow.

Track-Mounted Spotlights

Situated in a walkout basement with large windows, this artist's studio gets plenty of natural light by day. After dark, track-mounted spotlights brighten the workbench, table, sink, shelving, and other areas. Installed beneath the ceiling joists, the lights provide focused illumination exactly where it's needed. Halogen bulbs provide a sparkling bright-white light ideal for tasks where attention to color and detail are important.

Recessed Lights for Accent Lighting

While recessed lighting fixtures are often thought of as providers of overall, ambient, or task lighting, don't overlook them for accent lighting tasks. Standard-issue can lights illuminate the seating area of this basement living room, while smaller versions provide more focused illumination to top-shelf display items on the room's focal point wall.

Lighting a Basement Game Room

Basements and pool tables were made for each other, but making a successful bank shot requires good lighting. If you have a finished ceiling, recessed can-light fixtures are the obvious choice. Avoid shadows by installing the fixtures so the light from each fixture overlaps the beam of adjacent ones. And you're ready to play--without the fear of knocking over a floor lamp or whacking a hanging fixture with your cue stick.

Adjustable Pendant Lights

Sometimes you want your light to come from near the ceiling for overall illumination. At other times--when reading, cooking, or doing paperwork or crafts, for example--you'd prefer a light source closer to the task.

These pendant lights feature an ingenious counterweight-and-pulley system that allows you to adjust them effortlessly. Just move the light to the position you want it, and it stays there until you raise or lower it again. Hanging the fixtures from this basement's hand-hewn ceiling beams draws further attention to those handsome architectural elements.

Vintage Pendant Lighting

These vintage-style pendant lamps, with their brushed-nickel hardware and milk-glass shades, are often called schoolhouse lamps. They were installed in thousands of early-20th-century schools, libraries, and other public buildings before the advent of florescent lighting.

The nostalgic, industrial look--complete with surface-mounted wiring--complements the exposed floor joists and painted block walls of this basement cleanup area. Because of their shapely translucent shades, these lights cast a pleasingly soft, diffuse glow that contrasts nicely with the crisp structural-looking architecture.

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