18 Ways to Make Your Basement Walls Beautiful


Not sure how to cover cinder block walls in basement spaces? Banish the dark-and-dingy feel with these creative solutions for below-ground rooms, ranging from a can of paint to more elaborate architectural additions.

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Brighten with Color


Create a focal wall in your basement by painting a single stretch with a bold, warm color. In this living space, the deep orange wall complements an earthy palette of gold, pea green, and light brown. Painting the adjacent walls bright white balances the orange's zing and reflects light, eliminating any risk of basement gloom.

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Create a Giant Message Board


In a basement hobby room or office, turn one wall into an oversize message board. Not only does this installation create a fun spot to hang photos or notes, it also helps reduce noice and echoing. Keep in mind, you should only pad your walls in basements where humidity and moisture are not a problem.

Start by stapling batting and fabric to the wall, then stretch wide ribbon on the diagonal from floor to ceiling to make diamonds. At each intersection, hammer in a decorative furniture tack to create a tufted look. Install baseboard and crown molding last.

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Leave Brick Exposed


If your home's foundation walls are brick instead of the more common poured concrete or concrete block, you have a prime opportunity: Leave those gorgeous bricks exposed for a chic loft look belowground. In this basement office, the brick walls remain in their natural state, and the wood floor joists overhead are exposed. Above-grade windows bring in light, so the dark-hued walls don't feel closed-in.

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Tile the Walls for Easy Care


Subway tiles applied over drywall make durable, easy-to-maintain walls for a basement laundry room. If your masonry walls aren't already finished, you'll need to attach wood furring strips or 2x4 studs, then add insulation and cover with drywall. Tile is applied directly over the drywall—in this case, up to plate-rail height—in the same way it is for any bathroom or kitchen installation.

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Add Architectural Interest


In this stately room, basement walls take on handsome Art Deco-style with ordinary lumber: 4x8 plywood sheets of rotary-sawn maple hardwood and solid poplar 2x3 battens, laid out in a grid. The poplar is stained dark walnut and attached over the joints between the plywood sheets. Hint: Boost your home's energy efficiency by insulating the walls before applying the architectural detailing. Rigid foam panels offer more insulating value than fiberglass and are impervious to moisture.

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Hang Curtain Panels


Looking for cheap wall ideas for basement rooms? Here's your solution, as seen in this laundry room: Paint everything white—concrete-block walls as well as the exposed floor joists and ducts overhead—and mask the walls with curtains.

Make the panels from canvas painter's drop cloths, then attach large grommets to the top edge. Slide the curtains onto galvanized pipe. Mount the pipe using galvanized round floor flanges (found in the plumbing supply department of a home center).

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Flaunt a Curved Wall


Define a basement room with curved walls and interesting artwork. The curved wall here started with a framework of studs covered with veneer panels and overlaid with molding and wooden trim pieces to create the wainscoting. Above the chair rail, a handpainted mural depicts a whimsical scene of dogs playing billiards—the sort of humorous wall art a hangout space can pull off.

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Perk Up with Plywood


For a fun and affordable basement wall finish, attach 4-foot-square pieces of plywood to furring strips or wall studs. Vary the direction of the grain pattern to amplify the quilted effect, and accessorize the corners by driving the screws through metal washers. For extra functionality, paint some of the plywood squares with chalkboard paint as a message center.

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Maximize with Molding and Paint


As expensive as it looks, Arts and Crafts-style wainscoting is easy to create with plywood, crown molding, and 1x3 boards. Here the trimwork and ceiling are painted warm white, while the drywall is coated in bright white. The combination makes this corner feel light and open, especially with natural light coming in through the above-grade window.

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Embrace Your Rustic Side


Warm pine tongue-and-groove siding enhances the woodsy look of this stone fireplace, giving the basement a rustic log-cabin feel. Before installing a treatment like this over masonry basement walls, make sure the walls are plumb and dry. If yours are bowed or not perfectly square, build a stud wall in front of the masonry wall to ensure a flat, plumb surface. In this case, the stud wall is attached to the overhead joists and the concrete slab.

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Put Up Partition Walls


Basements are often one large, open room, which works if you need a playroom or family area. However, if you want to divide up the space—say, for a bedroom, office, or both—partition walls are an easy addition. Since they don't have to support the weight of the house, you can build them anywhere in the basement to create separate rooms. In this example, a partial wall divides a sitting area from a dining space, and shiplap-like wood planks set it apart as a focal point.

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Play with Geometric Pattern


The geometric carpet squares on the floor of this basement living room modernize the traditional look of the picture-frame moldings on the walls. The warm red above the chair rail gives the area a feeling of cozy intimacy, while crisp white molding makes the color combination pop. With such a vibrant palette, there's no hint of darkness in this below-grade space.

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Upcycle Old Yardsticks


If you want every inch of your basement to feel unique, steal this creative—and inexpensive—idea: Attach old yardsticks to the wall between 1x4 dividers, creating an interesting alternative to wainscoting. Try this on a focal point wall or a short room divider. The number of yardsticks you can collect will determine how wide each section between the dividers should be.

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Go Practical with Pegboard


Panels of white-painted pegboard add funky texture to the wall of this retro-style basement. With the help of hanging hardware designed for pegboards, you can decorate the wall with photos, as well as baskets for remote controls and magazines. If you have a small, awkwardly placed window like this one, consider hanging the TV underneath it to establish visually balance. Another trick: Cover the window with sheer organza embellished with metal washers to convert it into a piece of art.

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Refresh Block Wall with Paint


If your concrete-block basement walls are dry and free of efflorescence (i.e. salt deposits) or mold, you can coat them with a masonry sealer or all-purpose water-base primer-sealer, then paint with a high-quality latex paint. A new wall color is an easy way to make the basement feel warmer, brighter, and more welcoming. Be sure to test paint colors: If the lighting is low, you may find you can use brighter colors than you would upstairs.

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Focus Attention with Color


Demarcate your basement work zone with a splash of bright color. In an underground office with no natural light, look to warm colors, like orange, golden yellow, or yellow-green. Before you pick up a paintbrush, consider where you want to draw the eye. In this case, a bright backdrop emphasizes the clean, modern lines of the desk.

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Paint a Lively Grid


Brighten a basement playroom with a grid of colorful rectangles. This design is best for drywall and is recommended only for walls that are straight and plumb. After painting the entire wall white, use wide painter's tape to mark off the grid, checking that the lines are straight with a carpenter's level. Roll on paint in the desired colors. After the paint dries, remove the painter's tape to reveal the white outlines.

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Add Trim to Block Walls


For this basement office, two simple steps transformed the space: painting the concrete-block walls bright white, then adding strips of stained wood as trim. If your basement walls have never been painted, make sure to use a specialty masonry waterproofing paint to seal the walls. Panels of bright fabric also add color and mimic the vertical lines of curtains.

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