3 Pro-Approved Ways to Make a Multi-Functional Space Exceptionally Tidy

Yes, your basement can be a movie-watching spot, a workout room, and a home bar.

As a kid, a basement typically brings out the creepy-crawly side of an imagination. A dark corner becomes a monster's cave, just as a single lightbulb has the power to banish ghosts away. As an adult, however, a basement may not necessarily cause goosebumps in the night, but it's still unnerving. After all, how are you supposed to add function and style to all that square footage?!

Designer Raili Clasen had to answer that question as she worked on the basement in the 2021 Real Simple Home, and the results are a showcase of her expansive imagination. It starts with the two-toned green walls. "Playful hits of color and the painted half wall were a great starting point for the design," she says. Within this palette, Clasen then fit in a gym, a living area, a game room, and a storage closet to maximize every inch. "Adding the spin bike, the record player, and all the fun accessories for the bar made this space a great gathering spot," she adds. But that doesn't mean the basement feels cluttered, either. Thanks to cleverly distinguished zones and storage solutions, this basement offers activities for the entire family.

Even if it looks closer to a nightmare now, it is possible to turn your basement into a dream come true with Clasen's advice. Her three ideas for keeping a multi-purpose space tidy will make your basement the best room in the house.

Real Simple Home, Basement Lounge with green walls and sofa
Photography by Christopher Testani

Create Zones

Like plenty of basements, the Real Simple Home's lower level started out as a blank canvas. Clasen knew it had to be flexible, and so she needed to figure out a way to fit essentially four different rooms into one. After painting the wood paneling in a green two-tone design, which works to unite the room in one palette, she "divided" the space using rugs and strategically placed furniture.

"One great way to 'claim' spaces for different purposes is to lay large rugs down to hold all of the furniture within each space," she says. "Rugs create boundaries and can divide rooms without adding walls."

Clasen used a neutral, no-fuss rug to underscore the living space, and then added two chairs to one side to separate this cozy nook from the gym. A table behind the sofa is high enough to act as a bar for three spectators to sit and watch a ping-pong match, which then defines the "game room."

Real Simple Home 2021, Pegboard Tool Storage
Christopher Testani

Have a Spot for Clutter

In order to turn the majority of a basement into liveable space, clutter needs to be addressed. Clasen wanted each area to have its own storage solutions, so that putting everything in its place would be a cinch for the entire family—making more time for fun.

"We created an oversized pegboard on the wall to store the paddles and balls, and used the same detail in the gym area to hang the jump ropes, weights, and yoga equipment," she notes. "I also think adding hooks and shelves on walls will keep things off of the floor."

She also installed storage racks in the closet, and labelled matching containers for items that aren't used regularly. Since there are some tools in the nearby workspace that need to be close at hand, like a hammer and pliers, Clasen mounted a pegboard on the wall for easy access.

Don't Forget About Lighting

One of the reasons why basements are notoriously creepy is simple: They usually have poor lighting. "So many times a basement has a low ceiling and very few windows," Clasen notes. "Lighting is essential to make them feel inviting."

To fix this issue in the Real Simple Home, she had canned lighting installed throughout. But if this isn't possible in your own home, add table lamps, floors lamps, plug-in pendant lights, and maybe even a welcoming neon sign. This way, you can adjust the lighting for each activity, like a bright reading lamp near a cozy chair or a dim, shaded sconce by the bar area. All this cozy lighting will help beckon friends and family downstairs.

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