How do I lighten up my Mom’s basement living room?

Dyan Weis
10 days ago

These are pics of my Mom’s lower level living room of her condo. She won’t go down there because it is too dark. She JUST had it painted (too dark) and can’t spend the money to paint it again. She is not willing to paint or purchase new furniture, but she is willing to get rid of the tables in the corners by the windows. By the way there are no other windows in this room other than those doors. Taking all of this into account, how can she lighten this up?


She just painted and can’t have it repainted.

She will not purchase or paint furniture.

So you think the doors should have sheers?

Floor lamps needed? New larger rug?

Thank you!!!

Comments (32)

  • grapefruit1_ar

    Any room needs lamps rather than an overhead fixture. Table lamps and floor lamps would be very helpful. Maybe some sconces could be incorporated.

  • richfield95

    Floor lamps would help, so would larger diameter light with more bulbs that lints the light down and outward. The light she has now looks like it focuses quite a bit of light up towards the ceiling

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  • mnmamax3

    I think the smaller table on the left is fine, but definitely remove the one on the right. How about switching the loveseat and the chair to keep from blocking so much light? You could push the piano up behind the loveseat so it's more accessible in the arrnagement. Do you have pictures of the other side?

    Definitely more lighting. World Market and IKEA have nice hanging light fixtures you can swag or corded sconces you can mount. That will help a lot!

    A nice green plant will help give it a little life too! IKEA has a bunch that are nice and tall but inexpensive (corn plant, dracaena, snake plant - just check to be sure no toxicity for pets).

  • Dyan Weis

    The other side is just windowless. A bathroom and she has a desk set up with her computer. I appreciate your ideas so much. Thank you!

  • mnmamax3

    I also agree some creamy white sheers at the window will brighten the window space and a lighter brighter larger rug could help too. What about an artwork grouping with smaller prints and large mats over to the left of the tv will brighten up some of the wall as well. Or move the picture over the couch to the area by the tv and use a larger scale piece of textural art behind

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  • njmomma

    Not a Pro.

    Change out the ceiling light, to bigger and brighter lighting.

    The mirror over the sofa is reflecting the tv. It should be moved or removed.

    Art over the sofa is a better choice. Large art with a white or light cream background.

    Simplify the accessories. Bring in a large plant in a white pot and put it near the large doors. White or Cream throw. Change out pillows to a pattern with lots of cream or white.

  • Dyan Weis

    Love these ideas. Thank you so much!

  • Theresa Janssen

    It would be great to get some pics of the wall we are missing. I say that because depending on how she uses the space, it may help to rearrange all the furniture, not just what we can currently see.

  • erinsean

    Remove tables/chests on either side of the windows. A bigger more colorful area rug and a glass top coffee table. I would put a floor lamp with small glass table unit between the couch and love seat. Then a tall plant on the floor on the left side of the TV. Pull the wooden rocker over to the corner of the rug (opposite the piano).. Depending on the color of your area rug, get some pillows and a throw for her couch. I am thinking the art work over the Piano is adding to the darkness....any chance of putting that in another place, or at least switching the one over the couch with the one over the piano? yes, sheers on the windows.

    Dyan Weis thanked erinsean
  • suezbell

    While there are certainly more expensive ones available -- and not necessarily better ones -- WalMart has dual floor lamps -- one aimed at the ceiling and another adjustable arm reading light -- for under $15 so, if not buying any furnishings is a budget issue -- yours and/or hers -- you might consider getting her at least a pair if not one for each corner.

    While looking for inexpensive wood bar stools for plant stands, I just saw an upscale floor lamp at a local Goodwill for $12. All it needed was a bit of "work" at the bottom -- sliders/feet added -- because it rocked a bit.

    Dyan Weis thanked suezbell
  • partim

    The position of the love seat blocks a lot of light coming into the room. Can it be moved?

    Which way does the patio door face? If she needs light for a certain task, can she position her seating to take advantage of the natural light coming in? E.g. a chair near that door for reading or hand crafts. Or a desk near it if she does work on a desk. The brightest area of the room near the door is currently devoid of any way to be there and use it. You need a place she can sit in the sun on a sunny day.

  • Bev

    Your Mom's family room looks very similar in style and size as to what I have in my house. Some other owner transformed the garage, which is partway underground, to a family room. We have a wall of windows with a door at one end. What I have done to add light after we moved in: New and improved ceiling light; added 2 lamps and a couple of wall sconces. They help immensely! If you are able to add cam lights, they would really help as well.

  • Bev

    Another thought and question--Does she have a light switch at the top of the stairs so that she can see when she goes down to the family room? We happen to have a light switch, which helps immensely so that we do not fall down the stairs.

  • Dyan Weis

    Yes she does have a light switch. Her house faces south but there is a deck above those doors and that doesn’t help the situation. Thank you for your advice!

  • partim

    We recently rearranged my parents' living room to take better advantage of the natural light. An unexpected benefit is that my elderly father stopped napping during the day, and sleeps much better at night. I think having the chairs closer to the window helps re-set his circadian rhythms.

    Think about what she wants to do in the room, and what times of day she likes to do it. For example, if she likes to play the piano in the mornings and the sun hits the wall at that time, then move the piano there.

    Dyan Weis thanked partim
  • partim

    Then your picture must have been taken in the afternoon, since it looks as if the sun is coming from the right (west) and lighting the east wall. Even with the deck above, the light is brighter there. In the winter, with the sun lower in the sky, the light will penetrate more deeply into the room.

    Some decks have a light well to light basement rooms. like this

  • Dyan Weis

    Very interesting partim - thank you so much. Yes - she took the picture in the afternoon. My Mom is VERY sensitive to weather, etc. She is recently widowed (her and Dad were married over 50 years). If it is cloudy, she is sad. If it is sunny, she is happy and talks nonstop. She NEEDS sunlight! I wish she would let me paint this room lighter, but because she just had it painted (I wish she would have told me what she was painting it) - she will not paint it again. I live in Ohio and she lives in Kansas, so it's hard for me to do certain things for her!

  • mnmamax3

    So sorry for your loss Dyan. I hope your mom can find peace and enjoy her whole condo soon.

  • Dyan Weis

    Thanks! They were the happiest couple ever! I hope this change helps her utilize her entire condo and not be stuck on one level like she is now!

  • misecretary

    I too am sorry for your loss. I was widowed at a very young age and I'd like to hazard a guess as to why she won't go downstairs. She just may be flat out nervous about being alone and could be feeling exposed in that room, especially in the evenings with lights on. This nervousness passes, but there is certainly no set timeline for it. Are the stairs we see through the window hers or another home-owners?

    Room Suggestions:

    1. I love the look of a sheer however if she wants privacy, then would suggest blinds, roller, shades, etc.

    2. If she is nervous down there, verify that she has a good lock on that door.

    Dyan Weis thanked misecretary
  • lizziesma

    Look for daylight bulbs, like those used for treating seasonal affective disorder. I swear by them to lift my mood.

    Dyan Weis thanked lizziesma
  • pricklypearcactus

    I am sorry for your and your mother's loss. It's so sweet of you to be respectful of her limitations while trying to help make her space livable for her.

    Move that loveseat away from the window. It's blocking a lot of light and visually blocking the space. Maybe others will have good layout suggestions. My first thought would be to move the TV to the smaller corner cabinet and put the loveseat across from the sofa. Alternatively the loveseat could be angled in the corner where the small cabinet is and keep the TV across from the sofa, but still consider using the smaller cabinet to reduce the mass of furniture.

    Could you put a large mirror on the wall opposite the doors? That might help reflect more of the natural light into the room.

    Replace the ceiling fixture with something that provides a lot more light. Add more lamps. I'm not certain what options are on the market, but if you could set them up on a single remote switch by the light switch, that would make it easier to make the room bright as soon as your mom walks in and turns on the switch instead of having to turn on each individual lamp.

    What about swapping the rug on the floor for something bigger (fit under the feet of the sofa / loveseat) and brighter? I'm sure some of the great decorators here could make some suggestions.

    Dyan Weis thanked pricklypearcactus
  • partim

    That wall colour is not that dark. I don't think a lighter colour would have made much of a difference.

    I would also place good-sized mirrors where sun shines on the walls. In your pictures you can see where the wall colour is lighter because the sun is on it. That's where the mirror goes. Mirrors there will reflect light into the room, and also reflect a view of the outdoors. Even if it's the underside of a deck, it still lifts the spirits.

    The darker interior of the room should be reserved for storage etc such as the cabinet that is now near the window. She needs to "live" in the brighter area.

    However, the other ideas above e.g. daylight bulbs and way way more lighting, are also good.

    Dyan Weis thanked partim
  • suezbell

    Condolences for your loss.

    Mother's Day is coming up. You might consider a digital picture display with a light colored frame with happy pictures loaded to add light and prompt happy memories..


    You might remove the too small rug altogether and add a small light/bright colored storage ottoman or even a coffee table where she can keep family photographs.

    Agree with the suggestion that you try swapping the loveseat and rocker locations. With the loveseat moved, you can dress the patio door/window. If that is a sliding door, a wood or metal rod in the bottom rail might make the room "feel" more secure -- no need to block it with a sofa.

    A lot of people don't care for vertical blinds but I consider them perfect for a patio door or even a large row of windows in an informal / contemporary room. White vinyl vertical blinds would provide more privacy and light control options than drapes.

    If your mom's window is on the north side of the building, she'll not be getting any sunlight directly into her room and that may be one reason why the room is "dark" . If any light comes in ... or even if it doesn't ... consider adding a brightly colored sun catcher or two that can be attached to the window via small plastic suction cup.


    There are fabric covers for sofas and love seats. Perhaps you could find a light colored one for at least one of her pieces. Alternately, a light colored afghan or throw might help.

    Instead of getting rid of the cabinet(s) in the corner(s), you could add a tall thin lamp with a large white shade there. If the big box store options are out of price range, check with Habitat for Humanity or Good Will or other local charity sponsored thrift stores for bargains.

    Dyan Weis thanked suezbell
  • deegw

    Besides lamps, can she save up for a larger, brighter rug? Or can you check Craig's list for her?

    Dyan Weis thanked deegw
  • btydrvn

    Is there any way this could be her bedroom? ... if not...the window could be flanked with tall plants on each side with lower fluffier ones in front of them ... sort of bringing the outdoors in... then move anything away from from blocking the window ...pushing all the furniture closer to the tv side would create a walkway through the space along the wall ... and create a cozier tv seating area...lessening the long narrow room feel.. move the piano to the back wall at an angle ...a colorful floral rug could add to the garden theme as well as adding some uplifting life to the space.. lastly another thing that I have seen that is uplifting in these situations is a visit from a favorite grandchild or a niece or nephew for a week of directing her energies toward someone else having fun and going out for lunch and shopping..

  • btydrvn

    Also forgot to mention sending a bunch of small.. framed family pictures.. for the “ hallway” walkthrough wall .. for her to create a gallery wall of happy family memories ...can remind her she is not alone

  • Dyan Weis

    OH my goodness - I am loving all of these ideas! Thank you so so much! Wow - Houzz is amazing! Thank you for your time.

  • Dyan Weis

    In a couple of months I will post some after pictures with your ideas!

  • btydrvn


  • Olychick

    I was also going to ask what rooms are on the upper floor? I'd make the living room up there and keep the dark room downstairs for sleeping. No matter how much brighter you make it with artificial light, being down in a "hole" would make me really depressed. It's not just the lack of light but knowing you are down with no view to anything beyond that stairway that makes it feel dungeon-like to me.

    And most people like a cave like room more for sleeping than living!

    eta, If all the furniture wouldn't fit in an area upstairs, you could leave some downstairs as a sitting area in the bedroom, even if she never uses it there. Take her favorite chair/loveseat or couch upstairs, leave the large tv console downstairs and use the smaller one by the sliding doors with the tv, etc. Unless she entertains a lot, you could turn the dining area or her bedroom into a new smaller living room in the upstairs.

  • suezbell

    When a family member stays in their bedroom most of the time, there may be a reason to suspect depression. Feeling "down" is very natural after a loss but do read up on the symptoms of depression and pay attention so that if your Mom needs help, you can help her get it..

    If it weren't for COVID-19, I'd suggest the two of you embrace the joys of window shopping antique and thrift stores -- even if you don't ever buy anything -- thrift stores (especially the larger ones) can be interesting places to visit. You might even find some duplicates of items you already own and learn how "valuable" it is or is not.

    Good luck to you and yours.

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