The color group you should avoid in a basement – and the shades designers use to bring light to this tricky space

Knowing which colors to avoid in a basement - and which to embrace - can enhance even the gloomiest of subterranean spaces

Yellow shaker style utility room with wooden worktop
(Image credit: Haymarket by Mylands)

Contemplating a basement redo? With natural light not a feature of the space, it can be a bit of a minefield when it comes to paint palettes. But thankfully there is one color group you can rule out altogether, which should make decision time that little bit easier. 

'Natural light is likely to be minimal or non-existent in a basement, so avoid neutrals such as light greys, beiges and greige,' says Fired Earth's Creative Director Colin Roby-Welford. 'The lack of daylight will tend to wash the color out of them, making them appear somewhat flat and lifeless,' he adds.

So what colors should you consider? Well, the experts suggest that all depend on the type of basement you have...

Colors to use in backyard basements

A green room with trestle table and flowers in a vase

(Image credit: Prehnite by Fired Earth)

If you're lucky enough to have a basement that leads out onto a backyard, you'll want a color palette that lends a sense of cohesion. So think green and earthy tones, perhaps with accents from your flower garden. 

This seamlessness will not only give you some biophilic design benefits, it might even make your basement space feel bigger than it really is. 

'Spring-like greens such as Fired Earth's Celadon, Prehnite and Sweet Cicely work really well in basements that lead onto a yard or terrace garden, creating a welcome sense of harmony between the indoor and outdoor space,' says Fired Earth's Creative Director Colin Roby-Welford.

Dominic Myland, fourth generation owner of the family paint firm Mylands also suggests taking inspiration from nature, but adding blues and yellows as prime colors to go with green.  'Colors you find in nature, like greens, blues and yellows, are a great way to create a seamless transition between indoors and outdoors,' he says. 'The shades you choose don’t need to be color matched, but at least should be complementary; for instance, a versatile blue, such as Long Acre™ No. 102, is fresh and clean, and works well with natural outdoor shades of greens, blues and greys.'

For added continuity, Dominic recommends painting doors and windows the same shade both inside and out, or even painting garden furniture or a shed in a color that complements the paint inside. 'When basement spaces lead seamlessly outdoors you should consider the garden an extension of the house, and the colors in both areas should sit comfortably, not fight against each other,' he says.

Colors to use in basement dining areas

basement ideas

(Image credit: Future)

Tucked away basement dining areas are the stuff of dreams if done right and the privacy a basement space offers is a boon. You'll want to strike the right chord between welcoming and practical for this to truly become an entertaing space or family hub, however. 

'If you're lucky to have some natural light then go for a bright, gallery-style white paint,' advises Colin Roby-Welford of Fired Earth. 'Rather than looking in any way cool or stark as whites like these can do if flooded with light, they're a perfect choice for spaces where natural light is more limited, instantly creating a fresh and airy feel.'

Cozy basement dens

basement ideas

(Image credit: Future)

Basement spaces make for fantastic movie or games rooms – a real den where the whole family can hang out and have fun together. And dark, moody shades create a cosseting feel that's ideal for nights in hunkered around a projector screen.

'If you're planning a basement home theater, games room or snug then you can really make a virtue out of the lack of daylight, using artificial light and dark, opulent color to sculpt cocooning spaces that you won't want to leave,' says Colin Roby-Welford of Fired Earth. 

'We're seeing rising demand for rich shades of purple, green and blue.' Colin recommends coating the walls, woodwork and ceiling in the same colour is a dramatic, inky blue) for an all-enveloping scheme ideal for a subterranean space.

Dominic Myland recommends experimenting with different finishes for a glamorous ambience suited to a basement bar: 'Matte walls and gloss woodwork will add some more depth and extra dimension. For a sense of drama, we love full gloss walls, which work especially well for darker tones.'

Dark and cozy room with shelving and armchair

(Image credit: Lock Keeper by Mylands)

Colors to use in light-starved basements

Yellow painted shaker style utility room with wooden worktop

(Image credit: Haymarket by Mylands)

Lastly, don't write off those underground rooms with little to no natural light just yet – even the gloomiest of basements can be cheered with the help of the right paint color – namely a sun-inspired yellow shade says Fired Earth's Colin Roby-Welford. 

'Sunny yellows will help to create the illusion of a room being filled with natural light, and they're a great way of introducing a sense of energy, freshness and vitality to a scheme.'

Catriona Day is a freelance lifestyle and interiors writer, working both agency side and in-house to help brands find their voice. Stints at two independent estate agents who specialise in selling architecturally-inspired dream homes only fuelled her fervour for seeing how different people live (read: nosy). She has a lot to say on pretty much any subject homes-related and will talk with wild abandon on the topic of movie-related interiors until the subject is firmly changed. Her obsession with sourcing Portuguese pottery and rehoming unwanted lamps remains unchecked, much to the despair of her husband.