Make living ‘down under’ more comfy
SPLIT-LEVEL homes are a unique animal. They have an open and spacious feeling and distinctive room layouts. The lower-level rooms, often bedrooms or a rec-room, are interesting spaces that need different decorating consideration than rooms that are above grade.
Windows in these lower-level rooms are usually large, rectangular and high up on the wall, which provides better natural lighting than say a regular basement window would. The view out of the window is still at ground level, which reminds one that the room you’re in is below grade. This is not a feeling everyone warms to.
In order to make these rooms inviting (or finished basements for that matter) you need to create a light and breezy space that doesn’t feel like it’s underground.
Our feature room photo, courtesy of Dulux Australia, has the feel of a lower-level split-level space. While it is below grade, it certainly doesn’t have that basement feel. The uplifting colour palette of green and cream makes this room feel open and fresh. Lightcoloured wood tones on the cabinet and picture frame work within the soft palette. (As an aside, the framed piece looks to be a piece of fabric of wallpaper in the tones of the room palette — art doesn’t have to be expensive.) Darker furnishings and accents would create a lot of visual contrast that can make a space feel small and dreary. The wood flooring, in a medium tone, grounds the room without being overpowering. Tactile comforts Rooms that are below grade tend to be a little cooler so adding cosy touches is a good idea. Deep pile area rugs, fabric upholstery (versus cold leather upholstery) and co-ordinating furniture throws and cushions will help ward off any chills. If your lower-level room is a bedroom then a down comforter, featherbed or additional comfy flannel blankets hung on a quilt rack will keep
you warm and toasty. Window treatment trickery The rectangular window at ground level will always remind you that you are living below grade. If you want to create a sense of an above-grade room you can fool the eye with clever window treatments.
Hang floor-to-ceiling windows treatments that when closed will appear to be hung over a regular ‘upstairs’ window. If you’re working with small basement windows you can use a curtain rod that is at least double the width of the window and again, hang floorto-ceiling panels. The illusion will be a wider and longer window below the drawn draperies.
You can also install wooden or vinyl interior shutters that are larger than the actual window for a similar effect. You can leave them as is or add a drapery treatment overtop of the shutters. Room height issues Often times, lower-level rooms have a lower ceiling than their counterparts. Using low-profile furniture, like the grouping shown in our feature photograph, will make the ceiling feel a little higher than it actually is. Lighter ceiling colours will help as well. Keeping the top half of the walls free of ‘stuff’ will put the visual focus on the lower half of the room. You’ll notice there isn’t a lot of wall clutter in our feature room. One or two items are used for height to create drama but the wall space is uncluttered.
The use of vertical stripes on the wall can also create a sense of height to the room. Soft wide bands of colour, wheth- er in wallpaper or a tone-on-tone paint treatment can do the trick. Accentuate the positive Lower-level rooms in split-level homes often have deep window ledges that can be an asset. While you don’t necessarily want to block the natural light, you can use this ledge as a small greenhouse area or as a display for colourful glass collections (stained-glass items for example) and so on. Anything that will work with the natural light of the window area will do. This quirk is an asset that the upstairs rooms probably won’t have so treat it as a positive.
These rooms are generally very quiet as well. The roar and rumble of outside noises are less noticeable because most of the room is surrounded by a concrete foundation. This is a great asset for a bedroom, music room or a reading room.
The fact that these rooms can be a few degrees cooler than the upstairs might be a good thing during the summer. If you’re looking to create a home gym then this is a definite plus point. Light the way Good lighting is paramount in a room that could be gloomy. Attractive lamps that provide general and task lighting will help keep the shadows at bay. There are so many wonderful lighting options that are affordable and beautiful.
Life on the lower level can be comfortable and beautiful. Use soft, warm colour and cosy surfaces to create a space that is welcoming.
Light colours and large windows help make subterranean living comfortable.