We all know heading to the basement in a horror movie is never a good idea.  Despite their cinematic reputation, basements are a versatile space in the home, a fact their design evolution over the decades can attest to.

As with other rooms in the house–like bathrooms, kitchens and living rooms–basement design has ebbed and flowed over the decades. Their functionality and design, including flooring, are heavily influenced by the happenings of the wider world.

Image via jamiekop on FlickrCC BY-ND 2.0

1950s: The beginning of basement evolution

Before the 1950s, basements were mainly crawl spaces and cellars. The combination of post-Second World War industrialization and the introduction of concrete transformed these dank, dark, cramped spaces into usable rooms for laundry and storage.

Linoleum and tile flooring were popular during this decade as they were affordable, less susceptible to moisture damage, and easy to clean, making them perfect for utilitarian spaces like the laundry room. Linoleum came in all sorts of colours, including popular shades of mint green, pastel yellow and orange, and in many unique patterns on trend with the bright aesthetic of the ‘50s.

1960s-1970s: The move to suburbia

During the 1960s, young couples and families began to abandon urban life to own homes in the suburbs. Restaurants still largely occupied the cities, so families that made the move started to entertain at home, giving rise to the well-stocked basement bar. They were usually covered in the same vertical wood paneling as the walls, making for a cozy, if not dark space. This paneling remained popular even into the 1970s.

On the other hand, the popular colours, fabrics, and patterns of the 1960s and 1970s were bold and often extravagant. This was, after all, the era of the hippie movement, the space race, and psychedelia. Paisley was favoured for furniture coverings and bright oranges, yellows, greens, blues and reds were the common palette. Wall-to-wall shag carpets were all the rage in the 1960s since they could sport these eye-popping colour choices.

Image via Bruno Guerroro on Unsplash.

1980s-1990s: Movies and more at home

The VHS was invented in the late 1970s, and by the 1980s, movies could be easily rented and watched at home, helping to popularize the home theatre in the basement. The VHS made the at-home fitness craze of the 1990s possible (think Jane Fonda’s Workout). By then, many people were converting at least a portion of their basements into home gyms with stationary bikes, treadmills, ellipticals, or 10-in-one machines.

Meanwhile, the carpet craze that had started in the 1960s bottomed out and a resurgence of hardwood emerged in the mid-1980s. By the 1990s, manufacturers had developed prefinished hardwood flooring that came in an assortment of stains and finishes. What’s old became new again with the 1980s and 1990s paying homage to the 1950s with a penchant for pastels.

Image via Adam Winger on Unsplash.

2000-2010s: Versatility at its most rustic

It wasn’t until the turn of the century that basements truly became more than a place for storage, exercise or viewing movies in the dark. Concrete floors became popular for their versatility and people started using corners of their basements for wine cellars, playrooms, and guest suites. Then, in the 2010s, basement apartments began to spring up more frequently as people looked for ways to maximize—and monetize—their space.

While wood flooring remained popular, in the 2000s it was all about the distressed and reclaimed look, aligning with the rustic design trend. Then with the 2010s, came the rise of gray wood flooring and wider planks with satin or matte finishes.

Image via Max Vakhtbovych on Pexels.

2020s: A modern extension 

It should come as no surprise that in the past two years, homeowners have truly started to embrace their basements, and not just as a separate part of the house, but as an extension of their design upstairs.

These days, homeowners are opting for the wood aesthetic without the wood, as real hardwood is expensive and difficult to maintain. People are choosing hardier flooring types like vinyl, tile, and laminate with a wood-look finish.

Basement design is now open-concept, bright, welcoming, and family-friendly. Basements may still serve a myriad of purposes, from laundry to fitness to games to movies, but today they’re finished, comfortable, and no longer the stuff of horror movies. 

Source: realtor.ca

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