The ideal basement is cozy, private and warm—a nice place for the whole family to hang out. If you were lucky, your home came with a finished basement you could easily make your own. But if you’re like many first-time homeowners and bought a fixer-upper, you may have wound up with a basement that looks more like something out of a horror movie than a Hallmark card. If your basement needs a serious overhaul, here are some simple ways to make it feel like home.

Paint the walls a warm and inviting colour. One of the biggest mistakes a homeowner can make is painting their basement walls too dark. As most basements are already fairly closed off and natural light is minimal, the effect can create an even darker, depressing space. On the other hand, friendly and welcoming colours can create a much more calming ambiance. Even if your basement isn’t completely finished, you can rest easy knowing that your guests won’t feel like they’ve walked into a dungeon every time they head downstairs.

Fill negative space. Whether you intend to use your basement for cocktail parties or family movie nights, you’ll likely be spending a lot of time with loved ones in this cozy and dimly lit space. Most people prefer a smaller rec room with a quaint and welcoming atmosphere, but a lot of basements are fairly spacious. To create the illusion of a smaller space, layout the furniture in a semi-circle around the coffee table to focus the eye to one particular area of the room.

Choose the right lighting. Harsh lighting can kill the mood of any space—people avoid being photographed in poor lighting for a reason. In basements, where natural light is hard to come by, you can compensate by intentionally creating a warm ambiance. While there are many different options for lighting to choose from, the two preferred types of lighting for basements are compact fluorescent lights and LED lights, which produce a soft and calming amber glow while emitting very little heat.