Victorian Basements: Design Ideas

victorian basements

When you think of Victorian basements does your head conjure up an image like the above? Because it definitely does for me.

I don’t know, but creepy horror movies always depict houses with basements as the targeted houses, and those that are generally creepy. Victorian basements, or cellars of today add significant value to a property, regardless to whether they’re been renovated or not.

Most of the time when I see Victorian houses listed with a basement they’re either in complete need of a renovation, of they’ve just been made into a utility room, and had basic carpet, and bright white walls added for a freshen up.

We can certainly take inspiration from American properties with basements who have created insane living spaces which often double up as an extra place to stay, relax and eat.

Whilst Victorian basements certainly come with their own set of issues which can make the same design process a little more challenging, if you’re about to undertake a basement renovation there’s plenty of things to consider to create something really special.

These Victorian basements ideas, tips and things to avoid will hopefully help to inspire, and kickstart your renovation.

Victorian Basements Ideas

According to Vox, from 2008 and 2019, 7,328 basements were added to properties for the super rich in London, turned into swimming pools, cinemas and wine cellars.

Traditional Victorian basements might not carry the same square meterage, and budget as these, but cinemas and wine cellars are still very much two of the most popular choices when it comes to transforming a basement space.

The first thing you need to approach in a Victorian basement before even thinking design plans, is getting it dry, and understanding the science and the solution between damp basements.

Damp Basements – The Importance of Breathability In Basements & Cellars

Victorian houses in general are prone to damp, especially those in the South West. This is mostly down to the location being near to the coast, and is not uncommon.

However, it can be unsightly, and cause havoc with your renovations, breathing and aesthetics of the space. It can also be an extremely costly issue to fix if you’re looking in the wrong place.

When it comes to damp in a basement you almost always need to identify the issue that’s causing damp. Sometimes it can be something simple as a leak, but a common issue that causes damp in Victorian basements and cellars is the lack of ventilation.

This can be a recurring issues due to the lack of vents, windows and doors that would otherwise allow air, and breathability into the basement.

If you get a professional in, they may often say that the basement would need to be tanked (damp proofed), but it’s always best to start with ventilation and looking at breathability.

So, how does the damp begin in a basement?

If areas get damp in a basement, this moisture is constantly working its way out of water, and diffusing into air in the basement.

What are you going to do with damp that has no ventilation? Moisture builds up, relative humidity goes up, and anything that features timber in the basement could get slightly wet from the damp, start rotting and even develop woodworm.

The Solution – You Must Ventilate

Putting a singular hole into the wall of a basement won’t do anything. You’ll get a little bit of fresh air coming in, but the air doesn’t circulate.

For the basement to work effectively and start drying out, you have to move a certain volume of air in, and out of that space.

To get an effective airflow, you have to establish a system which draws air from cellar, sends out the wet air, and replace with dry air.

A ventilation system will look for the driest source of air and bring this into the basement, it warms up the air coming in up to an ambient level, and the moist, damp air is pushed out the other side.

Understanding and implementing a ventilation system will allow your basement to dry out, and for it to become a dry, usable and damp free space. Always contact a professional for help on ventilation of your basement.

Victorian basements

Cinema Room

Transforming a basement into a cinema room is one of the most obvious, and popular ways to really utilise that underground space.

It lends itself to use as a cinema room because of the lack of natural light. But just because it’s the basement, and it’s going to be a cinema room, it doesn’t mean the room has to be black.

Creating a lighter space with whites that have yellow undertones to them can help counteract the darkness, and blue light that you get from lack of natural light. I can barely believe the below image is a basement? It’s beautiful!

Of course, black can look great in a basement for the right setting. This shade usually works well in a small area that’s a little bit more isolated as it can create an ultra relaxed, and cool space to wind down in with your favourite films.

Wine Cellar

A lot of basements that are already an existing part of a property, such as Victorian houses means that some of the basement spaces aren’t actually that big, and are often referred to as a cellar.

Small, more intimate spaces are a natural inclusion for a wine cellar, or your tipple of choice, of course.

Wine cellars can be as intimate as you like, if you have a space you can even add a bar as an extension of it, and a couple of cosy chairs for a really cool space.

Victorian basements wine cellar

Utility/ Laundry Room

Turning a Victorian basement into a utility or laundry room is also another popular design idea for basements.

I totally see the attraction of this as it keeps it out of the main house, and segregating it from the kitchen is brilliant, if you can do it.

My only reservation for this is that if you’re planning on drying washing down there too, it’s really not a good idea. This comes into the whole ventilation thing again.

What happens to the damp washing that’s drying in the basement is that the moisture from the clothing disperses into the air, and because it’s unable to escape, it will start to create damp.

As long as you bear this in mind, or if you’re using a tumble drier to dry the clothing then a utility room can be a great use of basement space.

Victorian basements utility room

Basement Gym

And of course, converting basements into an at home gym is a hugely popular, and wise choice. The noise made through exercise doesn’t impact anyone underneath and it’s a great place to escape to, and you can create a really cool design whether you keep things industrial, or create a really light and bright space to workout in.

If you’re serious about adding a gym to your basement, just ensure a really good ventilation system is put in place first.

Victorian basements gym

Final Words

A Victorian basement is a huge asset to a property, and one that can add considerable value to a home if renovated properly.

Just ensure that a good ventilation system is put into place before starting any major renovation works. There’s so much opportunity for a basement space, depending on the space you have available.

From wine cellars to at home gyms and cinema spaces, basements can become a cool, fun addition to a space that’s inviting and cosy.

Photo of author


Nicole Sage

Nicole Sage is the founder of Sleek-chic Interiors and is a highly experienced interiors writer and skilled home renovator who has a passion for all things design. She has been featured as an authority at Pinterest, Ideal Home, Daily Mail and in countless other interviews. For 8 years, Nicole has written, observed key interior trends, renovated and undertaken interior short courses at the renown KLC school where she has gained her grounding interior design principles. With a keen eye for detail and a love of creativity, she shares her expertise on the latest interior trends, practical DIY tutorials, and styling inspiration to help others transform their homes into stunning spaces. With a commitment to delivering informative and engaging content, Nicole inspires and empowers readers to explore their own unique sense of style and create beautiful, personalised interiors. Contact her at for interiors advice, colour questions and any commentary.

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