Beating the basement blues

I've been thinking about basements, and how to spiff up that often-neglected space. A common issue with basements is that they have low ceilings, and lack natural light. So, how do you draw attention away from that cave-like feeling, and really utilize the room?

Before and after images from home makeover shows can give you some great ideas.
(these are from the show Divine Design)

Dreary dated 60's to chic sanctuary. Notice how the light yellow doesn't necessarily do much to warm up the space? Often, its best not to fight against the existing elements, and try to work with them, instead. Oversized basement spaces should be broken up into smaller, defined areas. The dark brown trim against the yellow certainly didn't help matters.

Can't we all share? Basements don't have to be dedicated to one age group in the family. That gray industrial carpet really put a damper on this room. Blonde wood floors, sandy-colored furniture, and seashore blue walls made all the different in the world.

No natural light or windows? No problem. It's all about a warm palette.

Dumping ground to family rec room- with warm beige/golden tones, wood, and colorful art. Don't forget about adequate lighting, too. No cold blue fluorescents, please.

images source
This is an excellent example of working with, instead of against the existing elements in a space. This blah basement has little natural light, and as you can tell, the white walls, ceiling, and light carpet certainly don't add much to the space. Remember- white paint in shadows is simply dingy gray. So why not create a cozy sanctuary, using rich deep tones and lots of mood lighting.

Have you done any amazing transformations in your home or office? What strikes you the most about these changed spaces? Which do you prefer?