Dreaming of big windows and tons of sun throughout your home? Nothing beats the real deal, but with clever tips and tricks, you can brighten any dark room.
When we shop for homes, high on the “must-have” list is natural light. Therefore, the cottage-style home we bought does have a good amount of natural light. Even so, there are dark rooms. It was built in the 1980s and isn’t outfitted with new home features such as recessed lighting and all-white trim. Maybe you’re in the same
boat house? Are you trying to figure out how to brighten dark rooms in your home?
I’m Lora, of Craftivity Designs, and today I’m sharing 5 affordable tips and tricks to brighten dark rooms. We’ll take a look at the renovation of my modern cottage home and learn how to brighten rooms, without sacrificing character.
How to Brighten a Dark Room
In this post, we’re taking a look at easy, affordable ideas. For example, adding recessed lighting would be one of the most effective options. However, it’s not included because of the following reasons:
- the majority of homeowners can’t install recessed lighting on their own
- the expense to hire a contractor makes recessed lighting cost-prohibitive for many homeowners
Disclosure: This blog post contains affiliate links for products or services we think you’ll like. This means if you make a purchase from one of these links, Ideas for the Home by Kenarry® will make a small commission at no additional cost to you so we can keep the great ideas for the home coming your way. All opinions expressed are derived from personal experience.
1. PAINT WALLS (AND OTHER SURFACES) WHITE
I’m sure you’ve heard “a gallon of paint is the most inexpensive way to transform a room” and honestly, it’s true! A gallon of paint really gives a big bang for its buck.
While any light paint color will brighten a dark room, I strongly recommend considering white paint. Why? It’s basic color science, white is the best reflector of light.
Now – before you stop reading – I’m not suggesting all-white decor (though go for it, if that is what you love!). White walls can be utilized with tons of colorful accents. Rather, I’m suggesting that you use white paint strategically… to brighten a dark room.
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.
Small Dining Room With White Paint
First, white paint brightened our dark dining room. In order to retain the home’s character, I didn’t paint the gorgeous, solid-wood crown molding. However, I did paint the baseboard and chair rail white, along with the walls. Now, our crown molding shines and we have a brighter room.
Small Living Room With White Paint
Second, white paint brightened our living room. The two dark fireplaces in our home fit the cottage style of the house. However, floor-to-ceiling brick can make a space feel dark. To stay true to the cottage style of the home, we chose a german schmear technique to lighten the dark brick.
2. HANG CURTAINS the RIGHT WAY
In dark rooms, it’s especially important to hang curtains wide. While designers often note that hanging curtains “high and wide” makes windows look larger, it’s not often noted that this trick brightens rooms.
How? When curtains are set wide, the curtains hang in front of the wall, not the window. Therefore, the window can provide as much light as possible.
Choose long curtain rods (at least 16-24 inches longer than the window width) so that there is space to hang curtains from the end of the rod to just inside the window frame.
3. ADD (PLUG-IN) LIGHTING
While recessed lighting is almost always pricey, plug-in lighting is less costly. In a dark room, look for spots to add plug-in lighting.
Here are a few ideas:
- small lamps on side tables, end tables, and dressers
- floor lamps next to chairs
- bookcase lighting mounted above shelves
- plug-in wall sconces mounted above furniture
The 3rd and 4th options have become my go-to lighting solutions. Lamps are great for reading and task work, but they are generally low in the space. In contrast, wall and bookcase lighting are generally mounted higher. Lights mounted higher are more effective at brightening a dark room.
In our dark dining room, we mounted plug-in sconces above low bookshelves (this is similar). The cords are strategically hidden behind the furniture.
Similarly, we mounted a bookcase light above our dining room hutch (similar). The cord runs down the backside of the hutch, hidden from view.
4. REMOVE TALL FURNITURE
Yes, painting walls white can do wonders for a dark room. However, if all of the furniture in the room is tall and dark, the white walls can only do so much. Therefore, it’s important to evaluate the tall furniture in a dark room. By removing tall furniture, white walls can reflect more light at eye level.
Do you have tall bookcases, cabinets, or hutches in a dark room? Ask yourself “Is this tall <furniture piece> necessary?” Then, consider alternate options:
- Could I move it to another room?
- Could I swap it with a lower piece of furniture from another room?
- Could I install open shelves, instead of cabinets?
In our dining room, we removed a tall bookcase on the left side of the room and replaced it with low, wide bookcases. This simple change made the room feel larger and brighter, while actually increasing storage.
5. INCORPORATE WHITE FURNITURE
Finally, evaluate the furniture colors in the room. If you have multiple dark pieces, paint one or two white.
Again, white reflects light. Therefore, when you incorporate white furniture in a dark room, it will help brighten the space.
I love antiques, solid wood furniture, and aged wood finishes. So, I’m not suggesting you paint all of your prized antiques. Rather, I’m encouraging you to paint (or swap out) a few “less-loved” or inexpensive dark pieces.
For example, inexpensive white bookcases complement a dark wood hutch and dining table, while also brightening the space.
I’ve got more ideas on how to brighten a dark room. If you’re still looking for more tips, check out my Ultimate Guide to How to Brighten Dark Rooms.
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