How to Brighten a Dark Room or Home, Part I

05 Apr

Photo: Courtesy of bialasiewicz 

How to Brighten a Dark Room or Home, Part I 

Whether you have just moved into a new home or have lived in your house forever, whether you are a renter or homeowner, the brightness of your space is not only a quality of light; it is a brightness of life. Mood is directly tied to light. A house lacking in light is dreary and depressing. Dark rooms seem small and uninviting. The good news is, without significant renovation and expense, you can brighten your home and your mood.   


Lighten your interior paint. Do not be afraid to paint all of your walls white. White reflects light. Since it is a non-hue, it does not absorb any color ( According to stylist Brady Tolber, "White walls, more than anything, bounce light around the room and disperse it" ( A warm white paint color amplifies the natural light in any room (  

Don't stop at white walls. Consider going “all-in” and whitewash all of the major items in your space as well: trim, furnishings, cabinetry, bedframes, window treatments, etc. With everything white, heavier furniture such as bookcases and beds will appear to almost float against the background ( Not to mention, a bright, white backdrop is the perfect primer for any decorating style. 

If you can't bear the idea of all-white walls, add in a few accent-colored walls. Or, go with light, cool-colored walls, such as light grey or blue.  

The goal should be to create light through bright and airy colors because regardless of what else you do, if you don’t have a large amount of natural light, without bright and airy colors, the space will continue to look dark ( 

No matter what color you paint your walls, always paint your ceilings white. According to The Spruce, "A white ceiling helps make a room feel taller. If you want to brighten a dark room, make sure it is the clearest, brightest, whitest white you can find: no cream, no ivory, and no versions of off-white. True white is the way to go" (  

Use an eggshell or satin finish; it will boost the ceiling's reflective qualities and provide a sense of an expansive, light, and airy space ( 


Embrace contrast. Turning your space into a mostly white or light environment, while nice and bright, can risk looking bland. However, while it may seem counterintuitive, "introducing some hits of stark black or charcoal adds touches of contrast that make the light areas surrounding them pop even more. Look especially to thin, linear elements...long floor lamps, sharp picture frames, or patterned fabrics for the right dose of darkness" ( 

Brightly-colored accent pieces and artwork also bring contrast. Pick a color palette that makes you happy, and infuse style and flair into your home with satisfying splashes of color. Striking, bold-colored décor can energize a space (  

Incorporate some patterns (with varied pattern scales) for visual interest ( 


Add mirrors; they will reflect the light. Strategically, place mirrors directly across from natural light sources. The bigger the mirrors, the better. Brooklyn-based interior designer Marissa Bero advises, "I like to put large mirrors opposite windows to reflect more natural light into a dark room. It's like adding another window to the space" (  

"Placing table lamps or a floor lamp next to a mirror can also have a similar effect. For the best result, make sure that the lamp emits ambient lighting so it's not too bright when reflected off the mirror" ( Also, consider adding more than one mirror to a room. Just make sure they are different sizes. And they don't have to be hung. Mirrored coffee tables and end tables can be used too ( 

You can also strategically place mirrors in an entryway or hallway to reflect light into a nearby dark room (   


You can quickly and inexpensively use paint, contrast, and mirrors to lighten your house and punch up your style. See Part II of this article for more simple tips on how to improve your interior space through enhanced usage and illusion of light.  



Michelle Warner

Michelle Warner is an award-winning writer and editor. She is a published poet and has worked in the book publishing industry. She has an MFA in creative writing from The University of Arizona.