The cavern, the darkroom, the one space that just won’t lighten up — almost everyone has a part of their home that’s in permanent twilight. A room that’s too dark doesn’t just hide your decor — it reduces use. Who wants to sit in the gloom? Fortunately, you don’t have to. If you’re lacking in natural light but want to give a room a fresh makeover to chase away the darkness, try these tips:
- Paint the Walls
“Thanks, Captain Obvious,” you might be tempted to chortle. But painting your walls a light color will immediately give any room a brighter atmosphere. Dark blues, browns, and reds soak up ambient light, and make a room seem darker than it actually is. That’s great for a firelit library but less than ideal for a living room. If you want an airier, brighter space, consider repainting the walls in light yellow, gray, green, or white. And don’t forget about your ceiling — a lighter color will make it seem higher.
- Hang a Mirror or Metallics
Naturally, the mirror’s reflective surface — or that of a mirrored statement piece — will bounce around light and add the appearance of openness. Metallic accents on wall-hangings or furniture will have a similar, though smaller, impact. Be careful not to overdo it, though. Too many mirrors will give your formerly dark room a carnival funhouse feel.
- Accent the Furniture
Dark furniture could be exacerbating the room’s lack of light, but reupholstery can be expensive. Plus, you picked out those couches and chairs for a reason, right? Keep them, but drape them with light-colored blankets and pillows, and choose a bright accent rug to bring it all together.
- …Or Replace It
If you’re having a hard time making your bulky furniture appear lighter through accessories alone, it might be time to swap that heavy, solid-wood coffee table for something smaller and more airy, perhaps with a glass top. Replace cabinets with open shelving. Instead of a couch, try a loveseat and a chair to retain seating while spreading out the visual weight of the furniture.
- Add the Right Lighting
Don’t hold back when it comes to lamps — illuminate every dark corner and side table you see fit. But choose your lampshades carefully. Traditional cone-shaped shades direct light downward, which concentrates it on whatever surface the lamp is standing on. That doesn’t do much to make the room feel brighter — it just draws your eye downward. Cylindrical shades allow light to bounce off the ceiling and walls, increasing indirect light and more effectively driving shadows out of corners.
While you’re re-thinking your lighting, swap out dim incandescent bulbs with LEDs or CFLs that are far brighter with lower wattage (and they’ll help your energy bill, too).
Look around the room — are your shelves and tables lined with trinkets, books, and other decor? Sometimes simpler is better. Display only the books that mean the most to you. Instead of five photographs on your end table, try just one. Move your collections of CDs and DVDs into a cabinet. Displaying fewer small objects emphasizes clean lines and can make your room look airier.
- Don’t Crowd Your Walls
Totally bare walls are depressing. But cramming every inch of space from floor to ceiling with photographs, art, and wall hangings just crowds out light. Don’t think of your walls as a storage space for all your paintings and posters and wall hangings — instead, aim to focus the eye on one or a few key elements. Orderly grids that make good use of vertical space can direct the eye upward and outward to the borders of the room. And remember — your wall isn’t just defined by what’s hanging on it. Utilizing blank space can brighten things up if your wall is a light-reflecting color.
Sam Radbil is a contributing member of the marketing and communications team at ABODO, an online apartment marketplace. ABODO was founded in 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin. And in just three years, the company has grown to more than 30 employees, raised over $8M in outside funding and helps more than half a million renters find a new home each month.