HomeHome Updates: Tips & IdeasDecorating Ideas and How To'sHow to Brighten a Low Energy or Dark Basement Room with Sheen

How to Brighten a Low Energy or Dark Basement Room with Sheen

Posted on December 4, 2016 by KylieMawdsley


Ideas to Brighten a Dark Basement or Low Energy Room

Partner post to 4 Ideas to Brighten a Dark Room

Do you have a room that feels dead and lifeless?  A room that has such low energy it would need nothing short of a cheerleader jumping up and down on the couch to bring it to life?

Well, with a few simple tweaks you can COMPLETELY CHANGE the energy in your room without needing any mini-skirts or pom-poms (sorry Tim).

How? With sheen. Not as in ‘Charlie’ but as in ‘the finish of the products in your room and whether they are flat, glossy, matte, shiny, etc…’.

What is a low energy room?

A low energy room is a room that has low natural lighting and not enough reflective surfaces (glass/mirrors/sheen).

Low energy, dark rooms are most often basement or family rooms, however, ANY room can be low energy if there isn’t enough natural light due to small windows, inadequate interior lighting, deck overhangs, or dense landscaping in front of the window – sound familiar?

a low energy room with not much natural light - before photoWhile the glass on the artwork helped, this room was looooow energy (see the transformation below).

How to fix a low energy or dark room

When you have a lifeless or dark room, the best way to add life to it is with SHEEN. And I’m not talking about paint colour or finish (which is what most people think about when they hear the word ‘sheen’), I’m talking about the finish of your furnishings and accessories.

A low energy room needs decorative items and furnishings that are reflective, shiny or high-gloss. Shiny surfaces add energy and life to a space because they reflect any natural/artificial light and throw it back into the room, doubling the effect.

Items that don’t have sheen absorb light and don’t reflect any of it back into the space which brings down the energy level of a room.

Decorative items that add energy to a room via SHEEN

  • Glass top coffee tables, accent tables, dining tables
  • Mirrors
  • Artwork with glass (non-canvas)
  • Accessories with a medium or high gloss finish (particularly metals)
  • Glass-fronted cabinets
  • Chrome, polished nickel, brass hardware and lighting fixture finish
  • Shiny fabrics – drapes, toss cushions, etc…
  • Some leathers
  • And I hate to say it…the TV – yes, even the finish on the TV is a reflective surface (men worldwide rejoice!)
  • While it doesn’t involve ‘sheen’, lighter coloured items will reflect more light into a room than dark colours
  • High contrast can also help but is also not related to sheen unless the items are shiny

how to lighten a room with low natural light or dark basement room. Living room before and after with Benjamin Moore Jamesboro GoldBecause of the exposure and landscaping, this living room was fighting an uphill battle and there was NOTHING we could do about the lack of natural light! Here’s how I helped my client balance the low energy in this space…

  • Furniture and dining chairs with a bit of sheen (leather)
  • Glass top on the new coffee table
  • Pillows with sheen
  • Textured rug in a lighter colour
  • We kept the mirror above the fireplace as it acted like a window
  • Added a stone around the fireplace with light colours and texture in it
  • Added drapes with a slight sheen in the pattern
  • Improved the wall sconces so the light output was better

Living room before painting with e-design

Now if you’re starting from scratch and totally renovating a dark/low energy room, you can make some smart choices right off the bat which can help balance out the energy of your space. These tend to be higher cost items, so if you aren’t renovating or looking to make some MAJOR changes, I’d stick to the list above.

  • Semi or high-gloss flooring finish (wood/laminate/tile)
  • High sheen countertops (Quartz/Granite/Laminate)
  • High sheen cabinetry
  • Stairwells with glass partitions, rather than spindles/railings
  • Light or white finishes

Home bar with wine display and storage, beer and wine fridge. Bianco Drift quart countertop, painted gray cabinets and Sherwin Williams Cyberspace. Kylie M INteriors E-design

In the above photo, the countertop, cabinet hardware and faucet add to the energy of the space, while the dark paint colour absorbs light. If we’d done a honed/matte countertop, the energy level would have been too low.

Contemporary stairwell with glass and dark wood. Sherwin Williams Dorian Gray. Wine room under stairs. Kylie M Interiors Decorating and Design. E-decor and Consulting Online

The above space had the potential to be super dark. We opened up the lower stairwell with glass and chose glass railing instead of spindles to reflect light coming from the upper stairwell.

edesign, virtual paint colour consulting. Kylie M Interiors Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams color expert. marketing (15)

Keeping a dark room in balance

Now just because you need to add sheen to your room, it doesn’t mean you need to get the last 8 seasons of 2 & a 1/2  Men on your Netflix. It also doesn’t mean that EVERYTHING needs to be shiny like my Mom says about wine – all in moderation my dear.

ideas to lighten a low energy family room or dark basement room with very little natural light

Tips to have balance in a low energy or dark room

  • At least 1 ‘main’ horizontal surface should have some sheen. The best choice for this is usually the coffee table (living room/family room) or the countertops (kitchen). If you have an ottoman, try adding a tray with a mirrored top
  • If you have an open layout room and your dining table is glass, you might find it too much if your coffee table AND side tables are glass as well – remember…moderation (as I sip my wine through a straw…) In this scenario, I would go for a 60/40 split – 60% flat or matte finish and 40% shiny/glass
  • In a kitchen, a shiny backsplash can make a huge difference regardless of the finish of the countertops
  • Mix solid, low energy cushions with a few that have some sheen or bling on them
  • Place high energy items close to sources of light (artificial and natural) and you’ll increase their reflective value
  • Remember that the TV adds energy so you don’t need to worry as much about your TV stand and its reflective value
  • Not all of your artwork needs to have glass (or mirror). Again, try the 60/40 split, which is usually a safe bet in any scenario – 60% matte, 40% shinyWhen decorating a mantel or bookcase it doesn’t take much to add some visual value. On a mante,l the 60/40 balance is nice (matte/sheen), but on a bookcase, too much sheen can get overwhelming fast. Treat your bookcase on a ‘per-shelf’ basis and try to have 1-3 shiny items per shelf – play around with how these items stagger from shelf to shelf

Ikea hemnes white bookcases with book display ideas. Vintage globe collection and home decor. Kylie M Interiors E-design expert and canadian blogger

In the above photo, the books absorb energy. The glass doors on the cabinets and the mirror add energy back into the space without going too far.

Benjamin Moore Escarpment with Collingwood feature wall. Teal accent chair and glam style.Kylie M Interiors Online Color Consultant and e-decor

The toss cushion and lampshade in this photo add energy to this quiet corner – even the velvet chair has a subtle sheen to it!

On a box o’ wine budget?

Keep it simple…

  • Swap out boring lamp bases for ones with a metal or glass base to add some sheen
  • Toss those old toss cushions and find some with a metallic stripe, chevron pattern or decorative detail
  • Swap out your old artwork for an oversized mirror (this is ALWAYS a game-changer)
  • Add some decorative frames to your mantel or bookcases that are shiny metal or mirrored
  • Add glass tops to your side tables to help reflect the light from your table lamps
  • If you have cabinet or furniture hardware that is a flat/matte finish, swap it out for a polished nickel, chrome or brass finish

Well, I hope that’s infused a little energy into your room and your life – Happy Decorating!

If you would like a Decorating Consultation custom tailored to your room, check out my affordable E-Design Services

edesign, virtual paint colour consulting. Kylie M Interiors Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams color expert. marketing (4)

Chat soon,

Kylie M Interiors Edecor and EdesignKylie M Interiors    Interior Decorating and Design Blog.   E-Design and Color Consulting.  Based in Nanaimo BC and serving the whole darned world!



  1. I have been reading and reading and reading and come to find out I have ALL the problems. Dining Room: middle of the house; no natural light; no sheen; dark vynil floors; ONE light fixture. Well I actually did put some sheen in my last paint job and it worked slightly better, but I get very little natural light from a front porch but VERY little. This has been a nighmare on all levels and it has been painted probably 10 times!! So frustrated and I believe hopeless as I have to work with what I have.

    1. Post

      Hi Jessie! Some rooms are TOUGH. Make sure your light fixture holds enough bulbs at the right wattage/lumens. Add a mirror to double-up on the light and reflect it around – that would help TONS!!!

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