How to Make a Dark Room Feel Brighter
It seems that almost every home has that one room that is dark, dull and depressing. For some, this might be the bedroom and for others, it might be the living room, but for MOST people, it’s the basement/family room.
What can make a room dark?
- Northern exposure (check out good paint colours here)
- Not enough artificial light
- Not enough natural light (no matter what the exposure is) due to small windows or no windows
- Low ceilings
- Heavy drapes
- Overhangs outside the window such as decks or soffits
- Landscaping that blocks the natural light
Dark Room Decorating Idea #1 Add some bling baby!
Glass, mirror and shiny objects help to move light around the room, whether it’s artificial or natural. If you have too many solid surfaces (wood/fabric/draperies/drywall) that absorb light, rather than reflect it, the energy in your space will feel heavy and off balance – the same thing will happen if you drink too much wine.
Add some easy bling with the following:
- Shiny vases – glass, metal or reflective finish
- Glass table tops (hope you own a share in Windex…)
- Framed artwork (not canvas)
Decorating a bookshelf with wee shiny bits via accessories and vases is a great way to add interest and energy to a dark space – make sure each shelf has some visual interest on it!
Read more: How to Brighten a Low Energy or Dark Basement Room – Sheen
Dark Room Decorating Idea #2 Use Mirrors
Mirrors move light around the room and they also ‘act’ like windows. While adding a mirror anywhere in a dark room will help the energy flow, try to place it half-way between your window (if you have one) and the furthest wall. This way the mirror will grab that natural light and throw it to the far end of the room.
If you can have your mirror reflecting a light, you will double the value of the light you get! This is great for a dark dining room or bedroom with a hanging fixture.
And just so you know, when you’re hanging a mirror (and it’s not above a couch/mantle) the center of the mirror should be approx 62″ from the floor.
Read more: The Right Height to Hang Artwork and Mirrors
Dark Room Decorating Idea #3 Brighten Up Buttercup!
Get rid of those valances, heavy dark drapes and dowdy old linens. Turf that nappy ole rug, take down those sheer curtains and paint that wood panelling. All of these (and more) will add to the ‘visual weight’ of a room and make it feel darker than it needs to be.
In a dark space, it’s important that your light fixtures DON’T have amber/yellowed glass shades. Frosted or clear glass is VITAL.
The above light fixtures with their coloured shades aren’t doing ANYTHING for this dark entryway.
This photo below…MUCH BETTER!
Block the light in the upper portion of the window and add an ‘eyebrow’ to your window. If not done properly (ie: right fabric, right height) you will only make your room feel oppressive.
Heavy dark drapes
Heavy drapes that are a lighter fabric are okay as I know drapes are great for privacy, insulation and acoustic value. However, dark and heavy in a dark room only compounds the problem.
Lighter linens, toss cushions and throws will add a fresh touch to a dark space.
Believe it or not, but sheer curtains cut down on the ‘quality’ of light coming into a room. Whenever I do Home Staging, the first thing I usually say is, ‘open those darn sheers!‘ Okay, maybe I say it nicer than that (but maybe not…).
If you live in 2014 then I’m sure you’re aware that fake wood panelling won’t do your home any favours. And while it is a bit of a project, painting this panelling is a heck of a lot cheaper than re-drywalling and will instantly refresh any dark space.
Dark Room Decorating Idea #4 Lighten up…literally!
Take a good look at your lighting and read this checklist:
- Does each light have the right wattage in it? Often you’ll find a 40w in a 60w, check your lights to make sure the wattage is right.
- Are any bulbs burnt out?
- Do I have any ‘main’ fixtures that take only 1 bulb? Learn some solutions here…The Booby Light Article
- Do I have lampshades that aren’t white/off-white/cream? Any other colour of shade will affect the quality of light coming through it
- Do I have wall lights/sconces that only shine light up or down? Wall sconces should have glass/fabric shades on them that allow the light to go out – not just up or down.
- Do any of my lights have amber glass in them? Amber glass casts a very warm and often shaded light which doesn’t do a dark room any favours
- Have I created a triangle of light? f you were to draw a line between table/floor lamps would they create a triangle…or a line? Lines aren’t as good as triangles
- Do I have a honkin’ ceiling fan that only takes 1 bulb? CURSE THESE! I mean who makes a 52″ fan that only handles 1 light bulb – really people!
- Do I have only track lights? While track lights create nice triangles of light, they also create shadows easily. It’s nice to combine a track light with a ‘general light fixture’ that ‘lights the space’, while using the track light for more ‘task-oriented’ lighting
- Have I figured out how much light my room ACTUALLY needs? If not, read here…
So there you have it! I hope these ideas will help you embrace your dark space and bask in the light!
For a custom-tailored Color Consultation, check out my affordable Online Consulting Services!
Read more: The Best Paint Colours for Dark Rooms
Read more: The Best DARK Paint Colours for a Dark Room
Kylie M Interiors Online Color Consulting and E-Design Services Interior Decorating and Design Blog with Budget Friendly Ideas!
Thanks for these very helpful tips. Dare I suggest anything more as if I’m not grateful enough? I’ll just say I would love love to see a post on choosing colors for basement rooms–rooms with some light and rooms with no light.
Love your sense of style Kylie, not only in your design but also in your writing! Thanks!
Your blog which is fresh and accessible. I feel inspired. We put an addition on and while the new family room/kitchen is so inviting the old taupe-y living room/dining seems dark, cold and bleak. Still looking for paint inspiration – yellow? The rooms face east. I took the box valances off the windows – already an improvement. I liked them when we moved in almost 20 years ago and even recovered them – they were a bit too colonial for my taste. I would like to hang some curtains from ceiling height – I like it best with the matchstick/bamboo blind to cover the wall over the window. And I was just looking at the lampshades that I loved so much a few years ago with the bell shape in a light sand w/blue lining – what was I thinking? The bases are pierced white porcelain mid century from my in laws. They could have a very preppy vibe with a better shade…
Thank you for this great piece! I’ve been looking for some very simple, practical advice for our new dark, north-facing (grey painted – yuk!) dining room, in terms I can understand and this is just the ticket. I will be applying all these tips. Love your sense of humour too.
Love your ideas and love your humour, you made me laugh out loud which inspired me even more, thanks!!
Well thank you! The more wine I drink the funnier I get 😉