How to Make a Dark Room Feel Lighter and Brighter With Paint
Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams
Back in the day, a dark basement with wood panelling, orange shag carpet and a faint musty smell would leave many homeowners hot to trot. These days, homeowners are focusing more on light, fresh and updated when it comes to their basements, family rooms and dark spaces.
In our last home, we didn’t have to worry about shag or anything when we bought it, however, the family room was definitely not a bright, welcoming space.
Now: SAME room, SAME LIGHTING, but the right use of wall colour changed its vibe entirely…
See the full meal deal here
Using a light paint colour to brighten a dark space
Well, you can definitely TRY to make a dark room look brighter with a light paint colour, but if you don’t have enough interior lighting – it won’t work. Why? Oh, I love getting a chance to say this…
And it doesn’t end there…
You can have a dark space that appears ‘bright, light and fresh’ with the use of good lighting and a light paint colour, however, you will need the right furnishings to visually support it or it will look boooooring
If you don’t have nice/interesting furnishings, accessories or architecture to supplement that lack of personality and colour on your walls then you risk having a bright – but boring space (heaven forbid).
Which leads us to the second way to treat a dark room…
Using a dark paint colour to give a dark room personality – even if the room won’t look that much brighter
That’s right, you can have a dark space that is still somewhat dark, but has ‘personality’ via the right paint colour.
This also works great if you don’t have the nicest furnishings as your wall colour might be the only ‘visual support and interest’ that your room has
You don’t have to paint your walls light and white to make a dark space feel good
Above, you can see how dark that back hallway is, but the reason it LOOKS GOOD, is because it has a wicked colour on it!
However, for those of you who say – ‘Bob, I’ll take what’s behind door #1’ (I just dated myself), the most IMPORTANT thing to remember is that YOU NEED GOOD LIGHTING! Light paint colours (or any paint colour, really) will fall flat in a room without enough natural and/or artificial light to support them. So, if you don’t have pot lights or ceiling mount fixtures, invest in some floor and table lamps with white or off-white shades so you can amp up the volume!
So, blah blah blah – TO THE PAINT COLOURS ALREADY!
The Best LIGHT Paint Colours to Brighten a Dark Room
Whether you want to paint all the walls the same colour or prefer accenting your light walls with a killer feature wall, these should get you well on your way!
BTW – I realize that all of these photos below aren’t necessarily dark rooms. However, I rely 100% on my E-design client’s photos, so sometimes I can only show you the colour as I’ve got it!
1. Sherwin Williams Creamy SW 7012
Creamy has a beautiful soft warmth to it, without turning obnoxiously yellow. If you were to take a more muted approach, you’d risk things looking a bit dingy and dirty if your lighting wasn’t adequate.
2. Benjamin Moore Silver Marlin 2139-50
Silver Marlin has enough COLOUR to help counteract a lack of light, whereas some grays will just fall flat and dull. Notice the LACK of artificial or natural light in this butlers pantry below, yet the paint colour is still showing up to the party (it would come MORE to life with additional lighting). And while it isn’t a SUPER light colour, it’s a happy medium between the lighter and darker ends of things.
While the eating nook of this home (next) has BETTER light, it still isn’t an overly bright space and you can see how pretty Silver Marlin looks.
3. Sherwin Williams Tidewater SW 6477
Tidewater looks GORGEOUS in this next dining room. And while this room WOULD be considered bright, if like my client, you prefer to keep the blinds down, then it’s a great example of a darker room with a beautiful colour on the walls.
Read more: The 8 BEST Blue-Green Paint Colours
4. BM Navajo White OC 95
Navajo White is a light, creamy paint colour. Any cream colour will have a yellow base, and this is no exception, but the yellow is cut-back by neutral undertones to calm it down.
Read more: Benjamin Moore’s 5 Best Cream Paint Colours
5. BM White Dove OC 17
White Dove is actually a white (almost off-white) and has a warmth that’s tempered by a neutral base to slow it down.
Read more: Benjamin Moore 8 Best White Paint Colours
I like White Dove as it has warmth, without too much yellow coming up (yellow is definitely one of the least favourite undertones with my E-Design clients).
And don’t forget, CONTRAST is a fantastic way to add interest to a dark room, as shown in this stairwell landing as well as on the bathroom vanity (see the whole home HERE).
Click HERE or on the above image to see available packages!
Let’s take a quick break to talk about paint samples…
Undoubtedly, you’ll be heading out in the near future to grab paint samples – stop right there! I want you to check out SAMPLIZE. Samplize offers peel and stick paint samples that are more AFFORDABLE, EASIER and more ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY than traditional paint pots. Here are just a FEW reasons why I recommend Samplize to my clients…
- Samples arrive ON YOUR DOORSTEP in 1-3 business days, depending on location
- At $6.99, they’re more affordable than the samples pots/rollers/foam boards that are needing for traditional paint sampling
- If you keep the samples on their white paper, you can move them around the room
Visit the SAMPLIZE website HERE
6. Sherwin Williams Silver Strand SW 7057
Silver Strand is a beautiful light blend of blue-green-gray that USUALLY favours blue over green.
While I wouldn’t mind seeing a WINK more colour, it is a beauty.
7. Benjamin Moore Ballet White
I’ll admit, I’m always nervous about putting a greige paint colour in a dark room because, without lighting, it can look dull and dirty. Ballet White is as close as I’d get to greige (and don’t get your hopes up, it’s not greige). It’s a cream with a beige-gray undertone that calms it down, so it’s soft and muted and loses a lot of the ‘cream’ that you’ve seen in some of the above colours. In this way, it NODS towards greige, without going all the way.
And did you know?
- Yellow is the most reflective colour and will reflect any artificial and natural light it is given making the colour itself (and the room) feel brighter. This is why cream and off-white are popular choices as they have a yellow undertone
- A shiny paint finish will reflect more light (but shiny walls can be super horrendous – especially if your drywall isn’t 100% awesome), so stick with reasonable finishes like matte, flat and eggshell
Read more: Benjamin Moore’s 9 Best Gray Paint Colours
Not sure which paint colour is best for YOUR dark room?
Check out my affordable E-Decorating and Colour Consulting Services!
Originally written in August 2017, updated mid-2019