Everyone has that one dark room in their home that feels dingy and depressing. There may be only one small window – or no window at all. Are there ways to brighten up these rooms and give them life? Certainly – but you’ll have to get creative.
Five Ways to Give Dark Rooms Life
There are a number of ways to bring light into a dark room. Some involve actually bringing more light into the room (artificially or naturally), while others include design tricks that make rooms feel more brightly lit than they really are. We’re going to investigate some of each.
- Use Mirrors
One reason dingy rooms feel so dark is that they’re often really small. Larger spaces generally feel brighter. How can you make a small room feel bigger without putting a sledgehammer through the drywall? By strategically hanging some mirrors, of course!
The key word here is “strategically.” Don’t just start hanging mirrors in the hopes that you’ll trick yourself into feeling like the room is larger and brighter. The mirrors need to make sense in the larger context of the room’s design.
Mirrors come in an incredible array of styles. When shopping for mirrors, look for statement pieces that add character to the room. You can place mirrors with multiple panes along a wall to resemble windows. Try putting a larger mirror behind a bed or sofa to add depth. Incorporate mirrors onto the doors of a dresser or a cabinet to keep furniture from absorbing too much space. The options are endless.
- Install a Skylight
If you’re willing to take on a design project that’s a little more invasive, you can install a skylight in the ceiling. Skylights are often preferred over windows because (a) they can be installed without impacting the exterior architecture, and (b) they let in more light per square inch.
While you can always go with a traditional skylight, you may consider installing tubular daylighting devices, or TDDs. According to designer Lindsey Roberts, these “are reflective cylinders or pipes installed between the roof and ceiling, with a clear plastic dome. The bottoms of the tubes are diffused or glazed to prevent glaring beams of light and to ensure a soft glow.”
In other words, TDDs look more like recessed lighting fixtures than massive skylights. They can help you maintain the integrity of a certain look while also incorporating additional natural light.
- Paint the Walls a Lighter Color
One of the oldest tricks in the book is to use a lighter paint color on the walls. Dark colors tend to make a space feel smaller, whereas lighter colors can make the room feel bigger than it really is.
If you’re going with white, make sure you’re using the right white. That may seem like a strange tip, but designers know that all whites are not the same. Here’s a list of some whites that are consistently favored by top designers.
It doesn’t have to be white, though. Soft pastels, light browns and tans, light grays, and even certain shades of blue can produce the desired effect. However, whatever you do, make sure you stay away from dark grays, navy, and harsh greens.
- Strategically Place Lighting Sources
If bringing in more natural light isn’t a possibility, you’ll have to be strategic with how you use artificial lighting. Placement is key and every fixture should be treated as a priority. Light maximization is the focus here.
Wall sconces that shine light upward can make a room’s ceiling feel higher than it actually is. Placing a couple of sconces behind a sofa or TV can draw eyes up and away from an otherwise small room.
While overhead lighting isn’t always the most attractive, you can really brighten up a room by installing some recessed lighting with dimmer switches. If you use the right type of bulbs and make proper use of the dimming capabilities, this sort of overhead lighting can make a huge difference. It should always be complemented by other light fixtures, though.
- Remove Window Treatments
Window treatments are great. But in a room with only one or two small windows, try avoiding draperies and blinds. Draperies tend to absorb much of the light coming through the windows, even if they’re kept to the side. Blinds also deflect light and make the windows feel guarded.
If you want some sort of window treatments for privacy during certain parts of the day, try roller shades that pull down from the top and are designed to let light in while blocking the view from the outside.
Make Use of What You’ve Got
The key to brightening up a dingy room is to work with what you’ve got. Don’t fight the room. If the room is conducive to a certain design technique but doesn’t allow for another, focus on what you can do. Any little bit of light matters.