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5 easy ways to brighten a dark room

We’ve all got that one room that doesn’t get great light and becomes gloomy come winter. Explore our easy, affordable ideas for brightening things up – no matter the weather.

Updated

A mirror next to a green plant

It’s amazing how much a light, airy room can benefit your mood –and how much a dark one can get you down. Never fear, we’ve got some simple tips to turn that poky cave into a brighter space.

1. First things first… declutter your space 

Before you get to work on our simple lighting solutions for dark rooms, take a look around the area you want to improve. Do you have much free floor space? Is there an unnecessary pile of magazines in the corner? Do you really need those two small tables by the sofa?

Think minimalist and focus on what you actually need in the room – cut back on books (we’ve got some creative ways to store your books elsewhere) and, if you have artwork, make it something with clean lines. Once you’ve stripped the room back and incorporated our brightening tips, you can then consider putting things back (but we bet you won’t).

2. Use lighter paint

Here’s how to brighten up a dark room with paint: use white. It sounds obvious, but there’s an interesting reason it works - the non-hue doesn’t absorb any colour and instead bounces light back to other surfaces. You could even be brave and use white accessories such as picture frames, lampshades and even furniture.

A more surprising recommendation is to use blue. Natural light is cool compared with the yellow tones from lightbulbs, so blue helps to counteract this (and remind us of the sky at the same time).

Once you’re done, add a few small splashes of black or a dark blue – perhaps with some wall art - to really make the white and blue tones pop.

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3. Replace dark furniture and decorations

You can really brighten a dark room with decorative changes. Heavy, bulky furniture can take over the room and make it feel dark, so switch it up with slimline pieces and light legs. Solid, light colours work better than bold prints: consider replacing dark tables with pale wood or glass tabletops.

And don’t forget your floor. Dark wood or laminate floors are popular but can drain a lot of light, so try using rugs in a lighter tone to break up the area. If you want to go one step further and replace your floor completely, a lighter wood will not only brighten up the room, but should also help mask any scratches.

Heavy curtains can also be a culprit for absorbing light. Go for translucent shades that can help sunlight spread throughout the room.

lamp on a small table next to an armchair

4. Adjust your lighting

If you’re wondering how to brighten up a dark room with no natural light, you may want to update your lightbulbs. Swap the usual yellow light out for cool white bulbs and instantly get a more natural, fresh look. Look for bulbs with higher lumens (this is the unit of measure that really counts, not watts) to up the intensity of light in the room.

Consider lighting your walls: add sconces with shades that direct light upwards and downwards. It really adds a lovely warm glow to an otherwise gloomy space. Under-cabinet lighting can also highlight beautiful details of your cabinets or walls, while if you have space for table lamps these can help spread light across the walls.

5. Bounce light with mirrors and clean surfaces

Make use of any natural light coming into dark rooms by using mirrors. Hang a large one directly across from the largest window and you’ll instantly double the amount of light in the room. Even if this isn’t possible, just placing a mirror virtually anywhere in the room will help; just think of them as small windows to help open up your space.

But it doesn’t stop at mirrors – you can also use shiny surfaces to your advantage by positioning them directly in the path of natural light. Just remember to keep your glass coffee table and mirrors clean for maximum shine.

Originally published