Dark spaces not only feel dingy but confined and depressing, and yet brightening a dark room will make the same space feel completely different. There’s no need to replace the furniture or break any walls. To brighten a dark room you must capitalize on the way human perception works.
By increasing light, you’ll brighten a dark room into looking cleaner and more inviting. By reflecting existing light, you’ll add the impression that the brightened room is also bigger. And by brightening the walls you’ll increase the effect of the existing light.
Finally, by boxing the space with a light hue from wall to wall and ceiling to floor, you’ll trick the human eye into seeing the entire space at once, and thereby create the effect of a bright, large room.
Brightening a dark room may sound complicated in principal, but the way to achieve it is actually very simple. Better yet, it’s not even expensive. Just follow these tips to brighten your dark room and change its ambiance completely.
Brighten a Dark Room by Adding Light
1. Table Lamps
You don’t have to invite the electrician to start breaking walls to add light to a dark room. If you have side tables or book shelves in the room, place table lamps on them. Use the same lamps around the room to keep your decor uniform. And be sure to use white or sandy lampshades to brighten your dark room effectively.
2. Floor Lamps
In the absence of furniture on which to rest small lamps, use floor lamps to brighten your dark room. Look for lamps that provide the maximum light bulbs at a maximum voltage. Such lamps will typically have three settings that will allow you to alternate between lighting all the light bulbs or only a few at one time. Place a floor lamp at the back corner on either side of the space and you’ll brighten the dark room from side to side and from the back forward.
3. Ceiling Lamps (even without electrical wiring)
Replace weak ceiling lights with ones that contain halogen bulbs or higher voltage bulbs. If you have no ceiling wiring, consider placing a ceiling lamp close to the edge of the ceiling and running the wire along the wall to the nearest outlet (here’s how I did it in my office and concealed the dangling wire).
4. Lamps without Outlets
To brighten a dark room that has very few electrical outlets, consider capitalizing on distant outlets or one’s on the back side of the wall (perhaps in the next room). Brighten a dark corner in the room by placing a floor lamp there, then connect it to a distant outlet with an extension cord. By slipping the cord behind the base molding running along the bottom of the wall, you’ll be able to hide it from sight (here’s how I hid extension cords behind floor-molding.)
If you want to brighten a dark room where an outlet exists on the other side of the wall, you can pass the cord through the wall and plug it in the other room. This will require you to take off the electrical plug first (here’s how I brightened my dark corridor using this idea).
Brighten a Dark Room by Multiplying Light
In addition to adding spots of light, you can brighten a dark room by duplicating existing light using mirrors. Not only will mirrors increase the light but the apparent size of the room, by reflecting the space as well as its illumination. Here are ways to brighten a dark room using mirrors.
1. French Window Mirrors
Brighten a dark room by hanging a mirror opposite a light source, so as to reflect it. You can buy mirrors with French window trim, to create the impression that the mirror itself is a window. You can also hang 6 or 9 cheap, small framed mirrors in a tic-tac-toe cluster, to achieve the same effect more cheaply.
2. Mirrors on Opposite Windows
Even a small window can be made to look bigger if you frame it with cheap fence lumber (see how I created a patterned window-trim). You can then brighten your dark room by hanging a mirror opposite the apparently enlarged window, to reflect it. If you repeat the same trim around the mirror, you will make it seem even more like a twin window.
3. Mirrors Behind Light
You can really brighten a dark room by duplicating the artificial light you introduced into it. Hang a mirror behind a floor lamp or near a table lamp to capture and diffuse the light throughout the room.
Brighten a Dark Room with a Pale Color Palette
Without mirrors or light, you can brighten a dark room by simply altering the color of the walls, ceiling and floors. The pale hues will reflect the existing light and intensify it, brightening the room naturally. Here are a few ideas for brightening the palette of your room from floor to ceiling.
1. Pale Walls
A badly lit room will look like a cave if its walls are dark as well. You can paint a light color over a dark wall and thereby brighten the room without having to commit to higher electrical bills for illumination. I find that the best way to cover a dark wall with a lighter paint is to use a water-based primer first. Here’s my bedroom-makeover that changed my wall colors from autumn hues to pale sand (here are the before pictures of my-bedroom, if you’re curious).
2. Texture the Ceiling
Another way to brighten a dark room with paint is to give the ceiling the impression of being taller, less oppressive. This can be easily achieved by painting 2 rectangles on the ceiling, one inside the other using gradient shades. The effect mimics the light-and-shadow pattern of a tray ceiling. Here’s my faux tray ceiling in my old-bedroom. For the step-by-step instructions, read my article: Change Your Flat Ceiling into an Elegant Tray Ceiling.
3. Brighten the Floor
You’ll be amazed how a light colored rug will brighten a dark room. You can buy a cheap sisal rug at a home improvement center. You can also paint your floors with a faux pattern using garage floor paints (here’s how I painted several surfaces in my home, and here’s how I painted the ceramic-tile of my old dining-room floor.)