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How To Lighten a Dark Room

A Brighter Room

A splash of natural light can take any dreary, drab space and turn it into an airy, fresh, interior designer’s dream come true. But the benefits of light stretch way beyond just aesthetics. According to recent studies, well-lit rooms improve productivity and mood, making you feel more motivated and cheerful.

If there’s a dark space in your home that you’re hoping to let some light into, there are a number of steps you can take. Try these proven techniques to up the brightness and enjoy a space that brings out the best in you.

Get Smart with Your Paint Choices

You don’t really need to study color theory to find the best shades to use on your walls. Basic elementary school art classes should give you enough clues.

Just like they used to teach us in school, dark colors will absorb light. What that means is that dark walls will minimize the effects of any light that enters your space instead of maximizing what it can do.

On the other hand, lighter colors have a more dynamic relationship with light. Hues like cream, nude light tan, and light gray will let light bounce off, amplifying brightness and spreading it around.

Paint your walls a lighter color, and go two to three shades lighter on your ceiling. This slight contrast will create the illusion of higher ceilings and thus a bigger space.

Similarly, you might also want to consider the finish of the paint you choose. Semi-gloss and satin finish tend to reflect light more dynamically, letting it bounce around more freely for even more brightness.

Fit New Windows and Doors

Fit Replacement Windows

If you’ve got a bit of a budget, then you might want to consider replacing old windows. Outdated, steel frame windows with textured glass can really blur out any light that comes in, making it seam dark even during the daylight hours.

Today, modern advancements in window engineering have made it possible for you to install windows with far less structural elements like jalousies and metal grids. Despite that, these clear, glass, sliding windows offer just the same - if not more - safety and resilience with their intuitive architecture.

Aside from replacing old windows, you might also want to consider installing new ones by breaking through non-weight bearing walls. In this case, you have the option to fit one large window to maximize the natural light that enters your space.

  • Picture windows are windows that can’t be opened. They’re called such because they work more like a picture frame, giving you a clear view of the scene outside. Picture windows can be positioned against morning light to let streams of warm, early morning sunlight pour into your space.
  • Bow windows jut slightly out from your wall. The curved arrangement creates a greater surface area for you to welcome more natural light into your space. These are best positioned along the facade of your home since they can be a decorative element.
  • Bay windows are almost like bow windows, but they’re often larger. On the inside, bay windows can feature seating that lets you relax by the window itself. Just like bow windows, bay windows also jut out from the wall.

In the same light, your doors can be tweaked to make them more accommodating of brightness. Most doors can be customized to include a window frame. If you’ve got a really sturdy front door, you might also be able to install a full-length glass panel for more light to stream in.

The beauty of tweaking your front door is that it will often cost less than a full replacement because most standard doors can be customized. This eliminates the need to buy brand new, and even opens up the opportunity for DIY if you’re confident in your skills.

Replace Overhead Lights

Overhead Lights

What is the best lighting for a living room? Most people would say overhead fluorescent lights. Unfortunately, these can actually draw attention to the fact that a room is dark. Instead of flooding your space with focused, white light in an attempt to brighten it up, scratch overhead lights and opt for diffused perimeter lights instead.

Strategically position standing lamps and table lamps in areas of your space where light might not as easily penetrate. Diffuse light towards the ceiling and create a soft brightness to combat the dark. It won’t only make your space airier, but it will also create a warm, cozy mood.

If you’ve got more to spare, you might want to consider cove lighting. Designed to fit along the borders of decorative ceilings, cove lighting adds a glow rather than a focal light. This simply means that light will be evenly distributed along the length of the cove lights, creating a balanced brightness instead of a spotlight.

Cove lights can be used as primary lighting and significantly improve the aesthetics of a space. Always opt for soft, warm lights to mimic the mood of natural sunlight when the cove lights are flicked on.

Move Your Furniture Around

Move Furniture

How would you design a room with very little natural light? If you don’t have the luxury to buy new pieces and pay for complete renovations, you can start with what you have.

Moving furniture around can make way for light to get around more freely. Tall, dark pieces pushed up against walls or scattered around your space can block light, cast shadows, and ultimately make your room look heavy and harsh.

Try to expose as much floor as possible to create the illusion of space, and to let more light shine through. If you can, try repainting dark wooden furniture to make them more reflective. For big, plush sofa sets and bed mattresses, consider throwing on a light-colored, decorative blanket.

Maximize Reflective Surfaces

Mirrors reflect light and may even make it look like you have more windows. Add mirrors where appropriate, and replace heavy, dark, rich colored paintings in wooden frames with mirror tiles instead.

But not everything needs to be a mirror. Mix things up by adding a touch of variety to the aesthetic in your space. Pieces of decor with reflective surfaces can be a great way to add brightness without abusing the mirror card.

Polished chrome lamps, clear glass vases, textured steel figurines and frames placed on table tops can instantly add a pop of brightness to focal points in your space. Try replacing old decor with modern pieces to perk up coffee tables and shelves.

Toss Out the Drapes

It should be a no-brainer that heavy drapes can significantly reduce the light that enters your space. Even when they’re pulled back, simply having those heavy, dark colored lengths of fabric hanging around can weigh down the brightness. The same goes for Roman blinds that will always block out light even when they’re pulled up and open.

Toss out bulky drapes and blinds, and opt for new designs to improve brightness. So, what are window treatments for maximizing light? If you’re not sure what to choose, consider these options:

  • Sheer curtains use very thin, translucent fabric that lets lots of natural light in. They offer some privacy in daylight, but might be easy to see through from the outside if there are lights turned on inside.
  • Window scarves don’t block out sunlight at all, and their purpose is purely decorative. They’re draped over a curtain rod and frame a window to keep it from looking bare. Window scarves are best for windows along the side of your home where you might have a nice view of a pocket garden and little to no passers-by.
  • Cafe curtains only partially cover your window and offer ample visibility while blocking minimal light. They’re best for kitchen and bathroom windows where you might want to dress your window without sacrificing brightness.

Make Way for Natural Light

Natural Light

If there really isn’t any more wall space to spare for windows, there are other options. Sky lights and solar tubes can let you make way for more light straight from the source.

Think of sky lights as windows installed into your roof and ceiling. They’re great for areas where there might be lots of activity, like bathrooms, family rooms, and the kitchen. Should I include sky lights in my new home? You probably should. But if you’ve got a second floor, then installing a sky light for a ground floor room might be impossible. And that’s where solar tubes come into the picture.

Solar tubes are fitted into your second storey roof, and connect to long, twisty tubes that bring light to your desired first floor room. But what makes them even more impressive is that the tube is designed to intensify light so that when it reaches its destination, it can glow with the power of over three 100-watt bulbs.

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