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Light & Bright: How to Brighten a Dark Room

February 17, 2023
Rec room in Taylor II at Easton Village by Brookfield Residential in Easton MD

Natural light is design’s best friend. The amount of light a room receives greatly impacts how it feels. A bright, airy room bathed in natural light feels uplifting and comforting. A dark, heavy space can feel stifling and even depressing.

If the space you’re decorating is windowless or just doesn’t have the amount of natural light you desire, there are plenty of tricks to brighten a dark room, or even create the illusion that there’s a window in the space.

Create a False Window & Use Airy Curtains

Decorative mirror and dining table in Plan 1 of Luna at The Landing in Tustin, CA

If you’re working in a space that is windowless, create a false window using a mirror and airy curtains. Start by hanging an oversized mirror, then add drapery on a rod to cover it just as you would normally hang curtains. Another trick? Use a mirror with divided panes to really replicate the look of a window.

If your room has windows, you want to take advantage of however much light they let in. Heavy fabrics and dark colors block out light and make a space feel smaller. Instead, choose a sheer material that will amplify the soft, airy look and allow the most amount of light into the space.

Strategically Place Mirrors

Rec room in Beckner II at Potomac Shores by Brookfield Residential in Potomac Shores VA

Mirrors are a powerful design tool. They make any room feel bigger and bounce around any light that comes its way (obviously). Try placing your mirrors near light sources like the window or a lamp, as it will create more space visually as well as maximize light distribution as much as possible. For the best result, make sure the lamp lighting isn’t too bright as it can feel harsh.

Don’t be afraid of using more than one mirror in the same room. Just make sure they’re not matchy-matchy and vary in size and function. One can be a large leaning mirror while the other is a small, wall-mounted mirror.

Powder bath with white reflective backsplash in a Brookfield Residential home

If you’re worried about creating a fun-house feeling, bring in some shiny décor instead. It’ll reflect light and make the space feel happy. Try lamps, a picture frame, or small tray – whatever speaks to your style. Just don’t go overboard unless you’re looking to create a glam effect.

Use Light or White Paint

Basement of the Logan floorplan by Brookfield Residential in Calgary

If you’re trying to keep a space light and bright, it’s intuitive to paint the room a light color. The most common choice is white or a bright off-white to best reflect light and brighten a space, but don’t feel limited! While white is really the best solution to brighten a dark room, there are plenty of other light-toned color palettes you can choose from.

To create distinction between your wall color and the ceiling, use a high-gloss paint on your ceiling. It adds another reflective surface and creates visual interest all while staying in the same color family.

Add Some Flair

Basement in Villa One at Brighton Crossings by Brookfield Residential in Denver CO

If you’re worried plain white walls are just too boring, don’t despair! Adding in fun elements infuses energy and makes a space feel brighter. A great way to do this? Bring in a large, vibrant area rug. Not only will this bring softness and texture to your floor, but it’ll help expand visual space and create a distraction. You can also add ornamental trim to the ceilings or create an accent wall.

Finding a unique wallpaper design is a great way to bring in some color while still keeping a space light and airy. Stay away from dark colors or small, busy patterns, and instead opt for something with a light background or reflective design.

Choose the Right Light Fixtures

Rec room in Kensington at Waterford Manor by Brookfield Residential in Leesburg VA

It’s intuitive: if you want a space to be bright, you need to add lighting. Choosing the right light fixture? Not as intuitive. When shopping for a light fixture, take note of its shape and color. Large, heavy fixtures can make a space feel smaller or darker. Instead, opt for thin, airy fixtures to keep a space bright, one with multiple lightbulbs, or something that spans a larger distance.

While it’s important to layer your lighting in any room, it’s especially critical to do it in a space that is darker or windowless. Mixing overhead fixtures with task lighting results in a brilliantly lit room.

Play with Lighting Angles

Rec room in Kensington at Avendale by Brookfield Residential in Bristow VA

Sure, you want to have lots of lighting in darker rooms, but you want to be strategic with how you direct it. Instead of simply aiming your lights every which way, try illuminating the walls or ceiling. This is opposed to a singular light focused on a small area of the floor, or soft ambient light that doesn’t create enough brightness.

By casting your light on walls or the ceiling, it spreads across the space and reflects off the surfaces. You can do this with wall sconces or torchiere floor lamps, and the end result is a warm room that feels cozy, but spacious.

Bring in Streamlined, Light Colored Furnishings

Living area in the basement in Columbia at Rockland Park by Brookfield Residential in Calgary

Choosing pieces that enhance a light, airy feeling can do a lot to make a space feel lighter. Stuffing an already-dim room with oversized, dark furniture will cast more shadows and pull away any existing light. To avoid this, choose minimalist furniture that is lower to the ground.

Streamlined, simple objects keep the space clean and allow for as much light as possible. Leave ample space between furniture pieces to allow light to flow freely. If it fits your décor, consider something like a transparent, acrylic coffee table. You have the functionality of the table couple with unimpeded sightlines.

Layer in brightening, tone-on-tone neutral fabrics and accessories to add texture into the room while keeping the space visually uncluttered.

Less is More

Modern living area at 50 Ann by Brookfield Residential in Bolton, Ontario

While wall art and décor can be used to enhance the brightness of a space, you want to be mindful of how it affects the lighting. Simple, minimal decorations may help keep the space more open and uncluttered. For example, choose one large art piece instead of a busy gallery wall. The more items there are, the more shadows are cast, and the less wall space there is available for reflecting light.

The same is true with your furniture – don’t overdo it with furniture pieces, and choose ones with slim or lifted legs. When more of your floor is exposed, it gives the illusion of the room being lighter and brighter.

Keep it Clean

Basement bedroom in a Brookfield Residential home in Edmonton, Alberta

If your room has windows, keep them clean. This may seem obvious, but this simple tip can have an immediate impact on how much light a room receives. Like wearing glasses with smudges, a room with dirty windows limits visibility. Properly cleaning your windows inside and out, every spring and fall, means more sunshine and a brighter room.

Rec room in Beckner at Snowden Bridge by Brookfield Residential in Stephenson VA

Having a dark or windowless room doesn’t mean it has to stay that way! As long as you fill your room with things you love and try a few of the tips above, the end result is a brighter, fresher space.

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