Tue. May 28th, 2024

Interior rooms with little to no natural light can be challenging to decorate. Colors typically feel more saturated, and décor can look bulky in the shadows. These spaces often feel uninviting, which isn’t ideal—especially if it’s a room where you spend a lot of time, like the bedroom or living area. We spoke with interior designers to learn some simple design tricks that can quickly brighten up a dark room.

Pick Light Paint Colors

Dark paint colors will only make the room look more drab—instead, opt for a lighter backdrop. “Select a wall color that will reflect light around the space, not absorb it,” says Rebecca Zoet, designer and owner of This New Old House. Shades of beige, white, pale gray, and tan are all examples of light paint hues to consider in a dark room.

Add Wallpaper

Courtesy of Etsy

In addition to implementing light paint colors, take advantage of uninterrupted wall space by getting creative with wallpaper. “You could add texture with grasscloth or go bold with a patterned design,” says Zoet. This is an especially clever design idea to utilize in the bathroom—where natural light is typically minimal and it’s easier to play around with bolder décor choices.

Add Accent Lighting

TG23 / Getty Images

Don’t underestimate the power of warm accent lighting when it comes to brightening a dark room. “Lamps can serve as great task lighting for reading or desk work but can also add a sense of coziness as the ambient light source in the room,” says Kerrie Kelly, creative director of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab. “Accent lighting, in general, helps to create a sense of intimacy and drama that warms the space and the mood instantly.”

Use Lightweight Window Treatments


Don’t diminish the small amount of light your room may have by blocking it with thick curtains. If you like the idea of heavy panels for privacy or to keep heat in during colder months, consider layering them with a second window treatment. “Simply add a lightweight panel behind your existing draperies,” says Kerrie. “This will keep warmth in when both the panel and the sheer are drawn but allow you the option to let the light in while it’s available.”

Choose Lighter Furniture

Marco Ricca 

Consider your furniture materials carefully and opt for lighter colors where you can. “Select furniture with light upholstery or natural wood finishes to maintain an airy feel,” says Nina Lichtenstein, founder and principal home designer of Custom Home Design by Nina Lichtenstein. “Avoid bulky or dark-colored pieces that may visually weigh down the space.”

Add Dimmers

Getty Images

The next step is to boost the lighting in the room. When installing overhead lighting, be sure to opt for dimmer switches, which allow you to better control the light level. “Light is directly related to mood, especially during the winter months—but bright light 24/7 is not going to improve anyone’s attitude,” says Kelly. “Dimming the light softens the environment, and that creates a real sense of coziness and warmth.”

Decorate With Mirrors

Martha Stewart

Mirrors can bounce layered light—from lamps, overhead lighting, candles, and more—around the room nicely. “Utilize mirrors strategically to brighten darker areas,” says Lichtenstein. “Place mirrors to reflect natural light throughout the room, adding depth and luminosity.” This design trick can make it appear as though you have double the amount of light in your space.

Incorporate Reflective Surfaces

Sara Ligorria-Tramp; Design: Caitlin Higgins

Besides mirrors, there are plenty of other types of reflective surfaces like glass, acrylic, and glossy finishes, says Lichtenstein. “Consider utilizing a glass coffee table, acrylic chairs, or glossy cabinets to further elevate the overall brightness and aesthetic appeal of the room,” she says.

Add an Area Rug

Sara Ligorria-Tramp; Design: Emily Henderson Design

If you have wood flooring, adding a bright area rug can make a real difference in the tone of the space. “Sometimes wood floors actually darken rooms, so adding a rug in lighter color tones can really soften and brighten a room,” says Erin Bergant Harrod, owner and principal designer of Heartfelt Homespace. “It also can add a cozy factor and help make the room feel more defined and cohesive.”

Bring In Light Colored Pillows and Throws

Eric Piasecki

Your accents are just as important as some of the main factors of your room, like paint and furniture colors. Go lighter with accent pillows and throws—in both color and material. “Sometimes just adding some new light-colored pillows and throw blankets are enough to brighten a dark sofa or chair,” says Harrod. “Be sure to consider the material as well. Linens and cottons are great for adding to the ‘feel’ of being light and bright.”


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