The K1 Group

Designer Tips For Lightening Up A Dark Room

Designer Tips for a dark room

Have A Dark Room?

Brightening up a room or space is a common challenge when designing a room. While a major renovation can certainly correct the issue, knocking down walls or adding windows are thankfully not the only options. In fact, there are foolproof tricks that the pros use to add light through design details. From painting the ceiling to layering in accessories, we rounded up our favorite tips to help you let the light in.

1) The Brighter the Art, the Better

bathroom with marble tub and cupped hand stool holding towels
Douglas Friedman

While dark rooms are cozy, adding vibrant artwork will elevate the mood and look of the space. A bold painting in yellow and turquoise pops against travertine tiles in this Manhattan apartment.

2) Dazzle with a Crystal Chandelier

living room, room, interior design, white, furniture, property, building, yellow, home, house,
Simon Watson

The many facets of a crystal chandelier will reflect other light sources, including the sun and lamps, throughout a space. In this Lebanese mountain home, a Turkish chandelier is centered in a room with oversize windows.

3) Bring In the Colors of the Sun

ceiling, room, interior design, floor, property, lighting, furniture, wall, building, light fixture,
James Merrell

A tried-and-true trick to making a dark space feel brighter is to fill it with the colors of the sun, like reds, yellows, and oranges. ED A-List designer Jaques Grange covered the walls in this Venice apartment with custom Marmorino Venetian plaster.

4) Paint the Ceiling the Colors of the Sky

the interiors of a quogue beach house designed by rodney lawrence
Marili Forastieri

Blue skies brighten the world. By painting the ceiling a light blue, designer Rodney Lawrence created an optical illusion that opens up this Quogue, New York, living room.

5) Embrace Maximalism

Room, Interior design, Table, Furniture, Wall, Ceiling, Interior design, Purple, Mirror, Violet,
Douglas Friedman

If an all-neutral room is not your style, there’s no need to worry. Going for a bold accent wall and a palette of daring hues, like this design by Mary McDonald, can energize a room and make it appear brighter.

6) Try a High-Gloss Ceiling

Green, Interior design, Lighting, Room, Floor, Living room, Ceiling, Couch, Furniture, Real estate,
Thomas Loof

One of the best ways to bring more light into a room is with a high-gloss paint color, and a ceiling is the perfect spot to experiment with this design choice. A glossy ceiling finish reflects light well, and it adds an unexpected element to a room.

7) Consider Light Wood Flooring

Interior design, Room, Property, Floor, Architecture, Flooring, Home, White, Wall, Light fixture,
Thomas Loof

When a space is in need of additional light, it’s best to choose light wood flooring to brighten up the room. Light stains are also perfect for high-traffic areas, since they’re better at masking scratches.

8) Embrace the Power of a Colorful Rug

decorating with rugs

A large, colorful area rug is not just a solution for defining a specific area in a home. It can also be used to inject personality into a room and show off your aesthetic.

9) Hang Plenty of Mirrors

dark room

Double the amount of sunlight in your room by allowing it to bounce off reflective surfaces. Hang a large mirror directly across from the largest window in your room, or arrange an array of smaller mirrors to help brighten a dark staircase, suggests Houzz.

10) Nix the Heavy Curtains

dark room

There are plenty of window-treatment options on the market that provide privacy without turning your abode into a vampire’s lair. Get rid of heavy, dark curtains that absorb light, and instead opt for translucent shades that allow sunshine to spread throughout the room.

11) Add Metallics


William Abranowicz

Incorporating shimmery gold or silver accessories is an easy way to transform a dark and dreary space. The simple addition of a metallic mirror, light fixture, piece of artwork, or even a decorative object has a way of reflecting light and making a design scheme feel more luxurious.

12) Trim the Trees by Your Windows

dark room

If light can’t reach your window, it certainly won’t be able to brighten your room. Make sure any bushes or trees near your windows are trimmed regularly, and avoid planting trees on the southern side of your home (as Scandinavian Home Staging explains, the sun will be too high for the trees to provide shade in the summer, and in the winter, the foliage will block your windows from solar warmth).

13) Opt for Matte, Not Glossy

dark room

It may seem counterintuitive, but glossy walls can create glare rather than reflect light equally. Matte surfaces, on the other hand, reflect light in every direction.

14) Clean Your Windows

dark room

Yes, we know. This one seems a tad obvious, but simply cleaning your windows can have a major effect on how much sunlight streams into the room. The less dirt, dust, and splatters on your windows, the more sunshine can peek into your room. (Plus, cleaning a window is way easier than installing more windows.)

15) Supplement Your Daylight

dark room

Carefully think about where you place light fixtures throughout your space. The New York Times reports that indirect lighting aimed upward (say, a torchiere at the back of the room) can make up for lack of light on the ceiling as daylight dwindles.

16) Be Mindful of Paintings

dark room

You love your art, but do you love it more than a healthy dose of vitamin D? Save your large, dark artworks for rooms that aren’t short on light. If you cover a wall with paintings or posters, they will absorb the little sunlight streaming into your space rather than reflect it.

17) Place Bookshelves Perpendicular to Window Walls

dark room

Bookshelves or partitions should never be parallel to a window, or they’ll obstruct the light. Carefully consider the flow of daylight and how you want to promote it

18) Opt for a White or Neutral Color Scheme

dark room

This isn’t the place to try out a moody, dark color palette. Think back to sixth-grade science: The lighter the color of your walls, the more light they’ll reflect. If your walls are neutral, paint the ceiling a shade lighter to help light bounce around the room.

19) Use Shiny Surfaces to Your Advantage

dark room

While you don’t want to go glossy on the walls (remember: glare), reflective surfaces can play to your advantage when it comes to bouncing light. For a room with limited sunlight, opt for glimmering items such as acrylic accents, translucent furniture, and mirrored surfaces like a reflective coffee table.