How to Brighten a Room
1. Maximize existing natural light. If your dark room has a small window or two, begin with the easiest, cheapest option out there: wash your windows. You may be surprised by how much light a barely-visible film of dust can block out! After washing the windows, make the most of natural light by strategically placing mirrors across from the windows to reflect the light.
2. Add natural light. When God closes a door, he opens a … skylight? Okay, maybe not. But if you own your home, installing a skylight or solar tube can be a fairly inexpensive option that goes straight to the source of the problem without taking up wall space. Both skylights and solar panels are simply windows through your roof, which, when well-placed, can shine a light right into the darkest corners of your home. Choose a frosted glass to help the light diffuse throughout the room instead of becoming a spotlight!
3. Give your decorations a diet. If you do not own your home, obviously making structural changes like adding a window or skylight is out of the question. So, focus on your décor. Collections can easily become clutter, and cluttered rooms appear darker. By choosing to display only a few favorite knick-knacks at a time, you can improve the atmosphere of your home—and have the added bonus of having a new look every season when you bring out some of your unused décor.
4. Pull out a paintbrush. Though less exciting than brightly colored walls, white walls and ceilings make a big difference in the brightness of a room. Instead of matte-finish, use eggshell- or satin-finish paint to reflect light rather than absorb it. If you simply must have color, try using light hues or painting only one wall with color. Or, save your bright colors for doorframes and baseboards. This approach uses less paint than an entire wall, of course, and lets the color pop out in a peppy, cheerful way instead of becoming oppressive. Avoid painting the ceiling with any color but white.
5. Lighten up your furnishings. Avoid dark, heavy furniture and window coverings. If you have curtains, be sure the curtain rod is long enough to allow for pushing the curtains away from the window. Use painted furniture or furniture made of light-colored woods like pine or maple.
6. Be fussy with your artificial lighting. Strategic placement of a few lamps quickly cheers up a gloomy ol’ room. Find a tall floor lamp that reflects light at the ceiling (remember that nice, white, reflective ceiling we talked about?). Try compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs), which provide more light at a lower wattage than other bulbs. A few strands of battery-operated twinkly lights can quickly create a festive, magical atmosphere out of even the darkest rooms without even taking up a valuable power outlet.
7. Make it shiny. We all like shiny things, right? Like the mirrors we mentioned above, reflective surfaces can multiply the effect of whatever light you do have in the room. In addition to mirrors, incorporate a glass-topped coffee table or décor made from shiny metals like brushed copper, bright tin, or hand-sanded aluminum.