How to Brighten Up a Dark Room

Three Methods:Getting Creative With Lighting and ColorSprucing Up the Accessories and FurnitureMaking Structural Changes

If there's a room in your house that's a bit dim, there are many tricks you can use to brighten it up right away. Changing the lighting and color will make a dramatic difference, and choosing lighter furniture and decorations can also help a room feel spacious and bright. If you want to make a bigger investment, adding windows and replacing the flooring will change your room from a cave to a haven. See Step 1 to learn more about how to brighten up a room.

Method 1
Getting Creative With Lighting and Color

  1. Image titled Brighten up a Dark Room Step 1
    Paint the ceiling white. If the room's ceiling is painted a dark color, or has dark wooden beams, it is probably casting a pall over the entire room. Buy a can or two of white paint and give the ceiling a fresh coat. The bright white will reflect light instead of absorbing it, and you'll be amazed at what a difference it makes.
    • If you prefer to use color instead of plain white, try a pale yellow, mint or cream.
    • Even if you don't paint the walls white, painting the ceiling white will still make a big difference.
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    Limit accent colors. You might be tempted to paint the room your favorite rich, deep color, but it's best to save bright and bold colors for accent walls or trim. In a dark room, a deep color won't look brilliant - it'll just add to the dark feel of the space. If you absolutely must use dark blue, green, red or another rich color, choose one small wall to paint, and paint the rest in a much lighter color.
    • Another way to incorporate some color without making the space darker is by adding a stenciled accent trim along the ceiling. Buy or make a stencil in a shape that suits your taste - flowers, leaves, and abstract designs are popular - and use your favorite paint color to make a pretty pattern.
    • Painting the baseboards and door trim a contrasting color is another way to add a festive touch to the room without making it too dark.
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    Make full use of natural light. If you're working with a dark room, chances are you don't have a lot of natural light coming in, but it's important to make the most of what you have. If your windows are covered with dark shades or blinds, you're blocking out your best chance for brightening up the room. Instead of keeping your blinds closed, try the following:
    • Choose airy, light-colored window coverings that don't completely block out the light. For example, cream-colored linen or canvas curtains will provide privacy while still allowing the sunshine to filter into the room.
    • If you prefer blinds, look for cloth blinds in a light fabric that isn't completely opaque. Avoid wooden or plastic blinds that block out all of the light.
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    Replace overhead lights with soft perimeter lights. Harsh overhead lighting can actually highlight the fact that a room is naturally dark. Instead of flooding the space with fluorescent lighting, choose your artificial lighting carefully so that it looks as natural and pleasant as possible.
    • Track lighting can really brighten a space without creating a harsh atmosphere.
    • Use plenty of strategically-placed floor lamps with light-colored shades to diffuse light all over the room.
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    Use diffused lighting. If you have a dark corner or a room where there's no ceiling fixture, use multiple lights pointed towards the ceiling and walls. This reflected light provides a soft, overhead glow which minimizes harsh shadows.
    • Candles shouldn't be overlooked as a pleasant source of extra light. When you want to create an especially bright, cheerful atmosphere, light some candles in addition to using artificial lighting.
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    Add custom lighting. If you frequently perform certain activities in the room, consider adding specific lights to help you work. Some lights mount under cabinets and over counters, and others may be useful on your sewing desk or piano.
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    Use brighter bulbs. Replace the your bulbs with higher light intensity bulbs such as compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) of a lower wattage but higher light output. Higher wattage does not mean a higher light level.
    • You may also experiment with the subtle coloring of the lights. Bulbs that are classified as "daylight" usually put out light with a temperature around that of direct sunlight, and provide a cooler, bluer, more vivid light. "Soft white" bulbs have a lower light temperature which provides a warmer, more yellow light.
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    Go with dark and cozy as an alternative. If there's just no getting around the fact that the room in question is dark, you could always nix the suggestions for brightening the room and go with the room's natural feel. Paint it a deep color and use rich, heavy decorations to create the feel of an old-fashioned parlor. Colors like charcoal and slate blue are popular choices for rooms that are meant to have a stately feel.

Method 2
Sprucing Up the Accessories and Furniture

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    Assess your decorations and accessories. Look at your artwork, knicknacks, book collection, and other decorations in the room you're trying to brighten up. Is anything adding to the feeling that the space is overly dim? It might be time to switch out that old black-and-white print for something more lively and bright. If you have stacks of books, a collection of old dolls or a wall of deep green plants, it might be time for those to go, too. If you're committed to brightening up your space, you might have to make some tough decisions about what to keep.
    • Choose your top 10 or so favorite books and display them artfully, rather than having your entire collection take up a wall in the dark room. The space that was previously covered with books can now be brightened up with something more cheerful.
    • If you're a plant lover, think about getting rid of big, dark plants and replacing them with plants that are lighter in color. Displaying a few succulents or ferns is an attractive touch, but having racks of plants can make a room feel darker.
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    Add mirrors. Now that you've cleared away some space, try adding a few mirrors to the room. They'll reflect what light does leak into the room and make it seem at least a little brighter. Choose mirrors with light-colored frames that add to the room's airy feel.[1]
    • Hanging mirrors in a room has the added benefit of making it feel larger.
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    Change up your dark furniture. Do you have floor-to-ceiling wooden bookshelves that add to your room's dark feel? How about a a dark cherry TV cabinet, or a big wooden bed with rich, dark posts? Heavy furniture can make even the brightest room look a little dreary. If you want to brighten things up, choose furniture with lighter wood.
    • You can also paint or refinish your existing furniture to give it a room-brightening makeover.
    • Buy brightly-colored slipcovers for your sofa and chairs.
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    Keep wires tucked away. If you're like most people, you've got tangles of wires and cables snaking across your floor. Black wires can contribute to a room feeling dark and cluttered. Try keeping them neatly wound and secured with a piece of velcro. You can also tape the wires against the baseboard using light-colored electrical tape to keep them out of the way. You'll find that this seemingly trivial change makes a big difference.
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    Install wall-mounted shelving. Another trick for making a room appear brighter is to eliminate the need for a lot of furniture. Instead of having a bunch of bookshelves and tables, try installing wall-mounted shelves that are composed of light-colored wood or painted white. Use them to store your books and a few decorations. Now you've eliminated the shadows cast by extra tables and other furniture.

Method 3
Making Structural Changes

  1. Image titled Brighten up a Dark Room Step 14
    Brighten up your flooring. If you have dark-colored floors, the quickest fix is to buy a brightly-colored throw rug to cover them up. However, investing a little more time and money to put in new flooring or refinish what you have might be worth it in the long run. If you really want to brighten up your room, consider the following:[2]
    • If you have painted hardwood floors, refinish the floors to expose the light wood underneath. You might also consider painting the floors a brighter color, like pearl gray.
    • Concrete floors are sturdy and practical, and they come in many different colors. The finished concrete is polished until it's smooth and gleaming.
    • Brightly-colored tiles are a good choice for kitchens and bathrooms.
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    Replace your door with a glass one. Both internal and external doors offer opportunities for more light to enter the room in question. If possible, replace your doors with glass french doors. You could also consider getting a door with a large window to let in more light. If these options aren't practical, simply painting your doors a lighter color will help brighten the room.
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    See if you can remove extra walls. Your room might have a closed-off, dark feel if there's an extra wall blocking the light. If possible, consider taking out the extra wall to open things up a bit. This is commonly done where a wall blocks a room from a hallway, for example. If the wall doesn't contain beams that are holding up the ceiling, knocking it out shouldn't be a problem.
    • You'll want to hire a contractor to take a look at the room before deciding to knock out a wall by yourself. In some cases the wall might be serving a structural purpose. In old houses and apartments, it's also important to make sure the wall doesn't contain lead or asbestos before attempting to knock it down.
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    Consider adding windows. This is the ultimate fix for a dark room, and it might be easier than you think. Before you rule out the possibility as being too much of an undertaking, have a contractor do an assessment of the room to help you better understand your options. If you're living in a place you plan on keeping for some time to come, it might be worthwhile to make it over into the bright, cheerful space you desire. Widening existing windows and doorways can also let in more light.
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    Install a skylight or solar tube. Skylights let in natural light, and lots of it. There are skylights that can be installed right between rafters, making it a relatively inexpensive project. Reflective tubes that require little more than a good-sized hole in the sheetrock and the roof are another possibility. Some skylights can even open for ventilation.


  • Some newer compact fluorescent bulbs have a much warmer color and warm up more quickly than older bulbs. Moreover, they use less than half of the electricity of an incandescent bulb for an equivalent amount of light.
  • Light the walls. Lit walls not only reflect light and contribute to the overall 'brightness' of a room, but also make you feel more comfortable using the entire space. Dark walls and dark corners result in unused square footage. Make your room feel bigger, brighter and more welcoming.
  • Wash your windows! Cleaner windows let in more light.
  • Don't rule out featuring the darkness. Some activities, such as sewing, reading and writing require a lot of light, but if you are using the room for a non-visually strenuous activity, consider mood lighting, accent lighting or even candles to give the room a gentle glow.
  • As you plan to adjust the lighting, think about how you use the room and where shadows (including yours) will be. Portable lamps are good for experimenting with different arrangements until you find a setup you like.
  • Lights! Camera! Drama! By creating contrast between light and dark you give your space interest and add a 'high end' feel. Highlight several points in a room. By simply focusing light on these few objects, it gives the impression that you just increased the level of ambient light. Use directional spot lights (track or recessed adjustable downlights) with LED MR16's. Choose a beam optic of 10, 15, 25 or 60 degrees that matches the distance and object size you want to illuminate. General rule is: mount the light above the object and 3 feet (0.9 m) away. Adjust, or tilt, the light to a 30 degree angle and choose a beam optics that best illuminates the features of the object (not necessarily the entire object itself).
  • Consider adding a type of wall decor, such as brightly colored paintings or stenciled sayings; it can lift the mood in the room quite a bit!


  • Burn candles safely and never leave them unattended.
  • Be careful when installing lamps and working with electricity. Consult an electrician if any difficulties arise.
  • Dispose of fluorescent bulbs properly. They contain mercury, which is considered toxic to humans and other living organisms. Most home stores will take fluorescent bulbs and dispose of them for you. If you accidentally break one, be careful when cleaning it. [3]

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