6 Ways to Brighten Up a Dark Room, According to Interior Designers

There are several design strategies you can utilize to create the illusion of natural light in your home.

open living room showing doorway leading to office space
Photo: Getty / Katarzyna Bialasiewicz

Interior rooms with minimal 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, especially if it's a room where you spend a lot of time, like the bedroom or living area. With some simple design tricks, however, you can quickly brighten up a dark room.

Grey and navy blue living room interior with comfortable sofa and armchairs

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.

Modern interior of living room with blue sofa, concrete stucco wall with arch door

Add Wallpaper

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.

Glowing light bulbs in the loft style

Add Dimmers

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 Kerrie Kelly, creative director of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab. "Dimming the light softens the environment and that creates a real sense of coziness and warmth."

Luxury concrete bedroom at night
Carlina Teteris / GETTY IMAGES

Add Accent Lighting

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 Kelly. "Accent lighting in general helps to create a sense of intimacy and drama that warms the space and the mood instantly."

gibson home tour
Michael P. H. Clifford

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."

Colorful and cozy living room with a designer armchair and sofa along with a round decorative mirror and glass wall

Decorate With Mirrors

Mirrors and other reflective items can bounce layered light—from lamps, overhead lighting, candles, and more—around the room nicely. This design trick can make it appear as though you have double the amount of light in your space.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles