5 Ways to Brighten up a Dark Room

Is your home surrounded by trees and large foliage, making it cool in the summer, but also leaving your rooms feeling dark and gloomy? Do you have a favorite, small room that suffers from having only one window? Perhaps you live in a downstairs apartment whose only windows are located above eye level.

How to Brighten up a Dark Room

AB Home Interiors

Dark rooms like these are a decorator’s challenge, to be sure, but you don’t have to live with a dark and somber room. Afraid that brightening your room is going to be too expensive? Think again. Here are five, tried and true (and affordable) ways to lighten up any room:

1.  Add greenery. A few plants or flowering bushes in pots add a bright and lively air to even the dingiest room. Stick with plants that thrive in limited light, such as spider plants, ferns, snake plants and flowering bromeliads. Combine these interesting shapes for a dramatic effect.

2.  Reflect a bit. Mirrors trick the eye into thinking that a room is larger than it really is. Plus, they take a little light and magnify it ten-fold. Is your room narrow? Consider adding a floor-to-ceiling mirror at the end of the room. Most glass retailers will cut mirrors to order or you can also use mirrored tiles from a big box home improvement store. Is your decor more traditional? Scour estate and yard sales for a large mirror in a gilded frame for a more formal approach.

How to Brighten Up a Dark Room

AB HOME Interiors

3.  Paint it white. Though often mocked (unfairly, we think) as being suited only for apartment living, white walls add a fresh, bright look to any room and make the most of the light that you have. Paint is also one of the least expensive ways to redecorate. A gallon of white paint costs around $30, and even less if you wait for a good sale.

4. Control the clutter. We all have clutter. Those knick knacks that you collect on vacation, piles of books you intend to read, craft projects waited to be started. However, clutter makes a room seem more closed in and dark. Banish all but a few, well-chosen items to drawers or cabinets. Plus, be mindful of adding new items to your newly brightened room. Clutter can sneak up on you.

How to Brighten Up a Dark Room

AB HOME Interiors

5. Limit the furniture. Dark, wooden furniture, while attractive, can darken a room and make it feel smaller than it actually is. Avoid over-furnishing your rooms. Instead, choose one exquisite piece to be the focal point and surround it with lighter-colored, less-substantial accent pieces. And, contrary to what your father might tell you, don’t be afraid to paint wooden furniture white or other light and bright colors. A garage sale chest of drawers or bookcase with a coat of ivory paint can become an attractive–and bright–place to store linens, books or hobby items.

Don’t resign yourself to living in a dark space. Brightening up a room doesn’t have to break your budget. Plan carefully, add a little paint, and limit the pieces you add to the room. Your dark dungeon will be transformed into a light and airy retreat in no time.

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Elli, a writer for your local security She was born and raised in Colorado and now enjoys skiing, playing tennis, and hiking in the mountains of Salt Lake City, Utah.


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About Amanda Gates
Amanda Gates started AB HOME Interiors in the fall of 2004. With over 12 years of experience in the field of interiors, and a passion for all things art and design, Amanda has become an expert on building interiors for an active lifestyle. After six years of working for some of the best design firms on the west coast, Amanda opened AB HOME Interiors after moving to Nashville. Amanda believes that a home should reflect your personality and and encompass your style. An advocate for living a true lifestyle, her firm focuses on bringing you beautiful interiors, that are deceptively functional, and as a result her clients get an amazing space without all the fuss.


  1. Hanna says:

    Hi Amanda

    I love your designs, but I don’t think anything can help my living room. We live in darkness, the sun goes down in the west where our living room is. So we have to close the blinds or it reflects on the tv. We have no light on the ceiling the house is over 100 years old. I am sure you know older homes, lots of rooms that are very small.

  2. Paul says:

    Great post and very important topic, Rob.
    I would add that if you are in the process of major construction with walls, ceilings open or if you are about to be, spend the time and money adding overhead lighting (preferably recessed fixtures) or sconces. If you don’t want to open walls, just adding a dimmer is a great low cost improvement – saves energy and changes ambiance in a room.
    No matter how beautiful your space is, if it’s not well lit no one will be able to enjoy it!

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