Do's and Don'ts to Brighten a Dark Room

    Photo: Wonderlane/flickrIs there a room in your home that you tend to avoid? Chances are it's lacking in sufficient natural light. A dark room tends to project a gloomy, forbidding feeling, which gives off the message, "Stay away." The good news is, though, that you can turn a depressing room around. Use these decorating do's and don'ts to brighten up your dark room.

    1. DON'T despair. DO take inventory of the room and see exactly what's causing the dark feeling.

    2. DON'T neglect a room because of its dimness. DO lighten up the room's "mood" by decluttering and cleaning till it shines.

    3. DON'T paint the walls a stark white to try to make the space appear brighter. DO use paint to prettify, but professional painters advise adding a drop of egg yolk or other warm tint. Freshen the ceiling, too, while you're at it, in a slightly lighter shade than the walls to draw attention upward. And as long as you've got the paint cans out, how about taking care of that dingy floor?

    4. DON'T leave those fresh, clean walls bare once you've painted them. DO hang cheerful art or photographs. One large-scale picture can give the entire room a more open feel. And personalizing the space will help you enjoy spending time there.

    5. DON'T attempt to light up the room with a single strong overhead fixture. DO choose task lighting to brighten up dark spots. Lamps on the tables or floor are decorative and produce a soft, warm glow that will reflect attractively off the ceiling. Install a dimmer switch so that you can give the room a little boost of lighting during the day, and add even more at night.

    6. DON'T be casual about your curtains. DO put up lightweight, sheer draperies. Make sure that they are long -- floor length is best -- and far enough apart that, when you open the curtains completely, your whole window area will be revealed. Both these tips are designed to make the room's window look larger.

    7. DON'T assume that you won't be able to keep any houseplants in a gloomy room. DO choose species that thrive in shade. The peace lily doesn't need a lot of sunshine, for example, and its unusual white flowers  add a lively feeling. Or how about Christmas cactus, which absolutely NEEDS low light in order to produce its charming blossoms (12 hours of darkness per day, to be precise)? That's why it blooms only around Christmastime, which coincides rather closely with the winter solstice.

    8. DON'T limit yourself to enjoying only the daylight that comes in through the window unassisted. DO magnify every bit of natural light. Hang a glittery mobile or a mirror, and display a collection of silver goblets, crystal vases, or other reflective objects.   

    9. DON'T be afraid of (happy, cozy, spirit-lifting!) color. Even a deep shade like coffee or plum can feature in your decor, albeit in small amounts. DO use color wisely. Limit the number of hues you combine, as well as the amount of intense color. Experiment before making major decor investments. If you're not sure how a navy blue couch would work in your dark room, for instance, try covering your current sofa with a slipcover.

    10. DON'T discount the possibility of a mini room remodel to physically introduce more light. DO look into installing a solar tube or two. As an alternative, consider adding a clerestory window or a skylight, or even a solution that makes use of interior light from a sunny hallway or neighboring room; think transoms or opaque glass doors.

    Laura Firszt writes for

    Updated May 6, 2018.

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