5 tips to brighten a dark room

Many homeowners are choosing open floor plans to make thir homes appear more spacious and bright. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Zach M. of Chicago)

Many homeowners are choosing open floor plans to make thir homes appear more spacious and bright. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Zach M. of Chicago)

Have you ever looked around your home and felt it was just too dreary? A dark room can definitely make you feel down, especially during the wintertime.

It's easy to lose focus when trying to make your home feel cozy. You spend a majority of your time there, and you want it to be comfortable. But when it starts to look and feel like a cave, it's time to come out of hibernation.

1. Let there be light

Some people simply don’t open their blinds, even when it's a perfectly sunny day out. It's understandable because it exposes the home to eyes on the street. But keeping your blinds closed blocks natural night, and you want to take advantage of every available drop.

Frosted film on the bottom window panes of this Indianapolis home let the light pour in while still providing just enough privacy. (Photo by Mike LaFollette)

For around $20 per window, you can purchase frosted privacy film that attaches directly to your windows. It lets light through, but its translucent quality makes it impossible to see in from the outside, so you can ditch the blinds altogether. There are also other types of privacy window film that mimic stained, mirrored or textured glass.

Installing privacy film is relatively simple, and only requires a few tools such as a utility knife and squeegee, which are often included with the film. If you're worried about blocking your view, consider installing film on the bottom pane only and leaving the top pane uncovered.

2. Refresh your walls

A fresh coat of paint can instantly brighten a dark room. Of course, white paint will have the greatest impact, but light color shades also work if white is just too plain for you. Popular interior colors include light shades of yellow, green blue and pink.

For additional color pops, paint items in the room such as furniture, shelving and picture frames with a light color choice that complements the wall color.

A gallon of interior paint typically costs $20 to $35. You should expect to pay extra for environmentally friendly paint such as low-VOC.

RELATED: 4 Steps to Prepare Your Kitchen for a New Coat of Paint

3. Open up your space

If you're willing to spend some money, one option is to remove a wall between two adjoining rooms. Not only does it open up the home and allow light to spread around, it’s also one of the hottest home design trends of 2015.

Angie's List member Thomas W. of Mason Neck, Va., wanted an open floor plan so he removed six walls in his home during a massive remodeling project.

You'll be surprised at how much of a difference it makes. Many people say it actually changes the entire look and feel of their home. Rooms that were once closed off by walls should appear larger and flow freely into each other, taking advantage of all available light.

RELATED: 3 Ways to Choose Paint Color in an Open Floor Plan

Removing a wall is dangerous and could require a building permit, so make sure to hire a qualified contractor for any type of demolition work.

RELATED: Breathe Life into Your Room with These Simple Home Makeover Ideas

4. Boost lighting

There are nearly infinite options to boost lighting. You want to take advantage of as much natural light as possible, but sometimes there just isn't enough.

If you have money to invest, consider updating your light fixtures and bulbs. The most common bulbs used for interior lighting include incandescent, light-emitting diode (LED) and compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL). For years, the incandescent was the go-to bulb, but many countries are halting production due to its low efficiency and short life. According to Energy Star, a CFL bulb uses 75 percent less energy and can last six times longer than an incandescent.

When selecting a light bulb to brighten a room, base your decision on its lumens, not wattage. Lumens measure the overall brightness, while wattage measures the amount of energy it uses. For example, a 15-watt compact fluorescent light bulb and a 60-watt incandescent bulb can both give off 800 lumens of light, but the CFL uses less energy.

CFL bulbs are ideal for overhead, table and floor lamps due to their energy efficiency and long life. Halogen bulbs give off an intense light that is great for wall sconces, task and track lighting.

5. Remove the clutter

Angie’s List member Teri M. of Elgin, Ill., brought new life to her dark kitchen by removing a bulky television that took up counter space, adding a white kitchen table and cabinets and installing under- and over-cabinet lighting and recessed can lights.

A messy room can feel stuffy and dark. Getting rid of clutter and freeing up floor space should make your home feel bright and roomy. If you have items you haven't touched in the last year, throw them out, donate them or designate a storage space in the attic or basement.

To maximize existing space, you can replace bulky bookcases and shelving with built-ins. Another option is to ditch the entertainment center for a flat-screen TV that can be hung on the wall.

If there's so much clutter that you don't know where to start, hire a professional home organizer. These pros can help you efficiently store your belongings, remove unused items and maximize existing space.

Additional tips to brighten a home:

  • Add mirrors
  • Wash windows
  • Cover a dark-colored floor with a light-colored rug
  • Paint the ceiling in a light color
  • Install a skylight
  • Cover a dark-colored sofa with a light-colored slipcover
  • Make sure windows are not obscured by furniture

Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on Jan. 28, 2013.


Great article! Good tips!

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