September 17, 2021

How to Brighten a Dark Room on a Budget

Spaces with minimal natural light and dark colors can negatively affect our moods. But creating a bright, cheerful place that will have a  positive impact on our mood and behavior can be expensive and time-consuming. Instead of making major renovations like knocking down walls to install additional windows or replacing entire electrical installations, there are budget-friendly ways to change the overall looks of your room by brightening it up. Here are my ten tips on how to do it.  

1. Paint with Light and/or Reflective Colors

small stylish apartment with reflective paint

One of the cheapest and easiest tricks to brighten up a space is by painting it. It’s important to pick the right colors. For your ceiling, I would recommend going all-white. Choosing a satin finish will reflect the light in your room, making it appear clean, brighter, and taller. If you are not a fan of an all-white room, you can pick pale colors for the walls, like blue, pink, green, or yellow. Lighter colors can make the smallest, darkest room feel bigger and brighter. 

2. Use Mirrors Near Light Sources

mirrors near light sources

While it is known that mirrors can help a space feel bigger, they are also very helpful with brightening up a dark room. By strategically placing them opposite windows, mirrors can reflect the natural light into a space. It may even feel as if you have added another window. 

3. Reflective Pieces

reflective furniture

Mirrors are your best friend when it comes to dark rooms, and so are any reflective pieces you can afford. Anything you can add with a sparkling surface will increase the light reflection in your room and create the illusion of a bigger and brighter space. Depending on your budget, you can add larger pieces like a glass or mirrored coffee table, or smaller ones like crystal photo frames, mirrored trays, glass candle holders, metal light fixtures, etc. The more reflective pieces you add, the brighter and bigger your room will feel.  

4. Additional Light Sources

multiple lamps

Having a dark room usually means you aren’t getting enough natural light in the space, so you need multiple light sources. Changing the whole electrical installation can be expensive, but you can do a lot without emptying your wallet. Consider updating your existing lampshades with ones made of a material like linen, which will better spread the light around the room. Opaque shades are a big NO, as they will block the light. Also, consider changing the bulbs used in your fixtures to ones with a higher number of lumens for brighter light. Updating your light fixtures can do wonders for the level of light in your space, but if it is still not enough, you can also place additional light sources like table, floor, or accent lamps. You can often find cheap ones from second-hand stores.  Overall, updating your lighting scheme is a quick way to brighten up a dark room. 

5. Avoid Heavy Curtains

light linen curtains

Replace any heavier materials with lighter drapery, like linen, to invite the natural light into your space. Sheer drapes are not very expensive and are easy to hang by yourself. Avoid ones that are too short; they ought to kiss the floor. Long, lighter curtains will make your room feel brighter and more inviting.  

6. Brighten up the Floor

white painted floor

Don’t ignore the flooring, as it can set the tone for a room. A dark floor can make a space feel dingy, but changing the floors is expensive. If you have a dark, wooden floor, a cheaper option is to paint it. Paint the whole floor, or play with color by creating a brighter central area with darker piping. It is up to you. Another way to brighten up the flooring is to lay down a lighter-toned area rug. You can choose a solid or a patterned one, just make sure it has a bright color scheme. These two options can really make a dark room feel brighter and bigger and are a lot cheaper and quicker than completely replacing the flooring. 

7. Choose the Right Furniture

furniture small room

Big, heavy furniture can also be an issue in dark rooms. Instead, try to add slimline or lighter pieces that allow the light to flow around the room. Consider a mirrored or glass coffee table, pale wooden cabinetry, and a transparent side table. Keep in mind that it is better to choose sofas and side chairs that are lifted with legs, as solid pieces of furniture sitting on the floor may block out light, making a dark room feel even darker. 

8. Big, Bright Wall Art

living room big wall art

Adding wall art in the right colors can easily brighten up a dark space, and you don’t need to spend lots of money to do it. There are a lot of DIY projects on Pinterest to show you how to do it on a budget. One of the cheapest ways is to buy inexpensive white frames from discount stores and print out images you like from the internet. You can even add fabrics in the frames for texture. Make sure that whatever you choose, you stick to simple lines and a bright color scheme. The bigger the artwork, the brighter your room will feel.

9. Bring in Greenery

greenery in room

One of the best ways to make a space feel airy and bright is to bring in some house plants. It is a great way to invite nature inside your home. When it comes to plants, the more the better. You can place as much greenery as you like, and it doesn’t need to be expensive. Just make sure to choose plants that can live in minimal natural light. Some house plants, like snake plants, spider plants, weeping figs, and Chinese greens, are also natural air purifiers,  while others, like English Ivy, help reduce mold levels in your home.    

10. Hide Away the Clutter

cluttered room

A clean and well-organized room will always look brighter, so organize any small pieces spread across your room into your cupboards. The more clutter you have, the busier and darker your room will feel.

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An interior design professional with a Master's degree in Architecture and 14 years of practical experience.
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