5 Tips to Brighten a Dark Room

Jenna Jonaitis
Written by Jenna Jonaitis
Updated February 21, 2022
Living room with various sources of lighting
Photo: bmak / Adobe Stock

Make your dark room radiate with personality using these straightforward tips

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Whether it's your north-facing family room or a dark basement with only one window, you might have a dark room that needs some brightening. With the right paint color, lighting solutions, and decor, you can turn even the dullest space into a lively, fresh atmosphere. The best part? You don't need to break your budget or knock down any walls, either.

1. Diversify Your Lighting

Add dimension, texture, and brightness to your space by incorporating at least two types of room lighting. Consider a center fixture or chandelier, recessed lighting, floor lamps, table lamps, sconces, or hanging lights. Recessed lighting installation costs $100 to $480 per fixture. No matter the time of day, you can adjust your lighting to fit the mood, especially if the lights are on a dimmer switch.

Another lighting solution for a dark room is swapping out your old bulbs for LED bulbs or LED strip lights. They last longer, are more energy-efficient, and are available in many colors and tones to create the vibe you want.

For homeowners looking to tackle large lighting projects for your dark room, consider installing a skylight or an additional window.

2. Paint the Walls or Ceiling a Cheerful Color

Bedroom with light grey walls and white accent wall
Photo: PC Photography / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

A fresh coat of paint is one of the best ways to energize a room. To brighten a dark room with paint, choose a lighter tone with a satin finish. While glossy paint can create glare and add dim spots to your room, and a matte finish can look flat, a satin finish has more sheen and reflective qualities. 

What colors make a dark room look brighter? Whites and warm colors such as paints with yellow, red, and orange undertones can make a dark room look luminous. Be mindful that if a painted wall is too stark white, it can look flat or dim if there isn't enough natural light entering the room. Consider an accent wall, too, such as a white shiplap wall, as it reflects light well.

Before painting any room, test a few colors by painting sample strokes on the wall. Leave the sample spots up for a couple of days to see how the colors look in different weather and times of day, such as in the morning, evening, and overcast days. While samples can look one way on a paint chip or in someone else's living room, the same color might have a completely different vibe in your room. A seaside green might come across as bright in the kitchen but look too dark in your home office.

You can also paint your ceiling a lighter color than your wall color or opt for a slightly colorful tone on your ceiling to bring energy and playfulness to the space.

To ensure your finished product looks as crisp as you envision, thoroughly prep the walls before your project or consider hiring an interior painting company.

3. Opt for Lightweight Window Treatments

Nothing dims a room like thick, dark curtains or blinds that don't let in much sunlight. Swap your window treatments for white or light-colored sheer curtains. More natural light enters the space while the sheer material adds levity.

If your dark room is a bedroom or bathroom where you need privacy, add blinds or blackout shades that you can push up or to the side to let light through.

4. Hang a Mirror (or Several)

Mirror in teenager's bedroom
Photo: jacek_kadaj / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Mirrors brighten a dark room by reflecting natural light coming in from your windows or another space and bouncing it around the room. They also reflect and amplify indoor lighting from your fixtures and lamps.

For greatest impact, place a large mirror across from a window and consider a decorative design to add character and depth to your space. Put smaller mirrors on other walls, coffee tables, and display shelves. Not only do mirrors help the room feel brighter, but they can also make the room feel larger.

5. Choose Decor That Adds Visual Interest

You can brighten a dark room through decorative changes that draw the eye’s attention. Consider these decor elements to brighten your space:

  • A light-colored rug to soften the room and any dark flooring

  • Bright or light-toned throw pillows and blankets

  • Items made of glass, porcelain, or reflective materials

  • Faux or indoor plants to add life and pops of color

  • Light-colored, slim furniture (instead of bulky, dark furniture)

  • Artwork and photos with uplifting colors

  • Decorative mirrors and vases

  • Candles and candlesticks

  • Baskets or bins to reduce and hide clutter and free up open space

How Can I Lighten a Dark Room Without Electricity?

You can lighten a dark room without electricity by choosing light-colored paint, adding uplifting decor, and strategically hanging mirrors. You should also wash your windows regularly to ensure the most sunlight enters your room.

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