How to Brighten a Dark Room: 10 Creative Ideas

A bright, beautiful sitting room

Abode/Getty Images

How much light a room receives greatly impacts its feeling. A bright, airy room with swathes of natural light feels uplifting and comforting. On the other hand, dark, heavy spaces or windowless rooms can feel stifling or depressing. Even if you don’t have an abundance of natural light or the option to install windows, you can still brighten your room and beat the dark atmosphere. Try one of these 10 ways to instantly brighten your room, no matter how dark it is.  

Let Light in with Airy Curtains

If windows are present at all, be sure to take advantage of as much light as you can get from them. The amount of light a window provides is greatly impacted by the type of window treatments or curtains that are used. Heavy treatments or dark-colored curtains block out light and make a space feel smaller. Ideally, opt for curtains that are as light and airy as possible. 

To do this, remove any heavy window treatments and choose light colors such as white, linen, or soft tan. Choosing a sheer material will amplify that light, airy look and allow even more light to enter the space.    

Bedroom with light linen curtains

Cathie Hong

Strategically Place Mirrors

Mirrors can be used for so much more than last-minute appearance touch-ups. In fact, decorating with mirrors may be your secret advantage when it comes to brightening a dark room. Not only do mirrors make a room feel larger by seemingly creating more space, but mirrors are also a powerful tool for reflecting light. 

Try placing mirrors near light sources, such as near a window or lamp. This will create more space visually as well as reflect what light you do have available, distributing it as much as possible.  

Kate Marker Interiors black bathroom with mirror wall

Kate Marker Interiors

Pick Light or White Paint Colors

The right interior paint color does so much for a space. Warm colors add liveliness and a cozy atmosphere. Cool colors add serenity and calmness. Dark colors can add richness and elegance. Light colors can make a space feel airy and large. But even more than this, light colors reflect the light in a room.  

To instantly brighten a room, try painting the walls and ceiling a light color. Without a doubt, white or a bright off-white tone is the best color for reflecting light and brightening a space. However, it's not your only option for brightening up a space. Just be sure to stick to light color palettes if you want to keep the room feeling open and bright.

House Nine Design Walk-In Closet

House Nine Design

Brighten With Unique Designs 

If you like a bit more pizzazz than a plain white wall can offer, don’t despair. Unique wallpaper designs are a great way to incorporate multiple colors while still keeping a space light and airy. Some designs can even make a space feel larger. You can also use temporary wallpaper as an alternative if you're looking for a low-commitment way to try this trend.

Try selecting wallpaper with a light background, such as white. This incorporates reflective colors at the same time as adding a touch of unique flair. However, try to avoid dark-colored wallpapers or small, busy patterns that can make a space feel darker and smaller. 

Bedroom with white wallpaper accent wall by Michelle Boudreau Design

Michelle Boudreau Design, Photo by Lance Gerber

Use Accent Textures and Colors  

Another option is to combine unique textures and colors with white to give everything a balanced feel. Split a wall in half horizontally by placing unique colors and textures on the bottom half and keeping things simple and white on the upper half. This can give you the freedom to add some flair while not sacrificing the reflective qualities of a white wall. 

For example, the room below has incorporated visual interest by adding a blue board and batten on the lower half of the wall. This grounds the space and adds texture while still incorporating the white upper wall to help brighten the room. 

Guest Room Office by Michelle Berwick Design

Michelle Berwick Design 

Choose the Right Light Fixtures 

Adding light fixtures to a space may seem like an obvious way to add light to a room. However, be sure to consider what these light fixtures look like. Large, heavy fixtures can be counterproductive by actually making a space feel smaller or darker. By choosing fixtures that span larger distances, you can keep the space open and cast light over greater distances. 

When shopping for a light fixture, take note of its shape and color. Thin, airy fixtures keep a space bright. The same goes for light-colored fixtures. Choose fixtures with multiple lightbulbs, such as this long-armed ceiling light fixture. Not only does it keep the space open, but it also emits light across the entire space.

Living room by Calimia Home

Calimia Home

Cast Light on Walls and Ceilings

Another way to maximize the light available to you is by how you position your light fixtures. While aiming your lights at a particular area may be useful when performing a task, such as reading, this is not the best option when you are trying to brighten a room. To get the biggest impact possible, try casting light on walls or towards the ceiling. This will cause the light to spread across the space and reflect off these surfaces, creating a brighter space. Bonus points if the wall is white or another light color, as this will enhance its reflective abilities.  

Bathroom vanity and mirror by Kate Marker Interiors

Kate Marker Interiors

Choose Streamlined, Light Colored Furnishings

Just as dark-colored, oversized furniture can darken a room, choosing pieces that enhance a bright, airy feeling can do a lot when it comes to brightening a space. Streamlined, simple objects keep the space clean and open for as much light as possible. Furniture in this style also will not cast large shadows. Simple designs and light or bright colors help light reflect and keep the space feely bright and breezy.  

The same goes for rugs, too. Pick light and bright rugs to keep the space feeling open. This is an especially helpful suggestion if you have dark flooring in the room. An accent or area rug with light colors and patterns will help to break up the appearance of many square feet of dark-colored flooring.

Furnished bedroom by Dazey Den

Dani Dazey

Opt for Simplicity

Simplicity goes beyond choosing furnishings. Wall art and decorations can also be used to enhance the brightness of a space. Choose minimal, simple decorations to keep the space open and uncluttered. For example, choose one large print or art piece for a wall rather than a busy collage wall. The more items there are, the more shadows are cast and the less wall space there is available for light reflection.

Bedroom with wood accent wall

Arbor and Co

Clean Your Windows

Last but not least, one surefire way to brighten any room is to give your windows a good scrub. This may seem obvious, but this simple trick can make an immediate impact on how much light a room receives. Keeping your windows clean (on the inside and outside) means more sunshine and brighter rooms.