5 Tricks for Brightening a Dark Bedroom

Here's how to decorate to add some light.

Dark green bedroom walls
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When it comes time to sleep, the darker your bedroom, the better. Light disrupts the brain’s production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating the sleep cycle. But what if your bedroom is dark even during the daytime? It’s a common problem, but one often difficult to solve structurally because the typical causes – few windows, windows facing north, windows shaded by outside trees or structures – are  not easily fixed without major remodeling.

But don’t despair: you aren’t doomed to live in a bedroom that resembles a cave, nor do you have to break your budget and hire a contractor. There are decorating tricks that can bring light into even the gloomiest bedroom.

Bring in Extra Light

If your bedroom isn’t receiving enough natural light, then you are going to have to provide light yourself. But don’t set one lamp on your nightstand and call it done. Having just one light source creates a lot of shadow, giving your bedroom a creepy appearance and leaving the space outside the lamp’s circle of light just as dark as ever. Instead, illuminate your room with at least two, and preferably three, sources of light.

You’ll always need a lamp on the nightstand or mounted to the wall near your bed, and if you share your bed, you’ll want a lamp on each side. Add to that a ceiling fixture if possible – go with a ceiling fan and get twice the benefit: a cooling breeze for hot summer nights and a brighter bedroom – and a second lamp positioned across the room, preferably on a diagonal, from your bedside light.

Make the second lamp a floor lamp for extra interest.

Choose Your Wall Color Wisely

It seems counter-intuitive, but if your bedroom is dark, white walls are not the best solution. While light colors can help a small room appear bigger, they aren’t so great at making a dark room feel brighter. White and other light colors look bright and cheerful when reflecting light, but in a room without sufficient illumination, there isn’t enough light to reflect.

This causes the light walls to take on a gray, shadowed hue, leaving the color dim and uninteresting.

Instead, choose a richly saturated, mid-tone paint color for your walls. You can even go a bit bright if you desire. In a dim room, the bright color will lose intensity, and the mid-tone color will look a little darker. Deeper colors don’t rely on reflected light to look their best the way lighter tones do, and absorb shadows, so your strong walls will add color and warmth to the bedroom. Cool, moody, deep hues of green, blue, gray, or even purple are best for creating the relaxing atmosphere you want in a bedroom.

Mirrors Do Double Duty

A large mirror in the bedroom is a must regardless of light levels – you want to be able to check your outfit from head to toe before heading out for the day. In a bedroom with little light, however, a mirror also works to reflect whatever light is there, and also adds some shine to the space, dispelling some of the gloom. If possible, hang your mirror across from the window that lets in the most natural light to further bounce light around the space.

Keep Your Window Coverings Sheer

A dim bedroom isn’t the place for heavy draperies, or window coverings that block out what little natural light might otherwise reach the room.

Instead, use sheer draperies over a blind you can lower for privacy at night, or use blinds on their own for a casual style. Stick with light-colored window coverings to add some contrast against the strong walls.

Bedding and Accessories Should Add Contrast

In a dark room, furniture and accessories can disappear into the gloom if you aren’t careful. If you paint your walls a saturated mid-tone or bright color, add contrast with furniture in a medium finish, and complete the brightening effect with bedding and accessories in white or another light color. This makes the most of the room’s limited light, and gives enough contrast to keep things interesting.

A room that receives little natural light doesn’t have to be a bad thing – it stays cooler in the summer, and doesn’t wake you up with glaring sun on those happy weekend mornings when you want to sleep in late.

But lack of light can make a space gloomy. If remodeling isn’t an option, try the tricks here instead to increase the brightness of your bedroom.