How to Brighten a Dark Room: 16 Interior Design Tips

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A bright home with lots of natural sunlight is one of the most sought-after features for all types of dwellings. But if you're living in a space that doesn't receive ample light, and a remodel that includes adding windows or knocking down walls isn't possible, don't fret. There are plenty of easy-to-implement ideas that'll introduce lightness into your abode, most of which revolve around optics.

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Many interior designers have a few tried and true tricks up their sleeves for transforming dark, depressing spaces, including putting shiny, reflective surfaces to work — everything from mirrors to metallic accents to high-gloss paint — and doing away with heavy, drab textiles. Intrigued? Scroll on for 16 tips that will help you brighten up your home, and make it as light and airy as you please.

1. Paint the walls (and ceiling) a lighter color.

It may seem like a no-brainer, but painting really makes all the difference, especially in a small space. Give your walls a fresh coat in a light, neutral color to brighten things up. And if your ceiling is covered in a dark wood, or a darker paint color, don't hesitate to lighten it up as well.

2. Add sheer curtains.

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Window treatments can block out a surprising amount of light, even if they're fully open. Sheer drapery, on the other hand, looks pretty and allows a generous amount of natural light to flow through.

3. Install lighter flooring.

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Opting for a lighter floor material is the same concept as the walls — a cooler shade will really help brighten up your space. And when it comes to hardwood flooring, there are some gorgeous light gray and blonde oak options available. You can either lighten your existing dark floors or install something new.

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4. Incorporate more light fixtures.

Not to state the obvious, but if you long for more light in your home, add artificial light sources. Recessed cans, chandeliers, lamps, and wall sconces are all part of a comprehensive lighting plan — just stay away from fluorescent options to keep the look soft. In spaces where floor lamps aren't a possibility, get creative. For example, under-cabinet lighting works great in the kitchen.

5. Hang mirrors.

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Mirrors give the illusion of a larger space and also reflect light back from your windows. A large mirror (or multiple mirrors) is even better; just place it opposite or adjacent to windows to get the most bang for your buck.

6. Clean your windows.

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Speaking of windows, when was the last time you cleaned yours — both inside and out? Grimy windows aren't doing anyone a favor and actually do block out a decent amount of light. Not sure of the best way to clean them? Vinegar is a simple and natural solution.

7. Move any furniture that blocks your windows.

Once again, the smallest changes can make a big difference. Take notes from Amber Lewis and keep windows clear of furniture (and drapery open) to maximize sunlight. White walls and a soothing color palette complete the look in this dreamy bedroom escape.

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8. Install a wood-clad ceiling.

Sure, wood-clad ceilings infuse a hard-to-resist organic vibe to interiors, but that's not all: Just as light wood floors can help brighten up a room, pale wood ceilings can do the same. This warm living room by Studio McGee utilizes a bevy of neutrals and then adds texture and depth with a cross-beam wood ceiling — planed beams keep the vibe feeling more elevated than rustic.

9. Highlight a singular bright hue.

Like a beacon in the night, color can do wonders at brightening up even the darkest, low-light spaces. Raili CA Design injected a dose of whimsy and cheer into the foyer of this farmhouse with a saturated canary yellow piano, which offers a punchy dose of contrast against charcoal gray walls.

10. Select light furniture and accessories.

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Counter a room's lack of natural light by selecting furniture and accessories in pale hues, as beautifully demonstrated in this boho-chic bedroom design. The whole scheme is anchored by light wood flooring, closet doors, and accents, while white walls, an ivory shag area rug, and light bedding impart an undeniable airiness to the room.

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11. Consider glossy surfaces.

Don't overlook tile's ability to function as a highly reflective surface that can bounce light around a room. In this cottage-inspired kitchen by Jersey Ice Cream Co., a zellige tile backsplash adds a subtle dose of glimmer and sheen that complements the lustrous brass details used throughout.

12. Mix in metal finishes.

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Add sophistication and shine to a dark room with objects flaunting a metallic finish. From gold to nickel to copper, the lustrous material will reflect light and elevate everyday furniture pieces, like the side table in this moody living room.

13. Texturize walls.

Introduce movement and depth to dark spaces with a unique painting technique such as taledakt, limewash, or Venetian plaster. The mottled appearance, seen here in a recent project by Leanne Ford, has a natural weathered look that casts an appealing light and lends a lovely patina to boot.

14. Make the most of high-gloss paint.

Although it might seem counterintuitive, Jean Stoffer makes a pretty compelling case for how a dark-painted ceiling can actually maximize light. The key? Employing a high-gloss finish near a window or door where natural light will reflect off of the surface.

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15. Energize with artwork (or wallpaper).

Whether through artwork or a vibrant wallpaper, color can inject personality and energy into any space — even those void of windows. Interior designer Katie Martinez blanketed the walls of this lively bathroom with a colorful abstract wallpaper, which bolsters the overall mood, while an orange clawfoot tub adds to the maximalist design. Note how the white flooring, ceiling, trim, and pendant light emphasize the white background of the wallpaper.

16. Minimize clutter.

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Objects absorb light and can actually make a dark room feel even darker. So keep decorative knickknacks and clutter at bay for a more expansive feeling à la this bright living room design, and store oft-used items such as TV remotes in drawers or pretty covered boxes and baskets. The crisp white walls and ceiling don't hurt either.

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Jaclyn Schatzow is a freelance writer living in Santa Monica, CA