Dark slate floor Pin Image

How To Make A Room Lighter and Brighter

Author: Lauren Coleman

It’s a regular occurrence for one of my friends to text me with a decor dilemma. Last week’s was tips on making a dark north facing living room brighter and lighter.
My dining room is so dark too. It catches the rays of sunlight only in the height of summer and then it’s only for a matter of hours. In my case I’m happy for the dining room to be a little moody and atmospheric. It’s a rarely used room and I don’t need an excuse to buy another lamp or light another candle. My kitchen though is another story. The tips you’ll see below seem to be a rule of thumb if you’re looking to brighten up a dull space too.

Lighter Floor Covering

The main light sucker in my kitchen is the floor. I know if I changed it I would feel so much more love for the heart of the home. We have neither the time, budget or inclination to do it though so for now I’ll wait patiently for a kitchen reno in a few years time.
Anyway when I changed the floor covering in the living room at the cottage we used to own it was a game changer. It was like someone had turned the lights on with some super charged high watt bulbs. For a similar effect you could try a large light rug instead but bear in mind while this can make a room much cosier, the extra bulk can also make it appear smaller. It’s complicated this lark.

Light carpet

Pull the Curtains Back

As mentioned in our guide with Laura Ashely, pull those curtains high and wide and let as much light in as possible. Or alternatively leave those window panes uncovered for maximum light access.


Grey curtains pulled back to let in light

Clear the Clutter

When I added a few shelves to my extremely dark kitchen in my old house, it was surprising how much more open and airy the space seemed for clearing back the workspace. Who knew moving your spices could have such an impact?


Country Kitchen


Rustic kitchen shelves

Add Mirrors and Reflective Accents

We all know this one, but do consider the positioning so that the mirror reflects back a light source. If you can go for two then offset them slightly to bounce around the light. Continue to let that light hop around with clear or reflective accents such as metallic candle holders, glass vases or metal hardware. If you can make a horizontal surface or two reflective or high gloss then you’re on to a winner too. If in doubt just add a metallic tray.

Reflective Accents

Position Furniture

I often read that transparent furniture is good for making spaces seem more airy, however I think I am yet to see this in anyone’s house, other than the Ghost replica chair I used to have in my old cottage I’m not too sure where one goes to get clear furniture so perhaps it’s easier to stick to well proportioned pieces instead. If they have legs so they can flash off wall space behind them then that’s even better. Wall mounted is often proclaimed to be the best option for making a space seem airier, and choose lighter versions over darker if you’re short on space.

Transparent Furniture

Add A Variety of Light Sources

One way we did add lots more light to our kitchen was by the very obvious option of adding more light sources. We repositioning the pendant lights to a more sensible place, added nine halogens and then added under cabinet lights. In the rest of the rooms I do favour three or four ambient or task light sources in addition to the ‘big light’. The lamp in the image below is a beauty from Dunelm.

Copper lamp

Paint It Light

Again this is something we all know, painting surfaces a lighter shade can make rooms brighter. Cooler shades with undertones of blue and green can make a space seem bigger, and painting the walls and ceilings the same shade (for more of a seamless flow) is also effective for making spaces seem bigger and brighter, though some would say paint the ceiling a lighter shade than the walls to have an effect of ‘lifting up’ the ceiling and making it appear higher.
Sometimes though you’ve juat got to go with what you’ve got. In my very first house I painted the bathroom a sexy shade of Dulux Night Jewels 2 – it had no natural light and was the size of a postage stamp. No amount of white paint was going to make it look lighter or more spacious. Queen of the Dark Side Abigail Ahern would have been proud.

What are your tips for making rooms seem more spacious and brighter? Any dark rooms you’re struggling with?

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24 thoughts on “How To Make A Room Lighter and Brighter

  1. We’ve worked out that changing our windows from Georgian (24 panes) to cottage will let in 90% more light. The husband and his 3D models are useful for something.
    Our predecessors had dark carpets, covered the oak beams with dark plaster and dark walls. We’re stripping everything out but any clue on how to get a light carpet when you have two small babies and live in the country down a mud track?

    Any chance we could have an updated 2018 white paint post?

    1. Can you get a polypropylene carpet Rebecca and whip the bleach out when you need it?

      Will add a 2018 white paint post to list but Dulux Supematt White will always be the top of my recommendations.

      1. The trade version? I’ve always liked timeless but we’ve always had light rooms. The yellow cream in it is really showing under the lamp light.

        1. Yep the trade one.
          I loved timeless in my last house when we had a lot more wood. It really doesn’t seem to work in this one – it seems far more yellowy like you say.

    2. Hi Rebecca! We have the Nordic Berber from Carpetright which has the Polypropylene covering. We’ve got two cats who are pretty messy and this wipes clean really well! X

  2. We have a north facing hallway, which is quite dark. We painted it F&B Babouche yellow:
    http://www.farrow-ball.com/babouche/paint-colours/farrow-ball/fcp-product/100223
    Yes, it really is a very bright yellow! But shows that you don’t have to do a pale neutral colour in a dark space.
    It is off set though with pale grey woodwork work, is white above the original picture rail and has a pale grey carpet.
    We’ve had it for about 5 years now. I love it.

    1. Babouche is amazing Caroline. And good point about not having to go for a pale neutral. I bet this cheers you up every time you walk through the door!

  3. We have a really dark hallway which we have just repainted in a very light grey silk paint. As it’s a dark space it doesn’t look shiny but seems to bounce a little more light in.

  4. Love these tips – we live in a Victorian terrace which has a couple of darks rooms and this article is really helpful. May I ask where the carpet you’ve shown in the images is from? That’s the next job on our never ending list!

    1. Hi Hannah it’s just a berber one from CarpetRight. I think the shade is Cobble Stone. We bought the same carpet again when we moved house. My sister has just bought it too!

  5. Love this. We are just about to move into the most beautiful little period cottage, but my only concern is that I don’t want it to feel dark and dingy. So this has come at a perfect time. Thank you so much!

  6. We have a north facing living/dining room, with a sunroom extension at the back that takes all the south facing light. The previous owners had decorated one of the long walls (like 7m, a big expanse!) with a dark brown striped wallpaper and the carpet is BLACK.
    It was the darkest room ever and we’re slowly brightening it up by removing the huge pelmet and curtains, painting the woodwork white, painting the walls a very pale pink, and we’re about to change the carpet for something lighter.
    Not sure on carpet colour as we chose grey sofas as a safe choice the first week we moved in, but I’m keen to avoid the big grey box look (which meant it took us forever to pick a paint colour for the walls)

    1. Hi Linsey, wow black carpet was a brave choice. It must gave picked everything up!
      I reckon you can get away from the grey box look if you go for some well placed accents.

  7. My Victorian terrace dining room which is north facing is very dark. The long wall which has the living room at one end and the kitchen at the other gets the most light in the room, so I painted it a lovely pale green (Valspar Wharf Wind) and hung our pictures on this wall. Rather than lightening the room as such, it draws your eye to the lighter part and makes the room feel brighter.

    I also changed the light fitting to this http://www.wilko.com/ceiling+wall-lighting/wilko-triple-glass-industrial-pendant-pewter/invt/0436640. The clear glass shades throw so much light around the room. I had spent months looking for the perfect light and I couldn’t believe it when I found exactly what I wanted and it was a bargain at Wilko’s. I practically danced out of the shop.

  8. These are great tips, thankyou. My main issue is that we live in an area of Scotland which is not known for it’s bright weather or long days which means the house can feel dark all year round. My house is also what I like to call ‘Magnolia Mansion’ and despite my best attempts, I always get overwhelmed with colour choice when stood in a DIY store. Think this will be the year of repainting the main rooms white to enhance any sunlight we have, and playing around with your other suggestions.

  9. Love these suggestions – and some gorgeous interiors too as always!
    I’ve read that if, for example, you paint your hallway a dark colour then all rooms off it will naturally feel lighter. I’m tending to embrace the north facing rooms and using it as an excuse to go for a cosy feel, rather than fighting against it with light colours; has been quite a scary process though!

    1. That’s a great tip Jude, and was definitely true of my dark bathroom.
      Sometimes it’s way better to just accept the lack of light and run with it 🙂

  10. I’m currently revamping my small cottage living room to host rich, velvet, jewel tones.
    I am going to paint the walls white- any suggestions on a dulux white to compliment the jewel tones whilst opening up a small room? (I say dulux as I’m on a budget) thanks! x

  11. Thanks so much for these great tips Lauren (and I’m always inspired by your gorgeous house on Instagram)! We are currently trying to find accessories/furniture for our north facing living room in a Victorian terrace. We’ve got fairly dark wooden floors but have brightened up the walls with F&B Blackened (after a millions shades of grey were tested!) I was just wondering if you have any tips for places to buy nice rugs? And whether anyone has any experience of purchasing from Wayfair? I’ve never used the site before but they do seem to have a huge range. Thanks xxx

  12. I love these lighting tips, Lauren! Clearing clutter is definitely important to bring more light into a room and I’ve found that recently painting my bedroom white has made it seem so much brighter (and bigger). Including a variety of lighting is a good point too – I know some people can get nervous about using types of lights such as LED strips because they seem harder to replace but they last much longer! And you can always call an electrician if anything goes too wrong, so long as you have some regular lamps and bulbs too.

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