9 Creative Ways to Brighten a Dark Room, Per Interior Designers

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Rebecca Deczynski

Fill 1Created with Sketch.

Published on June 29, 2022

When it comes to natural light, you have to take what you can get. The direction of your home, the number of windows you have, and even the time of year are out of your control, yet will dramatically impact the brightness of your space. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use some sneaky design tips to make it feel even brighter.

Good lighting dramatically impacts a room—just think of how much more calm and pleasant it is sitting in a sun-drenched living room versus a waiting room lit by unflattering fluorescents. Once the sun sets, lamps with warm-toned light bulbs (or even color-changing ones) can help you to set the mood. But during the daytime, some strategic elements can help to maximize the sunlight that your space does get.

So, rest assured: Your space is not destined to feel dark and moody, even if the sun never seems to trickle in all that much. Havenly designer Kelsey Fischer has nine tips for making a room look bright and airy—no matter how many windows you may have.

1. Reflect Existing Light

Parisian modern living room | how to brighten a dark room

Not only can a good, strategically placed mirror make your space look bigger—it can also help to reflect the light in a room. This trick is great for rooms that need an “extra boost” of brightness, as it can significantly diffuse sunlight through a space.

2. Mix & Match Linens

Warm minimalist bedroom | how to brighten a dark room

Layering linens on a bed is a great way to add dimension to your bedroom—and if you want your space to feel brighter, you can’t go wrong with light, neutral-toned blankets and sheets. If you’re more of a maximalist, though, don’t shy away from color. Light, vivid hues can work beautifully, too.

3. Embrace Light-Colored Drapery

Gray living room | how to brighten a dark room

It might seem counterintuitive to cover your windows when you want your space to feel brighter—but light-colored drapery can actually frame them to create an even brighter effect. In this space, white curtains pair especially well with darker gray walls, making the window look even larger.

4. Double Down on Airy Tones

Modern living room | how to brighten a dark room

If you want to really brighten your space, go light on the walls, the drapery, and the upholstery. You can bring in pops of color elsewhere, but having these light and bright anchor points in your room will open up the space as a whole.

5. Bring In Slip Covers

White dining room | how to brighten a dark room

Especially in a dining room, where wood tones can make space feel darker, slipcovers for chairs are a great option. Choose ones in white or another bright neutral for the best brightening effect. Best of all, easy-to-remove covers are simple to clean in case of spills—which tend to happen inevitably. 

6. Opt for Lighter-Toned Furniture

Cozy dining room | how to brighten a dark room

You can also nix the dark-colored furniture altogether and pick light-colored options, like this white dining table. Its lacquered finish also gives it a reflective surface that helps to diffuse light even more.

7. Stick With White Paint

Boho design style | how to brighten a dark room

You don’t have to give up pattern and color to make your space feel big and bright. But opting for simple white walls can keep things looking open, even as you layer in more visually interesting pieces of decor and furniture—like the pink rug and blue sofa in this room.

8. Go Monochrome

Wallpaper bedroom | how to brighten a dark room

Camouflage can also be a sneaky way to increase the brightness of a room. The white-wash dresser in this bedroom practically blends into the cream-toned rug, and it doesn’t dramatically contrast with the soft gray wallpaper. The result: A room with ample storage space that’s not visually overwhelming.

9. Layer a Light Rug

Warm minimalist living room | how to brighten a dark room

Especially if you have darker wood floors, a light-colored rug can do a lot to draw the eye upwards and increase the visual brightness in a space. If you want your room to feel really airy, don’t be afraid to pair a white or cream rug with white walls, like in the above space.

Looking for a way to overcome your unique home dilemmas? Work one-on-one with our expert interior designers for just $129 per room. Get started today with our style quiz.

Words by Rebecca Deczynski