Brightening a Dark Room


Our new apartment is nice - but dark - so I have been collecting mirrors of different kinds to arrange on the walls. I have 5 little ones grouped together in a narrow space and others of different sizes around the room to reflect the light, along with a large one on one wall. I also positioned light-colored pictures with glass to bounce back as much light as possible. I've gotten most of them in thrift shops, so it hasn't been too costly and it really makes a difference.


By Pam from L.A., CA

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I am decorating on a budget and need some help. Can you help? I just moved, and my bedroom is so dark I don't really like for it to be that dark. The walls are paneling and the floor is hard wood.

I don't like wallpaper and I have painted panel walls before, but it just didn't look right. I have plenty of windows. Other than that, there are 5 light bulbs and a lamp that I have in my room.

How can I brighten my room, so it isn't so dark and gloomy? Any suggestions would help, thanks. Ideas that wouldn't cost a whole lot of money would be appreciated. The only thing I can think of is to sew some pretty curtains.

By Mary


June 22, 20100 found this helpful

I once saw some easy wall art that poked Christmas lights through the back of the piece. This was art canvas, with holes in it and the lights taped to the back. They had painted 4 pieces in neutral colors and staggered them and screwed them together in an abstract way. It was neat. But art canvas is not cheap!

Not sure what you could substitute it with.... maybe heavy cloth, stretched over a handmade frame from a pallet? But the lights may then not be safe and not sure you could poke them through it. A thrift store would be the best place to look for this type of crafts stuff, or clearance aisles at the local craft store, and garage sales. You could maybe even frame up some painted 3 ply cardboard. 3 ply cardboard is found at most factory companies, and wouldn't warp when painted lightly.

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June 22, 20100 found this helpful

I was faced with the same problem--knotty pine paneling--even on the ceiling and hardwood floor. I used white drapes with neutral sheers, a light colored bedspread and a few large, light colored throw rugs. White would be too harsh, but the same light neutral or variations of it should help. Use the light neutral everywhere you can--light shades, cushions, pillows, throws over a chair or bench. A bright color if appropriate would add more color. I love wood, but too much is too much.

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June 22, 20100 found this helpful

Sheer bright curtains, they don't necessarily have to be white, lime green, orange, any bright vibrant color will do. A friend of mine had the same issue in her basement so we decided to buy some white fabric. It was pretty cheap, I believe it was duck canvas that was on sale? We painted some stripes and designs on it and then tacked it up to her wall with just a few staples with a hand held staple gun. It transformed the room. It was also easy to change with the seasons or her style, just take out the staples and roll it up. That way you have the illusion of a painted wall and you don't see any more of the paneling. Another tip is that when you go to the store to pick up light bulbs there are different light filters. i.e. warm, cool, sunshine. Pick up a few of the ones that are labeled sunshine, you'll be surprised how much they brighten up a room and your spirits in general. Hope it all works out for you and congrats on your new place. :)

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June 22, 20100 found this helpful

Being all I do is sleep and get dressed in my bedroom I don't worry about how dark and gloomy it is. I never open the blinds because in this apartment complex a lot of people walk past too close to my apartment. I also have no choice other than using the bedroom for a store room.

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June 23, 20100 found this helpful

Choose colorful sheets to make curtains with. I have a lime green (yes jello color) room which is my computer and sewing room. I love the bright as it is my idea room. But I put solid black curtains up, made from black sheets. Hung a wall hanging a friend sent from Africa, and the colors snap.
Panels on walls was an early 70's thing to do. You can get a wallpaper in all white, a liner, to cover and then paper, or even the unpainted wallpaper to put up and paint. Forgives a lot of ills with walls.
Take advantage of texture painting as well. I swear by oil paints only. My long term decision on colors comes about every 20 years that way!

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June 24, 20100 found this helpful

Instead of canvas, I would buy a canvas dropcloth. They come in a 9' X 12" size and maybe larger. That would be much cheaper than buying canvas by the yard.

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June 24, 20100 found this helpful

Placing a mirror opposite a window will reflect more light into the room.

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June 24, 20100 found this helpful

I like a lot of light too and can't bear dim rooms.

Try buying some uplights. Basically, it looks like a can with a light bulb at the bottom of it, with the top of the bulb facing the top of the can. It has a cord and you just plug it it a lightswitch.

What they do is add light to dark/dim corners of the room, or behind your bed. It's a very cool look. I light lamps and they either throw their light up or down. But uplights only throw their light up and it really brightens a room.

You can buy them online or at your local lamp store, Home Depot, places like that. Sometimes they're pretty expenses because the 'can' looks something like a sculpture. Unless they're going to be un-hidden, I wouldn't go for it, but that's just me being frugal.

Good luck.

I would agree with some of the suggestions posted; keep it light and airy. You might even consider painting the ceiling a color other than white to make the room look bigger. Maybe a pale yellow, but I don't know your other colors, like the colors of your walls. What color wood?

If you can try to use drapes to cover one focal wall of your room; I'd say the side of the room your bed is on. Ikea and other stores sell this inexpensive drapery rod that's like a wire and only made to hold up light fabrics. So you could choose a color of muslin, sheers - I like a full look to drapery and would use more panels, but weigh them first to see if your wire 'rod' can hold up the extra panels.
Make your drapes from ceiling to floor. You might want to try an fabric with a shimmer in it.

I'm not a lime green person,but if you are your room could look so dramatic. Pair it with a, maybe, hot pink for other color splashes. Purple and hot pink sounds cool.

I'm getting ready to experiment using clear or irredescent sparkles in ceiling paint to see if I'll get some kind of reflective luminosity going. I'm going to try it on my hallway. It doesn't have to be much.

Maybe you could paint your room trim a high gloss white or cream, depending on the colors you're using.

Good luck - you'll end up loving your room with all of these good ideas people sent in.

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June 24, 20100 found this helpful

You can also put a mirror, any size, behind a table lamp. We have a very dark living room. When the lamp was in front of our antique mirror, the room was a bit brighter. Buying energy*light bulbs is more expensive up front, but you can get brighter bulbs that put out more light, yet use less electricity. Keeping sheer curtains closed gives you some privacy, yet allows light in.
Hope something I've said helps!

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July 8, 20100 found this helpful

Paneling is so 70's! Cover it up! I would suggest a padded textured wallpaper that covers the grooves of the paneling. You paint over it after it goes up. Pick a light breezy color of paint. Add mirrors. I hate living in a dark dungeon!

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May 24, 2011

I am looking for ideas for how to lighten the room up. We are renting for the next 3 years. The house is really nice, but the living room has dark paneling which we can not paint over.

The wall that would have had windows was boarded-up and paneled over to build a studio apt next to it. Half of the room gets natural light from the dining room, kitchen, and bedroom doorways. The other end is so dark that we have to keep lights on all the time. Please help.

Also the house was built in 1920s and has very high ceilings, dark brown and orange carpet, which we might be able to change. Thank-you, any help would be appreciated.

By Terry


May 25, 20110 found this helpful

I can't stand dark rooms, I know how you feel! Hanging some mirrors on the dark wall would reflect light and also give the illusion of more space. Some tall wardrobe mirrors could take advantage of the high ceilings and wouldn't be too expensive to buy. Keep away from dark furnishings where you can. If you're stuck with dark carpet or furniture some light or brightly-colored accent rugs and cushions could help. If you still find you need the lights on some low-wattage accent lamps could add brightness without adding too much to your electric bill. Good luck!

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May 26, 20110 found this helpful

The use of mirrors, as previously suggested, is excellent. I have also seen material used to cover a wall in a way it can be removed when no longer wanted. I would use some sort of trim to wrap at the top and bottom of the fabric then nail the trim to the wall. I would make the material long enough to cover the entire wall. Good Luck.

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May 27, 20110 found this helpful

Cover the darkest wall with white curtains. Put up a rod across the living room, and make the curtain as dense as possible - 3 mtrs fabric to one metre distance. I did this in my very old house because the paneling was antigue.

I found a large roll of white shirt cotten with a fine stripe at a professional yard sale (do not know what you call them in USA - something like Salvation Army). I have used those curtains many many times. Just wash 'em and move 'em where ever you go.

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May 29, 20110 found this helpful

If there is a way to put up a long curtain rod or hook and eye at each end of the wall then string wire across then find bright cheery material and make a hem at each end. Then put the "curtain" on the wire which will lighten up that wall.
Large mirrors will reflect any light you may have but that could be expensive.

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February 7, 2013

I painted my walls a royal blue color that I love, but my stuff is dark. How can I brighten it up a bit? I really like the color.

By Chris


February 7, 20130 found this helpful

Mirrors are great, throws are wonderful and knickknacks like a vase that is a bright color can do wonders. If you can find any mirrors, you can lay them around, and mirrored accents are great too.

I like to have little framed art pictures lying around..and don't forget about the light bulbs. I like reveal light bulbs because they make a room brighter. I also like using christmas lights in a plastic jar or in a plastic square you can buy at a craft store. Any kind of string lights will brighten up a room. You can also do like I saw someone do on this site, and string lights by a fireplace to shine up on the artwork above it or just have them everywhere. I love light too~

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We are moving into an apartment that is very dungeon looking. What is a good way to brighten up the space? I don't want a white living room because I am doing my kitchen in bright white. Any suggestions on painting, lighting, or decor would be greatly appreciated.

By Miracle from Delpi, IN


April 5, 20110 found this helpful

Use a trick they used in Colonial times: they would put mirrors behind candle sconces to magnify the light. Put mirrors behind table lamps and opposite windows to increase the light.

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April 5, 20110 found this helpful

Lived in a dark apartment for a while & what I did was to install mirrors of all shapes & sizes on the walls (from thriftshops & dollar stores!) They reflected whatever light there was & made the place brighter. Ditto with pictures framed in glass & other reflective surfaces.You can even "tune" the reflections by figuring out where the light does come in & reflecting it for maximum brightness.

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April 5, 20110 found this helpful

Besides the mirrors, use lighter colored fabric on curtains and area rug, etc. to help brighten the room or white lace drapery. Sparkly crystal, highly polished chrome, gold, silver or brass finishes on vases and planters would help to brighten the room too. Add some white or light pastel throw pillows on the sofa if the furniture is dark.

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