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How to brighten up a dark room

Melanie Whitehouse / 20 October 2015

Find out how to make a dark room lighter with these simple tricks of the trade.

Neutral living room
Painting everything white might seem like an obvious choice, but white walls can look gloomy and cold in winter. Instead, opt for a neutral colour

Drab, dark rooms can be turned into airy, feel-good spaces with a few clever tweaks. What’s more, these small home improvements need not cost the earth. Start by decluttering and getting rid of anything tatty, unused or disliked. You’ll be left with your favourite accessories and ornaments - and a lot more space to showcase them. Now it’s time for the fun bit!

Read our tips for making your home cosier to beat the cold

Choosing the right paint

Painting everything white maybe very Scandinavian and on-trend but in our gloomy winter light it can look cold. Instead, opt for a warmer neutral such as a pinky dove grey or a pale caramel.

Make the room seem higher by painting ceilings a lighter shade than walls. Just add some white emulsion to your chosen wall paint – you’ll keep the tone the same and it won’t cost as much as a separate tin of paint.

Save deep, rich colours for use as accents and accessories – if your room is already murky, these colours won’t sing out, they’ll just look dense and leaden.

Read our tips for choosing the best paint for the job

Clever ways with lighting

Add recessed ceiling spotlights and a dimmer switch, so you can control the mood of the room.

To brighten a dark space, add a statement glass pendant light, or a metal pendant with a reflective inner lining.

Use soft, strategic lighting under cabinets and wall cupboards to provide a warm glow.

Highlight favourite paintings or treasured artefacts with a picture or spot light that focuses solely on the item.

Replace gloomy bulbs with higher light intensity compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) of a lower wattage but a higher light output.

Read our tips for revamping a tired bathroom

Three top tricks with mirrors

Line all around deep windowsills with mirrored glass, cut to size, and it will reflect every bit of available light into your room.

Put a mirror in a dark corner and position a floor-standing lamp in front of it – you’ve instantly doubled your light.

Seek out furniture with mirrored surfaces - a coffee table top, chest of drawers or console table.

Read our tips for decluttering

Dark and light

Don’t think everything has to be light: contrast is key. Use darker woods for kitchen cabinets paired with light countertops, or mix pale units with dark.

A very shiny dark floor will reflect light – just make sure you offset it with lots of pale soft furnishings and accessories.

Read our tips for breathing new life into tired decor

Finishing touches

Choose light, airy fabrics for curtains or blinds. Remember, Roman blinds will block light at the top of the window, curtains at the side, so pick the one that lets in the most daylight.

Introduce texture in the form of chunky knits for cushions and throws, sensual velvets, rich brocades and glittering sequins.

Pick ornaments with sparkling, refractive surfaces, such as a mirrored tray and photo frames, crystal bottles and cut-glass dishes.

Light candles to add atmosphere. Scented candles (choose a natural wax, such as soy) provide light, perfume and ambience.

Read our guide to making the most of your space

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.