Lighten Up: Making a Dark Home Brighter

BY NANCY MATTIA ON APRIL 7TH, 2017


A dark bathroom lightens up thanks to a transom window above the sink. Photo by Werner Straube courtesy of Donna Mondi Interior Design

There’s something about a light-filled space that’s comfortable and welcoming and makes you want to spend time there. Subconsciously or not, it feels healing to be surrounded by light. But if you’ve got a dark home where shadows overtake sunshine, the environment may seem gloomy and unfriendly. Fortunately, there are many clever ways to let some light into the cave you call home.

1. Install more light sources

Adding electrical lighting like a ceiling fixture with multiple bulbs is the easiest way to brighten a space, says Donna Mondi, president of Donna Mondi Interior Design in Chicago. Also, “adding up-lights in corners will brighten up the edges of a room,” she says.

2. Mix lighting sources

Get floor, table, and reading lamps to disperse light. Don’t forget about sconces, with shades that aim light upward and downward.

3. Install a glass door

If you currently have a solid panel back door, for example, replacing it with a clear glass door can help let in light. First, figure out what your priority is: privacy or light, Mondi says. “If you really don’t want people to see you, consider frosted or textured glass, which offers privacy and light, though not as much as clear glass.”

4. Replace incandescent lighting with LEDs

LEDs are brighter and produce a clearer light than traditional bulbs. But they’re still a hard sell: “People love incandescent light because they look better in it!” Mondi says.

5. Think pale

White and other light colors work hard to brighten up a space, as they send light back and forth to other surfaces around a room. Mondi suggests either going monochromatic or choosing a pair of light complementary hues, such as pale blush pink with cream or light blue. “Paint the ceiling lacquered white, which will bounce around whatever light you do get,” she says. Decorating with silver metallic accessories (lamps, frames, bowls) will also make a room look and feel lighter.

6. Add or enlarge a window

This is a pricey option but incredibly effective – you’re giving up part of a wall for a little bit more sunshine. Though a kitchen or living room often is the benefactor of an additional window, other spaces in your home – stairwells, entryways, landings – might also have a dark personality and could benefit from having more light.

7. Install a transom window

If you don’t have the budget for a new or enlarged window, think about adding a transom window to an interior (windowless) room. “It allows the light to come in without giving up an actual wall,” Mondi says. A transom is punched out of the upper portion of a wall and brings natural light from the outside room to the interior room. “It’s not as expensive as adding an exterior window,” she says. “It also keeps your wall intact.”

8. Add mirrors

These shiny surfaces reflect light instead of absorbing it, creating the impression of a brighter environment. Hang them on walls in every room. If you position a full-length mirror between two windows, it will give off the impression of a third window.

9. Put a light-colored area rug on a dark floor

Break up all that brown wood with a rug that incorporates lighter colors. Mondi suggests picking a cream rug that’s not flat, but has some texture like a Flokati or other type of shag rug. Or install a light-colored cowhide rug – this trendy durable accessory is often offered in freeform shapes, a great way to add some splash to a room.

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