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7 lighting solutions for dark rooms

9:50AM 06 August 2018

White window shutters in grey room
Pic: The Shutter Store

If a dark room is getting you down, and the lights are on whatever the weather, these are the lighting solutions that will brighten your world. 

1. Make space for natural light

When it comes to getting natural light into a dark room, pay attention to the window first. Got heavy curtains that block the sides of the window even when they’re fully drawn back? Say goodbye to them. Hung a blind that still covers the top of the window when it’s pulled up? You’re losing daylight right there. The window treatment that will let plenty of light in – without compromising your privacy, of course – is shutters.

For a dark room, we’d suggest going for white shutters for maximum reflectivity of the light. And, unless your window is small or you want a more traditional look, we’d advise wide slats as well. These let the most light in of all the slat sizes, so they’re the ideal option for a dark room.

2. Get creative with lighting ideas

A dark room needs help from electric lighting as well as light from the exterior. But don’t rely on a single pendant light to brighten it as this can leave the corners of the room shadowy. To ensure the space is well illuminated team a ceiling pendant with other lighting – think wall lights and floor and table lamps as well, depending on the room.

You’ll also need to add in task lighting appropriate to the space. This provides bright enough light for specific tasks – we’re talking reading lamps in living spaces or bedrooms, or under wall unit lights that make a worksurface a safe place to use sharp knives in a kitchen, for example.

Finally, for a beautifully lit room, consider accent lighting, which highlights particular features, such as an alcove or a picture.

Remember that the finish of lighting can contribute to the goal of making a dark room brighter. Try a metallic such as warm copper or brass, or cooler silver, to boost the light in the space.

Cottage style white bedroom
Pic: Marks and Spencer

3. Brighten with a mirror

You’ve probably heard this one before, but it's worth repeating because it really is a winning strategy. To boost natural light for dark rooms introduce a mirror to a scheme – whether that’s in a bedroom, bathroom, hall or living space. Size up as much as you can, too, and consider running a large mirror along one wall if it’s appropriate for the room – this can work well in a gloomy hallway or dark bathroom, for example.

Combine a large mirror with reflective white finishes and you’ll get top room-brightening results. In this room (see above), white walls and white-painted floorboards get in on the act to make the small space with a low-ceiling appear light filled.

White sofa with wooden shelves
Pic: Loaf

4. Go for pale furniture choices

Take a moment to check furniture choices if your room is gloomy. Dark woods will absorb light rather than reflecting it, leaving you fighting a losing battle to make the most of the daylight. In their place, take inspiration from the Scandinavians and use very pale wood finishes. Painting existing furniture in a light-reflective colours is also an option that’ll let you re-use what you already own.

Consider furniture shape as well. Slim and low is the way to go for items like sofas and armchairs, particularly if they’re positioned in front of a window, so they don’t stop light entering the room.

White front door in hallway
Pic: Pooky

5. Allow light to flow

We talked about the window being the source of daylight for a room, above, but it doesn’t have to be the only way light comes into a room. Swap a solid front door for a partially glazed version, for example, and you can transform a dark hallway. Worried about privacy? Choose obscure glass to let light in without putting your space on show.

Glazed doors between rooms will let you borrow light from other spaces, as can glazed panels above doorways. If you’re up for some more major renovations, a glass partition between rooms can preserve the separation of the two spaces but allow, for example, a back reception room to enjoy the light from a bay window at the front of the house. Do make sure you get professional advice, though, before contemplating knocking down a wall. Tapping it is not the way to tell if it’s load-bearing, despite what you may have seen on the TV.

White gloss sideboard
Pic: Danetti

6. Go glossy

Like a contemporary look for your room schemes? High-gloss furniture is a sound choice to brighten up a dark space. Go for white or very pale finishes to take advantage of the reflectiveness of the colour at the same time. Don’t just think of a high-gloss finish for kitchen cabinetry. Storage and dining furniture in this style can help transform other areas of your home, not to mention it's an easy choice to wipe down and keep clean.

Dining table with rabbit on plates
Pic: Dunelm

7. Embrace the dark

Which way does your room face? Unfortunately, it’s a fact that if a space is oriented towards the north, the daylight that comes into the room is going to be cool and harsh. You can still lighten up, of course, but pale paint colours can end up looking cold in north light. The alternative? Go dramatically dark on the walls instead, and aim for a scheme that’s cocooning.

Paint the walls in charcoal, cobalt or forest green and you can create a fabulous backdrop to a dining table or snug seating area. The result will be intimate, and will put the focus on the tablesetting for evening entertaining or perhaps rich velvet upholstery in a living space, which will give it a contemporary vibe. You’ll need to make sure you have good lighting, as above, too, and if it’s a space you can light with candles as well, bring in finishes that’ll sparkle by night for maximum atmospherics.

With a few clever changes there's no reason you can't take a room from gloomy to more airy and change the way you feel in the space. If you're interested in fitting shutters to a window to maximise light in your room,  take a look at our different shutter styles, offering various levels of privacy, light control and colours.