Dark interiors aren’t much fun to live with, and can be a serious turn-off for would-be home buyers or tenants. Most homes and apartments have at least a couple of rooms that never see quite enough daylight, whether it’s because of poor orientation, undersized windows, deep overhead eaves or excessive vegetation outside. Fortunately, there are plenty of quick and economical decorating tricks you can use to instantly brighten up and make those shady rooms feel as fresh as a daisy!
The easiest way to make your home or investment property feel lighter and brighter is to paint the walls white. White reflects light back into the room and will instantly make it feel more spacious and airy. White paints are generally formulated with either a cool undertone (blue-based) or warm undertone (yellow or pink-based). Before committing to a particular shade, paint a generous test patch and see how it looks at different times of the day. Cool whites create a harder-edged, more industrial feel, while the warmer shades work best in sunlight-starved spaces to create a cosy yet brighter ambience.
Light bounces off reflective surfaces, so hang mirrors on the walls adjacent to or opposite your windows to effectively double the amount of light they bring in.
New LED lightbulbs come in a range of colour ‘temperatures’. According to manufacturer Philips, bulbs with a low colour temperature, labelled ‘warm white’, will give a glowy, cosy light effect (more yellow). Bulbs with a high colour temperature contain more blue, which creates a more energising effect. These are sold as ‘cool white’ or ‘daylight’ respectively. ‘Daylight’ bulbs can instantly brighten up a gloomy interior during the day. To keep things cosy in the evenings, choose warm white globes for lamps and decorative lights.
Are your window coverings blocking out too much light? Venetian blinds, vertical blinds, plantation shutters or heavy curtains often cover a portion of that precious glazing. Nix them and go with translucent roller blinds or gauzy curtains instead – they’ll still deliver privacy without stealing your sunshine.
Take the floor
Dark flooring can be dreary in an underlit space. Swap it out for blonde-toned timbers such as oak, pale ceramic tiling, or neutral-coloured carpeting. If you don’t have the budget for a floor makeover, introduce some glitz with jewel-toned rugs, or transform a dark hallway with a light-coloured, full-length runner.
Don’t place tall pieces of furniture (such as bookcases) beside windows as this can block the flow of light.
Some parts of a home, such as closed-in hallways or windowless bathrooms, may be impervious to your DIY brightening attempts, and will require structural intervention. Here are some relatively cost-effective ways to brighten up (but you’ll need the help of a building professional):
Eye on the sky
In single-storey homes, a skylight is a great way to introduce daylight into south-facing rooms (especially bathrooms) or dingy hallways. There are many options available. Tube-style skylights comprise a glazed dome fixed to the roof to capture light, which is then directed via a reflective tunnel and into the home via a clear fitting in the ceiling. Traditional skylights, which are more like windows in the ceiling, can be either fixed or openable. In order to prevent too much solar heat gain, window-style skylights must be positioned with care.
Swap out a solid front door for a glazed option, or have some panels replaced with glass. This can also be done on internal doors. If privacy is a concern, choose frosted, coloured or obscure glazing. If you’re worried about glass compromising either your security or insulation, don’t be – there are many high-performance glazing options available from all major door manufacturers.
Take down the walls
Removing unnecessary internal walls (e.g. between the kitchen and dining or living space) can open up dark rooms. If the walls you want to remove are load-bearing (i.e., holding up the roof), this can be an expensive exercise. Talk with your architect or builder about your options – in some cases it might be just as effective but more economical to cut a large hole in a wall rather than remove it entirely.
The most efficient way to brighten up a dark house is to have more windows installed. If you’re short on functional wall-space, don’t let this stop you – high, narrow windows placed up near the ceiling will prettily frame a blue-sky view without affecting your privacy or the amenity of the room.