Words: Anne Schauffer Images: Shutterstock

Dark rooms – particularly in the increasingly more compact homes in which we live – are unappealing and stifling. We’re not talking mood here, but a lack of light – natural or induced. Why not employ a few trade tricks to lighten up the space – and simultaneously lighten your mood.

Colour is a good starting point, and with the extensive range of paint shades available today, light needn’t necessarily be white, but a favourite pale tone. Light colours reflect, darks absorb, so a light wall colour impacts in more ways than simply lightening the surface you’re painting. Your floor, too, can have a major impact on the feel – consider painting, staining, bleaching, or giving your floor a concrete finish in a light colour. A white ceiling is a major reflective asset.

Softwear

It’s essential to maximise natural light sources, as Tinks Robinson of Peppergreen Interiors suggests, “Remove or cut back encroaching outdoor shrubbery or overgrown trees that block light from entering the room. Rid your windows of heavy curtains, and opt for sheer fabrics which let light into a room in a wafty, airy cool way. Heavier lining or block-out fabric can be used on the back rail, and can operate independently from the front sheer when needed. Choose light neutrals.”

The less fuss, the more space is freed up, and the less light it blocks. If necessary, install a longer curtain rail – as near the ceiling as possible so as to visually stretch the space upwards – so the curtains don’t block the window at all.
Colour choices on furniture also make a difference – keep the fabrics fresh, white or light coloured. Likewise for the flooring – if you can’t alter the floor or don’t want to remove a dark fitted carpet, throw over a pale rug.

If you have large, dark indoor plants, consider replacing them with lighter, softer, less dense ones.

Hardware

Structurally, skylights and sky-tubes obviously introduce light, and a skytube particularly, can be less expensive to install than you imagine. But there are many other elements which don’t involve structural changes.

Mirrors are highly effective as reflectors of light, and Robinson suggests hanging a large mirror opposite a window or door (across the room from your light source). “Other ways to make mirrors work include hanging an array of different sized mirrors, for example, up a staircase. You could also consider mirroring an entire wall – this will enlarge a room, and introduce loads of reflected natural light.”

Large, cumbersome pieces of dark-wood furniture suck the light, so reduce the amount of furniture, and ideally, choose light and clean unfussy pieces. Choose white or light-coloured wall-mounted shelving over a wall of fitted bookshelves.

Remove clutter, and replace fiddly or oversized collectables with single, light pieces. Clutter can also include untidy black cabling – change it to white, tape it to your skirting board or tie them together neatly with Velcro.

If you have a solid door which is often kept closed, consider changing the door to a glass one or one with glass panels.

Choose your artificial lighting with care, and aim for a natural look. Robinson suggests installing pendants in varying sizes hung at different levels. “This trick defines an area which lacks punch, while simultaneously bringing in extra light if needed. Filament globes on short nondescript bases can be placed on shelves to brighten up a dull area. Spotlights on a track can be swivelled and tilted at varying angles, aimed at dark areas or features.” Consider soft perimeter lights rather than harsh overhead lighting.