How To Brighten A Dark Apartment, According To A Designer

In an ideal world, we’d all live in homes with tons of natural light, but sometimes, we find ourselves in spaces that fall short in that department. When my husband and I moved into our spec house over a decade ago, we weren’t able to change the placement of the windows in the home, which do very little to bring in light. And while I once liked the dark sandy hue I decided to paint my walls, the deep color now makes my space feel small and dark. Thankfully, though nothing will ever match natural light, there are plenty of tried-and-true interior design tricks to help make even the dimmest rooms feel airy and bright.

The first order of business: Make sure your walls are white—and if they’re not, paint them. Then, get creative with décor. Generally speaking, reflective surfaces like mirrors and polished metal are your friends; darker materials, unfortunately, are probably not. We spoke to interior designer Megan Hersch, co-founder and COO of roomLift, for more expert guidance. Ahead, she shares her go-to tips and tricks for lightening up even the darkest of interiors.

Essentials To Make Dark Spaces Feel Bright And Airy

A Modern Mirror That Bounces Light

Designers have an age-old trick for making spaces seem brighter and larger: well-placed mirrors, which help reflect natural light into darker corners. “If you can hang [a mirror] opposite a window, even better,” says Hersch. “You’ll reflect the outside light within your space all day long.” Currently, her favorite pick is this mirror set from Roar & Rabbit. “I love to hang three together in a dining room or above an entry console for a lot of reflection in the space,” she says.

Artwork That Shows Off A Sunny Design

Sometimes, you don’t even need real-deal light to make a space feel airier—all you need is artwork of the sun to invite brightness into your space. “The image of light can offer some of the same mood-lifting energy that actual light provides,” Hersch says. “A print of the sun, like this triptych from Etsy, may be the fastest way to feeling lighter without having to call an electrician or a painter.” And the bonus? The artwork is printable, meaning you can hang it up pretty much instantly (as long as you have a quality home printer, of course).

A Reflective Glass Coffee Table

Reflective surfaces, such as glass, also help to “bounce light around,” says Hersch. And while it’s hard to beat the reflective properties of mirrors, you can also achieve the same effect through accessories, light fixtures and furniture, like this mid-century modern glass coffee table from Crate & Barrel. Another benefit of decorating with glass pieces? They lend a “floating” feel to a piece, which can make a room feel larger.

A Mirrored Bowl to Showcase Objects

Another reflective surface that can cause light to bounce around a room, per Hersch, is metal. If you want to go this route, consider adding ultra-shiny stainless steel to your space, creating a look that’s not only light-promoting but also cool and modern. This hammered metal bowl will do the trick, as well as this polished vanity tray.

A Plug-In Wall Sconce To Illuminate Dark Corners

“Plug-in sconces are my new favorite thing,” gushes Hersch, and understandably: They’re guaranteed to illuminate dark spaces. “There are so many good-looking sconces that can be plugged in, which means you don’t have to re-wire to have lights on your walls,” she continues. “Pair two above your sofa or on either side of a mirror that’s hung over your console and run the cord down the wall, either with a cord hider or stapled to the wall (just don’t staple the cord), so it holds tight to the wall.” While there are tons of excellent plug-in sconce options online, this one from Crate & Barrel, featuring an on-trend pleated shade, stands out.

A Neon Sign To Add Some Groovy Light

If you want to add some fun lighting that will look its best at night, consider a neon sign, preferably one that features an uplifting or cheeky phrase that fits your decor scheme. “I’m into the trend of neon signs in more casual and fun spaces, such as kids’ rooms, T.V. rooms and family rooms,” says Hersch. “Urban Outfitters sells some great ones.”

Gleaming, Golden Paint for the Ceiling

If your space is low on light, the best color for your walls is white—hands down. “If you can, paint your walls white or a very light color,” says Hersch says. That guidance doesn’t necessarily apply to ceilings, though. If you’re able and willing to paint up there, the color you can’t beat is gold. “My favorite tip is to paint the ceiling,” the designer says. “I love the reflective gold paint from Sydney Harbour for bouncing light around, especially if you also have a metallic chandelier hanging from it.”

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