May 30th 2023 | 3 min read

Design Approaches to Liven Up Dark Living Spaces

Design Approaches to Liven Up Dark Living Spaces

Rooms that always seem perpetually devoid of welcoming natural light (in the middle of a sunny day, no less) can feel dim, drab, even depressing … not the inviting experience our homes should ideally foster.

Like decorating for unusual or quirky spaces, it might resign us to the limitations of our living situations. Too few windows, north-facing views blocked off by the neighboring building, low ceilings or heavy spaces with a lack of built-in lighting are interior design challenges often faced by apartment dwellers. Homeowners may have more control over changing their surroundings, but when expensive fixes like adding skylights or complete renovation overhauls to kitchens, bedrooms or living rooms become cost prohibitive, they may feel similarly stuck.

There is light at the end of this tunnel, however. Here are some tips on how to brighten a dark room and dramatically transform your living space from low light and low energy to alive and energizing.

Look For Luminous Lighting

If you do nothing else, the first step to welcoming more light into a dark living space is to simply add more light sources. Design experts recommend having at least three different light sources in addition to any existing natural light for how to make a dark room brighter. Avoid heavy, larger light fixtures, since these can overwhelm a space and make it feel even darker. Thinner, more minimalist lighting options open up a space for an airy feel; opt for those with multiple lightbulbs to spread light over a larger span. Some added tips:

  • Table and floor lamps can easily be moved around to provide complimentary eye-level lighting.
  • Adding light sources around the perimeter of a room distributes light evenly and reduces shadow spots.
  • Homeowners: swapping out existing overhead lighting for chandeliers or semi-flush fixtures projects more multi-directional, instead of fixed, light.
  • Hidden light sources discreetly placed under cabinets or in bookshelves can augment and amplify light in a darkened space.

Additionally, if it’s just a bit of extra light you desire, don’t discount using candles, string lights, or other ambient lighting. Your fix might simply be switching out for brighter light bulbs with higher lumens (not wattage), especially for larger rooms where luminosity is a must.

Mirror Your Existing Light

Mirrors not only lend elegant aesthetics; when strategically placed they help reflect the natural light your living space does have, plus creating the optical illusion of a larger, more expansive room. Position a mirror near a window and it’s like creating an additional window altogether — or near an existing light source, like a table lamp (but make sure the lamp emits ambient light to avoid reflecting too much light off the mirror). Large wall-hung or floor-standing mirrors work best, but coffee or end tables, picture frames or vases with mirrored tops or reflective surfaces also do an exemplary job of brightening a dark room for some creative spark.

Layer in Lighter Colors

Adding more light isn’t always the solution to livening a dark living space when the problem, in tandem, is dark decor that can bring a room down into the design doldrums. The key here is opting for furnishings, decor, art and accessories that garner color, lightness and air as the best way to brighten a dark room. Try adding a bright area rug or some vividly colored artwork on the walls to give your space a pop of color. However, opting for off-white, light gray or pale colors is preferred, especially when your floors or walls are dark — ideal for renters and tenants without the leverage to refinish floors, repaint walls or replace wallpaper. Don’t forget to always opt for lighter upholstery or dining and accent tables. That doesn’t mean dark colors are off limits; accessorize with them sparingly to give your room some contrast. To add some warmth, keep an eye out for warm metallic colors like brass or gold.

Swap Out Your Curtains

Windows are the most valuable asset to a dark living space, bringing in any available natural sunlight, but thick, opaque curtains can exacerbate the problem (and even make a room appear smaller). Lighter, airier drapery works best. You should choose lighter colors, but more important is the material — sheer fabrics such as linen allow more light to filter through when a dark bedroom or living room needs it most. (Likewise, use this rationale for lampshades; lighter fabrics keep enough direct light shaded without blocking too much out.)

Go Minimalist

Apart from windows, natural light and your color palette, sometimes freeing up floor and wall space can make it appear lighter and larger than it is. Heavy, bulky, oversized and dark colored furniture can swallow up physical and visual space and fill it with shadows; instead, fill the room with minimalist pieces that sit low to the ground, with sleek lines and thinner arms and legs for tables, chairs and couches. Some experts recommend setting a maximum height for your furniture to maintain a minimalist uniformity. Leave space between furniture and between art on your walls, since the empty spaces open up more avenues for lighting. Sometimes it’s not what you do with your space — it’s what you don’t do.

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Wovenbyrd furniture is designed with a modern, elegant aesthetic in mind, with pieces that complement each other, and your style, to make each room in your home a place that’s alive, inviting, elevated, and most of all, happy, for years to come. Browse our collections at