How to Brighten Up Any Room
The one thing we often think of when we want to brighten up a dark space is the obvious choice of painting everything white. But what if that isn’t an option?
Contrary to popular belief, painting everything white will not actually brighten up every room anyway. For example, rooms that don’t receive the mid-day light, such as a room with only one window facing north, (in the northern hemisphere or a room with one window facing south in the southern hemisphere) will look very grey in natural daylight alone, if all the walls are painted in most shades of white (especially shades without any warmth in them). This is because, in that situation there is no direct, natural day light and any room that doesn’t receive natural mid-day sun will naturally receive more of a blue-grey light.
This can work for some rooms, where you would like a “cool” feeling, but what if you have the most amazing view in your living room, where you spend many hours a day, but it feels cold, dark and there is only one lonely window that doesn’t receive any direct sunlight? This happens more often in new refurbishment projects and surprisingly in new build properties as less professional input is used to build contemporary homes. This means that important architectural considerations such as site orientation and situation are omitted or missed at the design stage, having an impact on the internal spaces and their relationship to their environment or context.
The following list is what architects and interior designers will consider amongst their design ideas in order to try brighten a dark room, firstly with the built fabric and secondly, with the interior design and decor.
Look to see if there is anything obstructing the openings to the rooms you would like to brighten. If trimming a hedge or large tree is allowed in your neighbourhood and this might eliminate a physical obstruction to receiving natural daylight inside, it might be an option to consider. Also, if the space is in a basement or in a low-lying, dense inner city area and a large obstruction cannot be altered, consider if there is a possibility to creatively reflect or direct the light inside somehow.
Consider the architecture
Is it actually possible to make an existing window larger or could another one be added? Unless your building is new, the chances are that the initial context that your home was built in has changed over time, which means it might be worth considering whether a new opening or making an existing undersized opening larger are possible options.
The window type and style
More often than not, the window style of many contemporary built properties is usually architecturally uninformed or ill considered. If your windows are UPVC or built with unnecessary thick frames, these could be cutting out a lot of potential day light. Lots of openings can create thicker frames too, so designing openings intelligently can maximise the amount of light through your openings. Replacing windows may require authority permissions, but considering that a different style of window could better match your property, it could work in your favor, especially if it includes an option with more elegant thinner frames, that allows you to physically receive more day light into your space.
By removing heavy curtains, shutters or blinds that obstruct part of the opening whilst in their open position, the amount of light able to enter the space is improved. By ensuring curtains have enough space either side when open or by fixing blinds above or outside of the window so that they don’t obstruct the opening, will help brighten up a room by allowing more light to enter the space. There are still lots of creative ways to keep privacy whilst maximising daylight too. Consider obscured glass, sheer curtains or layered screening.
Paint and colors
It is difficult to brighten up a room with paint alone, especially if you are set on matte, non reflective surfaces, with a low luminance level. Knowing whether a cool or warm hue will be favorable to a room will need to be considered before choosing paint for a room, but also the light reflectivity of the paint will need to be thought about.
Warm hues such as those that have an undertone of yellow, red or orange (blues and greens can also be warm) will make things feel brighter and cooler or brighter and warmer. Contrasting dark and light colors can brighten up areas of a room, although a bit more skill is required to test ideas to achieve the desired result.
By reflecting an existing window with a mirror or creating a fake skylight or window with artificial light can give your room the brightness you are looking for in a more intelligent way. The easiest way to make a room feel as though it has more windows and light is to reflect any existing windows with a large mirror. This can be so successful that a dark room can be completely transformed just by positioning a large mirror opposite to, or next to, an existing one.
Use large surfaces
Designers often use reflective surfaces to bounce light deeper into a room. Consider making the best use of the light you actually have by using reflective materials on surfaces such as ceilings, walls and floors. For example a highly polished timber or tile floor or a high gloss painted ceiling will even bounce indirect light deeper into a room, making the space feel brighter.
Although lighting is usually expensive and considered an “active” rather than a passive form of brightening up a room, it is worth considering intelligent lighting design to enhance the existing lighting and brighten up a room to a high functioning level.
Furniture and placement
Cluttered, dense spaces are difficult to brighten, even in a room which is streaming with natural, direct, sunlight. Consider the layout of the room so that furniture is kept low or un-obstructing to towards any light source. Furnishings can also add a level of reflectiveness, so do consider the little details on décor items that will help catch and bounce any light that is already there.
Add the “feeling” of brightness
Finally, don’t forget to try to highlight the corners of a dark room as this will help make it “feel brighter” as there will be a perception that all the spaces are visible. Also brightness is often associated with warmth, so color association will help make a cold, dark room, “feel” warmer and brighter.
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