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How to Brighten a Dark Home

Zillow logo Zillow 2017-10-30 Steve Asbell

Whether you live in a large home with a dark interior or a small apartment with only one window, follow these tips to bring in more sunshine - or at least make it look that way.

Paint it light and bright

Colors and values are nothing more than the light that reaches our eyes after bouncing off objects.

The amazing thing about white is that it reflects most of the light that hits its surface, creating the illusion of light. Case in point: that glowing ball in the sky we call the moon.

Paint colors that are saturated yet light in value create a similar effect, while lending their own distinctive personalities to a space.

a bedroom with a large bed in a hotel room © Provided by photographer. Photo from Zillow Porchlight
Photo from Zillow listing.

Keep the contrast

A kitchen with white cabinets, countertops, walls and backsplashes is about as bright as it gets, yet the lack of variety can leave the overall effect a bit dull.

To keep things interesting, introduce contrast. Choose accessories, cookware and decorations in your favorite color, or even decide on an entire palette.

Sneak in some style and personality with a colorful mosaic backsplash, or add drama to the scene with dark furniture, picture frames or patterns.

a kitchen with a tile floor © Provided by photographer. Photo from Zillow Porchlight
Photo from Zillow listing.

Strategically place mirrors

Mirrors cannot make a room look brighter on their own, though there is some truth to the mirror myth, since they're excellent at reflecting natural light in rooms that already receive it.

a view of a living room filled with furniture and a large window © Provided by photographer. Photo from Zillow Porchlight
Photo from Zillow listing.

Don't expect to get the same effect in dim hallways and bathrooms, though, since it does no good to duplicate a dim view. So, go ahead - replace those huge panels of mirrored glass in your bathroom with more attractive framed mirrors. You won't miss out after all.

Install new windows

Yes, installing an entire window or two is the nuclear option, but if your home is so dim that you're forced to keep the lights on all day, then it could be taking a toll on your utility bills - or even your mental well-being!

This isn't a decision to take lightly (no pun intended), so talk to a contractor to discuss options and pricing before you break out that sledgehammer. You might be better off installing a skylight or light tubes.

a dining room table © Provided by photographer. Photo from Zillow Porchlight
Photo from Zillow listing.

Eliminate glare

Sometimes the problem isn't the amount of light, but rather the quality. Overhead lights can brighten up a room, but the effect is harsh as high-noon sunlight.

Instead, you want the diffuse, indirect light of early morning. Place lights near the walls, and place LED strips under cabinets to cover the wall in a soft glow. Be sure to include task lighting wherever it's needed most, such as the home office or wherever you need to read and work.

Rethink window treatments

If your curtains cover up too much of the window, replace them with something less obstructive. Sheer and semisheer window treatments let in plenty of light, without sacrificing privacy during the day.

a bathroom with a white tub sitting next to a window © Provided by photographer. Photo from Zillow Porchlight
Photo from Zillow listing.

If you're tired of pulling up the Venetian blinds or plantation shutters every day, replace them with blackout window treatments you can open all the way during the day and close at night.

Brighten the view outside

Maybe you're too busy focusing on the indoors to see the forest for the trees. But all those trees and overgrown foundation shrubs can block natural light from reaching the house, so cut those bushes and trim those tree limbs. If necessary, call an arborist.

Also, use plants with variegated or silver leaves in your landscape to reflect light indoors, and consider renovating your patio and paving it with something brighter.

Replace doors

Doors present a great opportunity to let in more light, improve the view from inside and make the entry more welcoming.

Since your front door is a reflection of your home's personality, as well as your own, pick a style that's appropriate to the architecture. If you're concerned about privacy, choose one with stained glass or small windows at the top. Even a small amount of natural light will make a huge difference.

a kitchen with a large window © Provided by photographer. Photo from Zillow Porchlight
Photo from Zillow listing.

Clean windows

It ought to be obvious, but when was the last time you cleaned all your home’s windows, both inside and out?

To avoid streaks on outdoor surfaces, don't bother with the window cleaner and paper towels. Wash the windows with a sponge and mildly soapy water (dish soap will do), wipe dry with a squeegee, and finish them off with a soft chamois.

Top photo from Zillow listing.

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