Don't get left in the dark with a room that falls short on sunlight. Our three simple solutions for brightening a room will have your space feeling sunnier in no time.

By Caitlin Sole
Updated February 05, 2021

Lighting plays a major role in the atmosphere of a room, and can even affect your mood. But what can you do if your room has few (or no) windows? Or a small space feels dreary and cramped? These easy decorating ideas will help you instantly brighten a room without a major remodel. The best part? Each idea can be completed in a weekend for just a few dollars.

Bedroom with bedside lamps and wooden nightstands
Credit: Edmund Barr

1. Exchange Lightbulbs

If you're still using incandescent lightbulbs, consider replacing them with LED lightbulbs. These bulbs last longer and are energy-efficient. Many LED bulbs are also adjustable, so you can change their brightness depending on the time of day. Set your lights to a bright bluish hue in the morning to help you wake up, then switch to warm, yellow light in the evening to ease into your bedtime routine. Love the look of old school lightbulbs? You don’t have to give up your preferred style for the performance of LEDs. Today, LED bulbs come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes to fit with lamps and ceiling light fixtures that previously held incandescent bulbs.

various textured accents wood flooring bedroom
Credit: Kim Cornelison

2. Trade Curtains

If you have thick draperies, trade them for sheer curtains. These lightweight curtains allow more natural light to flow into a room. If privacy is a concern, layer sheers over traditional blinds or blackout window shades to maximize light during the day and create a cozy space at night. Sheer curtains are also a great option for dining rooms and living spaces where you want to capture as much natural light as possible.

mirror in hallway with table

3. Add a Mirror

A mirror bounces light around a room, making the area seem not only lighter and brighter, but bigger as well. If you're missing an artistic touch, choose a shapely mirror with a fun design. There are so many different styles of mirrors; take time to shop around and find one that matches your aesthetic. Hanging a mirror opposite a natural light source, like a door or window, will help fill your space with sunlight.

gallery wall with flatscreen tv above vintage Hollywood Regency credenza
Credit: David Tsay

4. Update Artwork

Changing up your art display is one of the easiest ways to brighten the look of a room. Thick white mats help lighten the look of otherwise colorful prints or photography. Hanging artwork framed behind reflective glass and mirrors on adjacent walls will also refract light. 

neutral-colored living room with colorful accent pieces
Credit: Jonny Valiant

5. Pick a New Paint Color

Still want to make your room lighter or brighter? One of the biggest things to consider is paint color. "White walls, more than anything, bounce light around the room and disperse it," says stylist Brady Tolbert. A warm white paint color amplifies the natural light in any room. Before repainting, always test colors on the wall of the room you are painting so you can see how the color changes throughout the day. Consider a white finish on furnishings or cabinetry to help with the glow; a sisal area rug and a sofa slipcovered in ivory linen can brighten a room, too.

Comments (1)

March 3, 2021
Great ideas! Shadows in a room make it darker than necessary, too. By layering the lighting you can expand the space and avoid those murky shadows. You might layer the lighting with accent lamps, task lighting (for reading) and ambient lighting for the whole room. Also, you could bring in color with paint that has a Light Reflective Value greater than 55. It helps lighten the space and avoids a "gray" look.