How to make a dark space feel brighter

Brighten up a dark space using the transformative power of colour.

“I love my new home, but one of the rooms always seems a bit dingy. How can I make it feel lighter?”

Small windows, low ceilings, awkward angles – all of these can conspire to make a room feel darker than you would like. But choosing the right colours can have an instant positive effect on a room’s brightness.

Interior designer Henriette von Stockhausen of VSP Interiors shows you how to use colour to lighten up even the dingiest of spaces.

1) Keep things cool

Cooler colours help walls to recede, making the room feel more spacious and light. Go for pale shades of grey and blue for maximum lightening effect.

Which paints? Lavaliere Stone, Blue Silk

2) Inject a bit of sunshine

If it’s warmth you’re after, don't be afraid to use light terracotta or yellows – a sunny hue can brighten and warm a dark, dingy space. Just be careful not to clutter the room with brown furniture so the scheme doesn’t become overpowering.

Which paints? Falling Star, Pink Shore

3)Paint your ceilings pale

The aim is to make the room appear larger and lighter, so avoid any dark colour on the ceiling. White is always a safe choice, but you could also go for pale tones of other colours, from greens to golds.

Which paints? Tranquil, Pale Shadow

4) Reflect the light you have

In dark rooms you have to make the most of the little light you get. Opting for a paint with a glossy finish is a great way to reflect light back into the space, making it feel brighter. Plaster pink tones work particularly well for this.

Which paints? Violet Tinge, Shy Violet

5)Don’t forget the detail

Paint architraves, skirting boards and any other mouldings in light, reflective colours, perhaps in a subtly contrasting tone to the colour on the walls. This will give some structure to the room without detracting from its brightness.

Which paints? Yesterday, Virtuoso

Top tip

Shed some light on stubborn dark corners with a combination of light-painted or mirrored furniture and carefully placed lamps.

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