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Ways to bring light to a dark living room

From major to minor, there are lots of ways to improve light in a dark room. A two-pronged approach is best: think firstly about how to maximise the amount of light coming into the room – this may involve structural alterations, internally or externally; then think in terms of how to reflect and multiply this light within the room. Here are 10 ideas, of varying scales, to consider on your mission to make the most of your dark living room.

Bring the outside in

Enlarging the window, no matter what its orientation, will maximise the amount of light that enters the room. From the most dramatic solution of replacing the wall with full-length glazed doors, to easier tricks, such as lowering the height of the windowsill, increasing the area of glass will enhance the flow of both light and space in the room.

The materials and colours you choose for your outside space can also play a significant part in your mission to increase light in your living space. For instance, the white furniture and fencing and the tall mirror in this courtyard garden all help to boost the light.

Contemporary and stylish garden flat in Fulham.

Photo by Veronica Rodriguez Interior Photography - Look for contemporary living room design inspiration 

Borrow light

Avoid the dreaded “inner room” when adding a rear extension by emphatically linking the existing back room with the new. Roof lights in the extension can bounce light directly back into the space, creating a sociable area with muted but pleasant light.

Glazed double doors to the front room would boost the effect, allowing the middle room to borrow light from two sides.


Phoot by Ambient Architecture - Browse traditional family and games room ideas 


Keep it simple

Choose simple pieces of furniture to keep the room light in both look and feel. Space and light are inextricably linked: the better each flows, the more airy the room will seem.
Heath Cottage Contemporary refurbishment living area

Photo by Brown + Brown Architects - Look for Scandinavian living room pictures


Open up from above
In the case of a top-floor space or a room in a single-storey property, strategically placed roof windows will bring in good-quality light and, hopefully, plenty of sunshine.

Browse 10 types of wall light that won’t need wiring in.

Photo by ALL & NXTHING - More eclectic living room photos


Dress your windows with care
Keep window frames and window dressings light to ensure maximum quantities of light enter the room at source. Roller blinds offer a simple and effective window covering solution for any dark room: use pull-up blinds for privacy if needed. When adding curtains for texture or warmth, position the tracks so the curtains sit fully clear of the window when drawn back.
Killiney house

Photo by Optimise Design - Look for contemporary living room design inspiration 

Max out on white
For the most seriously light-challenged room, the more white you can add – to all surfaces and finishes – the better. Choose wall colours from the array of warm, off-white paint shades available to keep it cosy (cool or brilliant white can make a dark space feel dingier). Consider the room a light-reflecting blank canvas: add colour to taste with cushions, rugs and accessories. 

Sacrifice a solid wall
Where space and light are limited, combining adjacent spaces, such as a front living room and entrance hall, can yield dramatic results. A more low-key solution is to swap the solid door between the hall and living room for a clear or frosted glass one.
Leeson Park

Photo by ODKM Architects - More contemporary living room ideas 


Come to an arrangement
The way in which you arrange furniture in a room is key to optimising the flow of light and space. Try to position large pieces away from the window so light isn’t blocked. Even if the furniture wouldn’t obstruct any part of the window, by sitting it underneath your main light source, it will generally be in shadow, and the effect of this – especially with major pieces of furniture – is not insignificant.
CM14 Apartment
Photo by Owl Design - Discover contemporary living room design ideas


Accessorise reflectively

Choose pieces that will shine out. A single white cushion on a dark sofa in a dark room, for instance, will reflect light, so maximise this effect with pale and light-reflecting pieces. Cushions, rugs, throws, art and furniture can all be essential elements in your battle to brighten your living room.

Discover light and bright rugs.

Photo by Details by M. - Discover Scandinavian living room design ideas


Polish up

Polished surfaces also reflect light brilliantly. An oversized mirror will work hard in a dark room, amplifying the sense of both space and light, but other shiny surfaces, such as a glossy coffee table, will also help. And polished windows are a must!

Browse a range of mirrors for your living room.
Mezzanine Apartment in Edinburgh

Photo by Dog + Fox - Look for contemporary living room pictures


Eva Byrne, Houzz Contributor

About our expert View all posts by this expert

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