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.

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

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? 50BB 63/094 or 30BB 63/097

A sunny hue can brighten and warm a dark, dingy space: don't be afraid to use light terracotta or yellows
Use sunny colours

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? 37YY 78/312 or 70RR 74/059.

Avoid any dark colour on the ceiling - white is always a safe choice, but you could also go for other pale tones
Paint your surfaces pale tones

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? 70GY 83/060 or 90RR 83/009.

Opting for a paint with a glossy finish is a great way to reflect light back into the space - plaster pinks tones work particularly well
Use gloss to reflect light

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? 06RB 76/056 or ICI Dulux Gloss Enamel 69RB 70/114.

Paint architraves, skirting boards and any other mouldings in light, reflective colours, perhaps in a subtly contrasting tone to the colour on the walls.
Create a contrast using paint

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? 90RB 74/044 or 30BB 47/179.

Top tip

For maximum effect, choose a paint from the ICI Dulux Light + Space range, which reflects light back into the room to make it feel even airier.

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