When living areas are dark, they tend to feel closed-in and gloomy, which makes people seek the sunnier, visually warmer spots in a home. But even if a living room is north-facing or has small windows, there are some simple design tricks to bring in light and make the space feel brighter and more spacious.
Get rid of heavy drapes or window treatments, for starters. Dim living rooms benefit from minimal window treatments, like sheer white roller blinds that provide privacy but let in lots of light. Avoid visually heavy curtains, instead opting for light airy fabrics, and consider installing the curtain rod near the ceiling line and buying longer panels that go to the floor, to create height and drama in the space.
Another indispensable curtain-hanging trick that makes windows seem larger and prevents window treatments from blocking precious light, is to buy rods that extend past the windows by at least 6” and more optimally 12,” on either side of the casing. This way when the curtain panels are parted, virtually none of the window is obscured and all of the natural light can illuminate the room.
It should go without saying, but color in dim spaces is everything. Using warm creamy whites or other pale colors that reflect light can help brighten a space, literally and figuratively. Dark or dramatic wall colors can close a space in. Layering different whites for the trim paint, wall paint, and window treatments can still feel warm, as can light-colored rugs or floor finishes. White furniture can also visually free up a dim space, but might not work for all households, unless you use washable slipcovers for the upholstered pieces.
Treating a dark living area with reflective accessories that throw light around is another way to brighten the space and keep the white finishes from feeling sterile. Mirrors mounted on the wall opposite windows reflect all that natural light back into the room, and glass or metal occasional pieces like side tables also add some shine. Consider mirrored frames for artwork or photographs on display.
Finally, brightening up a dim space can be done most simply by changing out all the light bulbs in a room to daylight LEDs, and adding more occasional lighting like table or floor lamps. Table lamps create warmth, especially if they have warm metal/brass tones or glass bases, and should not be undervalued even in a space with overhead lighting.