BuildDirect Blog: Life at Home

8 Easy Ways to Brighten A Room

Light is something we often take for granted.  Yet, it has such an effect on the way a space looks, and how we feel when we are in it.  As we’ve discovered, light makes people feel at ease.  Light and higher productivity has even been connected in workplaces.  Light just seems to say ‘Welcome. You belong here. Come on in!’.

There’s just something about good lighting, and with brightness that  human beings need beyond just the Vitamin D.  So, it makes sense to try and get as much of it, or the appearance of it, in our homes and workplaces.  With that in mind, how do we make a room brighter, or even make it seem brighter if it’s location doesn’t allow for a lot of natural light to come into it?

Well, it’s a question that provoked my scouring of the Internet once again to find out what some of the experts are saying about the matter of light, brightness, and how it can often  give an interior that welcoming feeling that is central to all good interior design, no matter what the style or approach.

So before you knock down a wall and turn your room into a solarium, or knock out your ceiling for a skylight, let’s take a look at 8 easy and more cost-effective ways you can ‘let there be light’  in your spaces without undue expense, or bother.  Here they are.

1. Place lamps  and other light sources strategically
You’ve got lamps to warm up a room, particularly in rooms that may not have a lot of natural light coming in for whatever reason. But, are those lamps placed correctly?  Think about how many lamps you need relative to how big the space actually is.  A light source for every 10′ or so is recommended to avoid too many shadows.  Place your lamps accordingly, with uniform height to each lamp.  Choose your shade types well, too. Lighter-colored, semi-opaque shades will enable more light diffusion which will maximize the effect.  Thanks to (@Real_Simple on Twitter)

2. Choose the right bulbs
There are a number of bulbs to choose from, including incandescent, flourescent, LED, and others.  Popular choices today in getting the right lighting effects, and gaining energy efficiency while you’re at it, is to choose an energy-efficient CFL (compact flourescent light) bulb.  Among your choices, it makes sense to think about which kind of CFLwill render light to mimic daylight in a room you’re looking to brighten up.  Thanks to (@energystar on Twitter)

3. Choose the right window treatments
Maybe the window nearest your space is quite a generous size.  But, the wrong window treatment can mute the natural light that it would allow.   When choosing a window treatment, strike a balance between how much your treatment can minimize humidity in your space, maintain your privacy, and maximize how much natural light is allowed to filter in.  Look at this selection of 10 top window treatments to help you start thinking about what makes sense for your space. Thanks to HGTV, who you should follow on Twitter.

4. Choose light colors for walls, floors, ceilings, doors, furniture
You’ll often hear that light colors can make a space look bigger as well as brighter.  One of the reasons for both is that pale colors reflect light rather than absorb it.  This creates not only the illusion of more space, but a brighter room just by the reflection of light as it is cast upon surfaces within that room.  It’s science at work!  Thanks to

5. Place furniture according to light-flow
Eye-flow, when it comes to where your furniture is placed, is related to light-flow, too.  Your eye is going to be drawn to where the light is most reflected.  Make sure that your furniture is placed in such as way as to not interrupt that flow.  Thanks to

6. Choose brightly colored, or brightly-themed Artwork
When you’ve got less natural light than you’d like in a room, sometimes choosing an image that depicts bright colors or a bright scene, like a sunny landscape, can help make up the difference.  In some ways, the appearance of light is enough to get you that welcoming feeling that real natural light allows.  And great artwork that resonates with you on other levels can help you get there.  It also adds character to a room, too. Thanks to (‘like’ on Facebook).

7. Mirrors and other reflective services
This doesn’t mean turning the room into a 70s to 80s bachelor pad.  But, it does mean the inclusion of surfaces off of which natural light can play.  This means choosing all kinds of surfaces, including mirrors but not necessarily huge ostentatious ones, to supplement what you’ve already got placed in the room.  The effects can be subtle.  But, many of those kinds of effects are often the ones that make the biggest difference.  Thanks to Digs Magazine.

8. Embrace Minimalism
Right. I am not going to say “less is more”.  That would be cliché.  But, there is a reason, often, why ideas become clichés.  And jumping off from the furniture placement point above, the less you have in a room, the more light and less shadow there’s going to be.  Take a look at for more ideas on how you can incorporate minimalist design in making a brighter, and more calming and comfortable space for yourself.  Thanks to Zen_Habits who you should follow on Twitter.

So, there you have it.  8 ways to bring a bit of brightness into your room, without having to spend a lot of money or time.  Have I missed something important?  Let me know in the comments section!



Rob Jones

Rob served as Editor-In-Chief of BuildDirect Blog: Life At Home from 2007-2016. He is a writer, Dad, content strategist, and music fan.


  1. Great post and very important topic, Rob.
    I would add that if you are in the process of major construction with walls, ceilings open or if you are about to be, spend the time and money adding overhead lighting (preferably recessed fixtures) or sconces. If you don’t want to open walls, just adding a dimmer is a great low cost improvement – saves energy and changes ambiance in a room.
    No matter how beautiful your space is, if it’s not well lit no one will be able to enjoy it!

  2. Thanks for your comments, Catherine. :-)

    You make a great point about planning ahead when in the middle of a major renovation. Since you’re completely re-doing a room anyway, why not think about the best ways to get natural light (or the semblance of it) into the space?

    Thanks again for comments!

  3. I am amazed how many times I walk into homes with great recessed lighting installed and I look up to see compact fluorescent spiral bulbs. Especially when the homeowner complains that the recessed lighting ‘doesn’t work’, because the room is so dark. Those recessed cans are not made to handle these bulbs. Switch to the bulbs made for the fixture! Full Spectrum R30s – you can get halogen if you would like to remain green, or else the smaller ones for 4″ or smaller housing. Recessed lighting really does work!

    If you aren’t sure, visit a lighting store, provide the size of your recessed housing and they will lead you to the correct bulbs for your fixture. but there is no reason recently installed recessed lighting ‘doesn’t work’.

  4. Roslyn – thanks! Awesome information, and a reminder that there are all kinds of work-arounds when it comes to proper lighting. Sometimes all it takes is a single conversation with an expert to open up the possibilities.

    Thanks again!

  5. I enjoy sunlight and would like a better window treatment. I have curtains now that are really dark, but they help in keeping my house cooler. How do I balance the two?

  6. Robert Salko Reply to Robert

    I like bright white ceilings with crown molding. On the windows white plantation shutters. On the walls put what ever color makes you feel bright. And agree with less is more concept .

  7. I love your designs, but I don’t think anything can help my living room. We live in darkness, the sun goes down in the west where our living room is. So we have to close the blinds or it reflects on the tv. We have no light on the ceiling the house is over 100 years old. I am sure you know older homes, lots of rooms that are very small.

  8. Joanne Rollins Reply to Joanne

    I wish I read this before I redid my dining room! I had a professional interior designer help me with my bedroom and my dining room but she didn’t tell me how dark it would look! I wanted an old venetian look, big heavy drapes and deep red walls… I got exactly what I wanted along with a dark room I didn’t want to use. I’m too cheap to remodel again and way too lazy to do all the work it take to repaint (it’s why I hired someone to begin with) so I found another easy fix. The thing’s called a heliostat and it just shines in more sunlight. Brightens up the whole room when I shine it on the ceiling :) might be a good fix for other people like me who lack time, money, and elbow grease.

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