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While design tastes can differ dramatically, most people would agree that they want their spaces to feel bright and open. Even when choosing dark room themes (like the still-trending black walls), balancing light and dark is key. No one wants to spend time in a space that feels dim and oppressive. But if you’re in a home or apartment with a space that doesn’t have your desired level of light, what do you do? Fortunately, there are some easy ways to brighten a dark room.

We polled our Freshome team to come up with the best, simplest ways to make even the smallest, most poorly lit spaces feel bright. Using these tips can help small spaces feel larger, dim rooms feel more energized and, ultimately, dark rooms feel brighter.

Isn’t it amazing how much the bright pops of yellow help this otherwise dark space feel bright and cheerful? Image: Halfdark/Getty Images

Choose color wisely

It should come as no surprise that our Freshome staff said color is absolutely critical when you want to brighten a dark room. Yes, that can mean painting your walls. But if you’re in a rental (or just don’t want to deal with the hassle of tarping and masking tape), you can use color on large-scale artwork, rugs, decor pieces, throws and more.

Which colors are best? When polled, Freshome’s staff recommended these hues to help brighten a dark room:

Clearly, you’ve got some options. Finding the right color to brighten your specific dark room can come down to playing with the space. Try accent pillows and throws in different colors before you invest in larger pieces or go through the hassle of painting.

Solid-colored bedding and light artwork give the space breathing room and lightness. Image: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images

Leave space

In design school, people learn about the concept of negative space, or white space. This is usually the empty space around a focal object, or portions of a design left intentionally blank. The seemingly empty space isn’t empty of purpose, though. Negative space gives your eye a place to rest, letting you catch your visual breath, so to speak.

When you want to brighten a dark room, don’t forget to leave negative space. This opens up a room, helping it feel bigger and brighter. Think through rooms that feel the darkest and most overwhelming. They’re usually filled with clutter. Even a small, dimly lit space can feel brighter and larger by simply moving some furniture out and opening up some space on the walls.

A mirror bounces light around the space, helping it feel significantly brighter. Image: Vostok/Getty Images

Add mirrors

When you’re fighting for additional light, mirrors are an amazing ally. Their reflective properties extend the life of light waves in the room, helping you get more bang for your buck for every light source in the room. Try it! Position a mirror behind or directly across from a light source. You’ll be amazed how much brighter and more open the space will feel simply because the mirror bounces light around the room.

If you think mirrors are a boring addition to your room, think again. We’ve got a handy guide on how to use mirrors as a memorable design element.

A large expanse of grey wall could make the space feel overwhelmed and dark. Instead, light-colored furniture elevated on legs and paired with light artwork balance it out. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

Find the right furniture

When you want to make a space feel like it has more light, consider the lightness of your furniture. Dark, low-to-the-ground furniture feels heavy. Too much of it can feel like it sucks the brightness from the room. To brighten a dark room, opt for lighter colored, more lightweight looking pieces.

The Everett Sofa from West Elm is a prime example. It comes in a number of lightly colored woven textures that can help to open up any space. But the fabrics have enough texture to be forgiving if someone happens to spill. Plus, because it’s elevated on legs, it helps your space feel airier and more open.

Get creative with your lighting. A unique light installation above the couch brightens this narrow, otherwise dark room. Image: Richman21/Shutterstock

Add lighting

No duh, right? But if you’re trying to brighten a dark room, it’s time to get creative with your lighting. In small spaces, don’t be afraid to hang lights from the ceiling or mount them to the wall. Pendant lights aren’t just for the kitchen! Clear space from accent tables for lamps. Tuck a floor lamp behind a sofa. Even the most compact rooms have space for lighting. In fact, adding a sufficient amount of light will actually make the room feel larger, so it’s worth any sacrifices in space you have to make.

Do you have any rooms in your home or apartment that feel dark or dreary? Which tips do you think are best to brighten a dark room? Let us know in the comments!