These clever tricks banish dim interiors and dark corners, and usher natural light into the house.
Most homes have a few gloomy rooms and nooks, but you don’t have to stay in the dark. To illuminate a poorly lit home without flicking a single light switch, use a combination of these bright ideas to enjoy an improved result that’s like the difference between night and day.
Choose glass-paneled doors. One of the most effective ways to let natural light flood into your home is to use glass-paneled doors. Installing a new window or increasing its size usually requires a permit, but this may not be the case when replacing exterior doors. Whether you like the bold lines of these steel-framed doors or prefer the traditional French doors in the next photo, there is a design to suit every palette and position, both inside and out.
Tip: If privacy is a concern, opt for frosted glass.
Use transom and sidelight windows. This Sydney home uses a sophisticated series of interior French doors to borrow light from adjacent rooms. Designed by Luigi Rosselli Architects and Decus Interiors, the transom windows (which crown the tops of the French doors) and the sidelight windows (which flank the opening) more than double the aperture and maximize the amount of light that travels from room to room.
Sidelights, transomsand fanlights (which also sit above doorways and are arched or elliptical) can usually be retrofitted with relative ease.
Adopt glass backsplashes. Can’t afford to lose valuable cabinet space by replacing your wall-mounted kitchen cabinets with a window? Try using a window for your backsplash instead, as Rudolfsson Alliker Associates Architects did in this residence in Sydney. Natural light will illuminate your countertops and provide important task lighting for cooking. Window backsplashes are possible when your kitchen butts up against an exterior wall. If yours runs along an interior wall, try using a mirrored backsplash instead.
Install clerestory windows. We can’t always puncture a wall with a window at eye level, but clerestory windows can be equally effective in brightening up interiors. Clerestory windows sit high in your wall, as shown in this house in Melbourne, Australia, and because they are positioned above your sightline, they rarely compromise your privacy. They are also especially effective in letting light into dim, excavated rooms.
Select white paint that has a sheen. If you’ve asked anyone how to brighten up a dark home, chances are you’ve already been told to paint your walls white and banish dark furnishings. While this is the first trick in the book, the glossier the paint is, the better it will diffuse light throughout your home. So opt for a satin finish on walls and use gloss or semigloss paint for the trim.
Just note that paints with a medium to high sheen highlight every inconsistency, so make sure that you plaster, sand and prime surfaces well before painting — or call in a professional.
Tip: Reflective tiles and metallic wallpaper have a similar effect.
Embrace glossy floors. We rarely consider treating our floors to lighten a room, though high-gloss floors are brilliant at bouncing light around. It may be as straightforward as sanding back your floorboards and polishing them with a glossy finish, or you may prefer to employ a more drastic treatment and use high-sheen white floor paint or epoxy, as used in this industrial Montreal penthouse.
Install a tubular daylighting device. These ingenious inventions go by many names —tubular daylighting devices, solar tubes, sun tunnels, tubular skylights. Most capture sunlight through a small dome on your roof and funnel it down a reflective tube and through a skylight-like opening in your ceiling, which diffuses light throughout the room.
These devices amplify natural light, do not cause homes to heat up and in some cases are capable of capturing solar energy to light rooms at night. Most can even be installed in rooms with no direct roof access, using angled reflective tubing to channel light into hard-to-reach spaces.