Designer Tricks to Make a Dark Room Look Significantly Brighter

Photo: c/o Sasha Berlin / Daniel D'Ottavio Photography

Windows provide a source of natural light, release constriction, and enlarge an otherwise small space. Still, most of the time we take them for granted. That is, until we enter a room with poor natural lighting or one that lacks windows altogether. Whether you are living in an apartment with a reconfigured bedroom or you’re looking to utilize the basement in your house, sometimes sunlight just isn’t an option. So, we asked interior designer Sasha Berlin of the eponymous design company in New York for simple yet surefire ways to brighten up a dark room. In her own New York City apartment, her son’s room is one without a portal to the outside world, proving she practices what she preaches when it comes to design.

Photo: C/O Daniel D'Ottavio Photography via Sasha Berlin Designs

Use colors and textures and patterns, oh my!

Berlin’s first tip is to be strategic with the use of these three elements. She says you should limit bold colors to accessories only, though, to prevent a look that is too fussy. “It’s important to focus on the essential design elements,” she says. “Make sure you use a couple of elements with color throughout and keep your walls light and bright.”

If you aren’t a fan of stark white walls, Berlin suggests Benjamin Moore’s Stonington Gray. “It’s going to look like a white [as long as it’s not paired next to a white molding], but it’s got depth and color.” Also nice? According to Berlin, there is no wrong interior lighting to use when it comes to complementing this shade.

Further enhance the space with some texture and pattern. She recommends using a strong texture on a larger, singular item, like a basket or rug. And when it comes to patterns, be sure to find balance: “Use a bold pattern in one place and a smaller one in another—think about it in terms of the way you dress,” she says.

Her favorite thing about her son’s nursery (shown above) is the rug. The smaller pattern balances the busier one on the wallpaper, and the colors (gray and back) are conducive to an easy transition when he gets older.

Photo: C/O Daniel D'Ottavio Photography via Sasha Berlin Designs

Work with what you’ve got

The interior decorator says to shine light (pun intended) on the positives of the room rather than try to hide what you consider to be negative. “At all costs, don’t try to fake a window with curtains,” she says. “Highlight the high ceilings with an accent wall, or create an intimate reading nook in a corner with the perfect rocker, lamp, and throw.” She adds, “Choose one standout furniture piece that commands attention like a brightly colored chair, or an oversized ottoman in a bold print.”

Photo: c/o Sasha Berlin / Daniel D'Ottavio Photography

Light it up

Layering is key when it comes to installing light in dark rooms. Berlin says to use at least three sources of light: overhead lighting, floor lamps, and table lamps or wall sconces. She also suggests using dimmers wherever you can: “It’s not about making the room as bright as possible as much as [it is about] creating a mood and eliminating strong shadows and dark corners.”

When it comes to the light bulbs, Berlin recommends “daylight” blues for overhead lighting in conjunction with warm white lights, which are more flattering bulbs for lamps that are at eye-level.