Room To Improve

6 Expert-Approved Tips To Make A Dark Room Instantly Look Brighter

Fairy lights and mirrors galore.

Jaki Portolese/Stocksy

Sun-soaked rooms can feel and look significantly more spacious than places without much light. Plus, a brighter living area can sometimes even translate into a brighter mood. Windows might be at the top of your checklist so you can have picturesque lighting across your apartment but if you’re already settled into a space that doesn’t get much outside light shining through, there are endless ways to cheer up your shadowy quarters. To accomplish a luminous feel without much existing natural light, turn to cascading fairy lights, lit-up cabinets, and neutral-colored furniture as some solutions to transform your apartment.

When it comes to lighting, Marissa Pellegrini, an Illinois-based interior designer and home decor consultant with a loyal following of over 127,000 on TikTok (where she’s known as @barelykeepingittogether), is a firm believer in mirrors, dreamy drapery, and added light fixtures wherever you can fit them. You’ll also want to prepare yourself for some internet browsing and a quick trip to the store for batteries. Below, find tips from Pellegrini, along with other experts, for adding some much-needed light to your space that are renter-friendly.

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Implement Overhead Lighting

“In dark spaces, having a lighting scheme is powerful. If your apartment has overhead lighting, great,” Pellegrini tells Bustle. “You should also add lamps and maybe even LED strip lights to give yourself options to play with light.” This can be anything from enhancing the inside of your cabinets and countertops with adhesive strip lighting to shining dramatic beams over your artwork and kitchen island for an ultra-luxe effect.

Install Sheer Window Treatments

Window treatments are another way to make mindful purchases for your dark apartment since you’re going to the light source itself. These can be anything from custom blinds to extravagant drapes — and there are ways to use both to your advantage when it comes to curating a sunnier space.

“I always make sure clients use drapery (even on small windows) that goes floor to ceiling in a light color. This will help elongate the space by drawing the eye upward and even giving the illusion of a bigger window,” Pellegrini says. “Sheers are great because they won't block any natural light you are getting in your space.”

Decorate With Light-Colored Area Rugs

Even though it’s at ground level, flooring must also be taken into account when brainstorming ways to wake up your space. As Pellegrini says, “Don't select a dark floor covering. Opt for an area rug or flooring that goes with your light and bright theme.” If you have a say in the color of your flooring, going for pale wood tones is recommended. Either way, softer-colored rugs make for an airier feel when you walk into a room. Combine that with afternoon sunshine coming through the window and you’re set.

Prop Statement Mirrors Close To Light Sources

For superb decor and practical outfit-checking purposes, statement mirrors are a must. “Ideally, placing a mirror across from a window will help bounce more light around the space. You could even play with mirrored furniture like a coffee table,” Pellegrini tells Bustle. Plus, you can mix it up from traditional rectangular mirrors by going for an arched mirror or a round wall number for your vanity.

Add Extra Warmth With Fairy Lights & Lamps

Oregon-based professional organizers Stetson Sundin and Margaret Sundin-McCann of Everything Envy, an organizing service, are in full support of leveling up on additional lighting throughout your home. The mother-daughter duo suggests illuminating unexpected surfaces to achieve a high-end look. This can be done with anything from the aforementioned overhead lights to other add-ons like floor lamps and cozy fairy lights.

Opt For Neutral Furniture & Pillows

For an overall radiant space, the Everything Envy experts suggest going for light neutrals when selecting furniture and pillow covers. No matter how overcast your place may be, light beiges and creams go a long way in creating a clean feel. Plus, they’re the foundation of a room (aside from rugs) and will automatically set the tone for how lively your space looks.


Marissa Pellegrini, interior designer and owner of Barely Keeping It Together design services

Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2013). Sunshine, serotonin, and skin: a partial explanation for seasonal patterns in psychopathology?. Innovations in clinical neuroscience, 10(7-8), 20–24.

Stetson Sundin & Margaret Sundin-McCann, professional organizers and CEOs of organizing company Everything Envy