Natural light can make even the dreariest, windowless rooms look bigger, brighter, and more inviting.
But when a tight budget (and strict lease guidelines) prevent you from having roof lights, it’s easy to settle on the classic blinding bulb/bare wall combo.
Don’t settle for drab, especially when chic is still an option!
These five strategies can lure natural light into your house or apartment — all without breaking the bank, bulldozing a wall, or sacrificing your security deposit.
Let in the Light (By Going Light)
Those shady north-facing windows might only allow light into your home for a few hours a day. But infusing other, lighter elements elsewhere can add a little extra faux brightness.
It all starts with a fresh coat of paint and some new furniture stylings.
White Ceilings and Pastel Walls
Nothing rids “doom and gloom” quite like a plain white ceiling.
White eggshell paint conceals unsightly overhead blemishes (i.e., water stains), but it can also add a peacefully reflective glimmer and create a larger feel on sunnier days.
As far as the walls go, these colors notoriously deliver:
- Cool pastels (lavender, baby blue, mint)
- Light gray (hello cozy!)
- Bright, bright, bright (tangerine, lemon, chartreuse)
Experiment with a color wheel to help you envision various bright or calm shades to complement your furniture selection.
Any added shine makes a difference!
Furniture, Rugs, and Decor
Dark exposed beams and bamboo floors are your home’s defining aesthetic elements. But adding brightness means finding a tolerable balance between light and dark.
Pair dark floors with a large, bright area rug, or toss a light-gray slipcover on your normally black sofa.
Infuse colorful modern artwork into your gallery wall, or gather artificial light quickly with a table lamp on every surface.
Lighten anything that’s overwhelmingly dark.
When in Doubt, Go Reflective
Mirrors aren’t just for teeth-brushing, hair-combing, face-making morning routines. These reflective elixirs also redistribute light to where it doesn’t usually venture:
Down that creepy, dark hallway.
From edge to edge in a dull dining room.
Even in a windowless spare bedroom.
Here’s the quick fix that many homeowners often forget:
How to Use Mirrors to Make a Room Brighter
A poorly hung mirror won’t miraculously brighten a room with natural sunlight. To best reflect this shimmer from corner to corner:
- Position a large, frameless mirror across from a bright window.
- Hang a gallery wall of small mirrors in your dining room or stairwell.
- Learn your angles (does the sun hit just right at 4 p.m.?).
- Install mirrors behind all tables, chests, beds, and bureaus.
One mirror can double the sunlight on even the gloomiest days. Reflecting light can take on any surface — mirror-like vases, glossy ceramic lamps, reflective backsplash tiles, and well-polished metal frames.
Windex, a Lint-Free Cloth, and a Little Elbow Grease
Does it seem like your windows are letting less and less light through with each passing year?
No, the sun didn’t reposition or weaken its rays while you were away. Nor did the city re-angle your entire home at the last board meeting.
Dirt and smudges are the shine-stealing thieves!
Why Dirty Windows Steal the Shine
Every rainstorm, dusty breeze, lawn-mowing session, and sunny afternoon will complicate your light-capturing goals.
As debris, dirt, dust, and oil settle onto your glass windows, these near-invisible specks block out the sun’s rays and deliver a grimy, wince-worthy theme.
Deep-Cleaning Your Windows
Perhaps the quickest path to natural light is a house-wide window cleaning.
Gather clean microfiber cloths, Windex, a squeegee (for a streak-free shine), and some elbow grease to welcome the light back inside!
Be sure to gently wipe each side of the window and only buff the areas with visible stains or leftover residue.
A Little Outdoor Trimming
Sometimes, it’s not microscopic dirt specks stealing your beloved sunlight. It’s an unkempt bush, long weeds, climbing vines, or a long-abandoned window planter.
Trim your outdoor foliage to clear away each window, allowing the most amount of natural light to enter.
Fake It ‘Til You Make It (Attract Artificial Light)
Apartments, townhouses, and condos are notoriously “land-locked,” at least in the natural light department.
Windows are far and few between.
And even on the sunniest July afternoons, your home office feels (and looks) more like a dreary December night.
Design snobs might prefer a picture window (wouldn’t we all?), but full-spectrum light bulbs can mimic that joyous and radiant daylight sun with one twist of a bulb.
Replace all of your bright, high-wattage bulbs to achieve that cozy warmth year-round. It’s almost as good as a sunny window!
Ditch the Window Coverings Altogether
Oriental curtains, sheer drapes, and bamboo blinds are fine artistic elements that can capture that coveted warm style.
Yet, when these window coverings block your natural light, you find yourself wondering, “Do I really need these window treatments?”
It might sound like the granddaddy of all interior design faux pas …
Drapes and blinds provide comforting privacy in the bedroom, bathroom, and entryway after nightfall.
Elsewhere, they’re among the worst dust-collecting, care-requiring, light-blocking culprits. If you rarely shut them, feel free to uninstall them entirely.
While natural light can make an apartment feel more welcoming, be cautious about how you introduce this theory. Too much lightening and brightening can:
- Drain radiance and warmth from a once inviting room.
- Take on a doctor’s office, library, or meeting room vibe.
- Attract an almost blinding amount of light, glare, and distortion.
- Fade your favorite artwork, pastel cushions, or Oriental rug.
Don’t escape the dim and drab by falling into the other extreme. If you have to ask, “Is the room too bright now?” you’ve probably gone a step too far.
Take it easy with the renovations — make one subtle change at a time!
Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with Grove at Ames to help them with their online marketing.