10 Things to Make a Dark Apartment Feel Brighter

published Sep 4, 2018
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(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

While dealing with a tiny apartment can be trying, there’s something that’s possibly even more frustrating: dealing with a dark apartment. I’m lucky enough that my little studio apartment has two big, glorious windows (and two smaller ones, which I am also grateful for), but I’m still very aware that, particularly in a space this size, it’s important to maximize the light you have. Here are a few things that make my apartment look bright, uncluttered, and a lot bigger than 250 square feet.

(Image credit: Connox)

Read any article about maximizing light in small spaces and you’re likely to see the same suggestion: mirrors. A mirror is like a piece of art that also makes the room look bigger and brighter — a win-win. After seeing it in countless design blogs and aching with envy every time, I finally pulled the trigger on this colorful round mirror by Petite Friture. It was a little bit of a splurge, but it’s one of my favorite things in my apartment. It hangs on the wall and reflects the whole space, and also adds a bit of color. too. Francis Wall Mirror, $493 from Connox.

(Image credit: Overstock)

For a more budget-friendly option, there’s this round mirror with a black and gold frame, which at 30″ in diameter is quite large. Holly & Martin Wais Round Wall Mirror, $138.99 from Overstock.

(Image credit: Amazon)

I actually have two mirrors in my apartment — besides brightening up the space, a floor mirror is also a great way to check your look before you go out into the world. The minimal design of this one means it’s useful but also inobtrusive. Adesso Alice Floor Mirror, $103.95 from Amazon.

(Image credit: Urban Outfitters)

I love the idea of a storage mirror — this one would be great in the entry of a smaller apartment that lacks a coat closet. Leni Leaning Mirror, $139 from Urban Outfitters.

(Image credit: Food52)

Mirrors aren’t the only thing that brighten up a space — I find that a few shiny accents contribute quite a bit. I have a bras tray that sits on top of a stack of books — it adds a little shine to my space, and provides a convenient spot to corral odds and ends. Round brass tray, starting at $50 from Food52.

(Image credit: Urban Outfitters)

Here’s another bright accent that I find particularly clever — it’s a way to add storage and a little bit of shine, too. A group of three of four in a corner, or just one over a door, could be very nice. Kiki Metal Corner Shelf, $39 from Urban Outfitters.

(Image credit: The Container Store)

Speaking of shelves! One of the best purchases I’ve made for my little apartment is my Elfa shelves, which hang in the space over my desk and hold my book collection and my record player. One of my favorite small space secrets, one I’ve learned from Maxwell, is to swap freestanding bookcases for wall mounted shelves. Bookcases tend to be clunky and heavy-looking and visually clutter up a space, while wall-mounted shelves look much lighter, and you can hang them practically anywhere. Read more about Elfa at The Container Store‘s website: you can also pop into the store and have them customize some for your space.

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

Before I secured the tiny studio apartment of my dreams, I looked at a whole lot (I’m telling you, a whole whole lot) of depressing, poorly lit apartments made even more depressing and poorly lit by the sickening shade of yellowy-white on their walls. My apartment, fortunately, is just plain white. Were it not, I would be tempted to paint it in Benjamin Moore’s Simply White, the architect’s choice for a white that looks, well, just plain old white.

(Image credit: Design Within Reach)

Finnish architect Eero Saarinen once said, about the design of his elegant and space age-y Tulip Chair, that he wanted to “clear up the slum of legs”. His pedestal-based Tulip Table is similarly elegant: I have the side table version, which serves as my beside table and seems light as air. (Ok, full disclosure: I have a knock-off, because I spent all my money on the mirror.) Saarinen Side Table, starting at $775 from Design Within Reach.

(Image credit: IKEA)

This is a bit on the literal side, but another thing that will make your apartment look brighter is lamps. During the day, you probably have a lot of different lighting needs, and a single overhead light is not going to cut it. This IKEA lamp mounts to the wall above my bed, saving space on my nightstand: it’s great for reading in bed, or just for brightening up my apartment when it starts to get a little dreary. RANARP wall/clamp spotlight, $19.99 from IKEA.