Ideas for Making a Dark (or Totally Windowless) Room Less Depressing

published Mar 14, 2016
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(Image credit: Samara Vise)

Good light can make or break a space, and unfortunately natural lighting is probably the one thing about a room that’s hardest to change. So when you’re faced with a space that has very few windows (or none at all), how do you cope? We’ve got some ideas.

Multiply the light you do have.
If you have a window, use translucent shades or sheer curtains for privacy, instead of blocking it with heavy window treatments. Using mirrors can help amplify light from small windows, or even bounce light from lighted rooms into very dark ones.

Pay attention to your (artifical) lighting.
Lighting makes a huge difference in any space, and there’s special pressure on the lighting in a windowless space, where all of the illumination comes from artificial sources. Look for bulbs that are daylight-balanced and won’t lend a light that’s too cold (everything in the room is a bit bluish) or too warm (which will make everything in the room an unnatural yellow). And opt for lamps with shades that diffuse light through the room (say, paper or ceramic ones as opposed to metal) to keep the light from feeling too harsh.

Avoid white.
The conventional wisdom is that white makes small spaces look larger, but this can backfire in small, windowless rooms. White almost always has an undertone to it, and it can appear sickly yellow or green in a space with artificial lighting. For a calming neutral, try a pale, subtle grey instead. (Of course, always do a swatch test on your walls first, because grey can also be a bit of a surprise).

Embrace bright colors.
Big, saturated colors can bring a lot of life to a small space, although we recommend using them in smaller doses to avoid a garish, cartoon-like feel. Try adding a bright rug, some pillows, or a little colorful artwork to give a dark room new life.

Bring in a little nature.
Bringing in a little bit of the outside world is nice in any space, but especially nice in dark or windowless spaces, which can have a close, claustrophobic feel. Consider botanical prints or even plants, some of which can really thrive in low-light situations.