How to get more light into a dark room

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Dark sunless rooms -- such as those that face north or have small windows that don’t let in adequate light -- can cast a pall on your spirits as well, particularly when it’s raining outside. Such rooms are a decorating challenge, but with a little strategic planning and careful use of colours, you can bring some sunshine back into your life and your living space.

Choose pale and pastel paint colours. Pastels and neutral colours, which include white, cream and stone, reflect light, helping to bounce it around a dark room. Opt for glossier paints with a light-reflective silk finish rather than light-absorbent mattes. Pastels like pale blues and lilacs work well, but avoid paints with a grey or green base if you are decorating a north-facing room, because these will make the room look colder.

Replace heavy dark curtains with light-diffusing voile panels, muslin drapes or blinds in pastel or neutral colours -- roller blinds are a good practical choice because you can easily pull them up during the day to let in maximum sunlight.

Create a bright open plan look by replacing solid wooden doors with translucent glass ones, or install glass panels on existing doors.

Install a large mirror opposite the window to create a decorative focal point and distribute light around the room. You can enhance the effect by positioning a light nearby – directional spotlights and uplighters work well because they help to diffuse light.

Fit wooden or laminate floorboards or tiles with a glossy finish; this will distribute light around the room. Carpets are cosy but they absorb light; you can compromise and keep your feet warm with a cheerful rug in bright, sunny colours.

Banish chunky dark furniture and replace it with reflective glass tables and paler pine or oak furniture with clean lines. Painting furniture in neutral colours will also help bring more light into your room.

Add another window. Skylight or glass roof panels are another option if your room is on an upper floor or you live in a bungalow. Consult an architect and check with your local council whether you need planning permission before carrying out any structural alternations, to avoid costly mistakes.

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