Spaces without windows are nothing out of the ordinary. Often it is the basement, bathroom, study room, home office, guest bedroom, den, converted cellar, or even the dressing room in some cases. Designing a light-starved or north-facing room can pose some challenges, but a room without windows certainly doesn’t have to lack brightness. A couple of clever decorating tips can be all you need to inject some soul into a dark room.
How to make a room brighter without windows? A reliable brightening strategy to apply in a room without windows is to use artificial lighting. Simply including multiple light fixtures in your space design isn’t enough, though – you must find the right type and placement. Another effective way to brighten a windowless room is to choose white (or a pale color at the very least) walls that will reflect the room’s artificial light to make your space look brighter and larger. Reflective surfaces are a clever trick you can use to make a dark room appear brighter. Mirrors are the most commonly used option – they are available in a variety of sizes, styles, and shapes to fit any spot in your room. An often overlooked brightening strategy is using natural elements such as greenery to compensate for a lack of natural light. With one or more potted plants, you can tastefully brighten a dark, dinghy room.
A room without windows doesn’t have to be dismissed as useless simply because it lacks adequate lighting. If you need some help making the most of such a space, here are some tips and tricks for transforming a dark, windowless room into a cozy, relaxing haven.
1. Use of artificial light
When it comes to using artificial light in a room without windows, it’s important to keep the following considerations in mind:
A. How much light do you need?
In a room that lacks natural light, you will need to supply as much artificial illumination as possible. That said, the exact amount of lighting you need will depend on several things, including the shape and size of the room, what space is being used for, and the kind of ambiance you intend to create.
You can work out the basic level of light (or lumens) you need by using a reliable formula; as a rule of thumb, a bedroom or living room will typically require about 10-20 lumens per square foot, while a kitchen or bathroom will need about 70-80 lumens. To calculate the level of light you need, multiply the square footage of the windowless room by this figure.
B. How can you layer light?
In addition to providing adequate overall light, it’s also important to keep in mind the type of light you’re using. Introducing a variety of light sources into a dark, windowless room can help brighten the space.
There are three main types of lighting:
- Ambient lighting – This is the overall level of light in a room, including the main light as well as lamps and other light sources.
- Task lighting – This refers to the stronger, more targeted lighting used for reading, cooking, etc.
- Accent lighting – Accent lighting is typically used to highlight the artwork, ornament, and architectural features found in space.
Combining these different types of lighting is commonly referred to as light layering, and is not only effective at providing plenty of practical light, but also creating a desired mood and ambiance.
When incorporating artificial lighting in a room with no windows, your main aim should be to maintain balance within the space. Try to avoid making some areas particularly bright at the expense of others, as this will only make dark corners more pronounced, which will in turn make the room feel smaller and more claustrophobic.
It’s particularly important to choose the right ambient lighting if you want to add a sense of brightness and airiness. In a windowless bedroom or living room, a large overhead fixture such as a sophisticated glass pendant light will help to capture attention, while a crystal or glass chandelier will provide a stunning focal point that will tastefully reflect light.
In addition to reflecting light downwards, many pendant light models are also designed to reflect some light upwards towards the ceiling, which helps to illuminate a wider area. In a windowless kitchen, a single prominent pendant, or a row of pendants if you prefer, can serve as a reliable source of task lighting when placed over a kitchen island.
In addition to your main overhead lighting, you can use lamps and wall lights to brighten your windowless room. Consider investing in a set of matching glass wall lights that will wash light across the wall as well as the ceiling, effectively emphasizing the space. Meanwhile, a tall, slim floor lamp or two and a couple of table lamps will provide practical task lighting, while also adding coziness and ambiance to alcoves and corners.
Consider adding accent lighting if there are some areas or features of the room that you want to highlight. Place spotlights, wall lights, and recessed lights between beams, in alcoves, behind furniture (such as behind a couch), or tucked next to a bookcase to make the light source more intriguing.
C. What types of light fittings can you use?
The material and style of light fittings you choose can also affect the sense of light and ambiance in a windowless room. To get the most out of the available light, choose to go for reflective metallic fittings in chrome, silver, or brass combined with blown glass or sheer shades. An alternative to this is to add a striking piece like a standalone LED filament light bulb.
D. What is the color temperature of your light bulbs?
The color temperature of your light bulbs is measured on the Kelvin scale; with cooler, bluish-white light that is closer to natural light found on the higher end of the scale while the warmer, yellow light which has a cozier, relaxing element to it is found lower down on the scale. Consider combining a cool daylight style bulb in your overhead light, with a warmer soft hue for your floor lamps and table lamps.
2. Use of mirrors
Mirrors are an effective way of adding light and depth to a dark space. In a windowless room, you can use a mirror to simulate both the look and effect of a standard window. To give an otherwise plain room an attractive focal point, try adding a large mirror or a series of mirrors. Another option is to hang a large mirror opposite your doorway so that it can reflect additional light into the room from other well-lit rooms.
If your dining room or living room doesn’t have windows, placing a large mirror on a feature wall or above the fireplace can significantly brighten it. Make sure you position the mirror in a manner that allows it to reflect light from your overhead light fitting. An alternative is to add a wall light on either side of the mirror to achieve a more balanced look. Another option is to place mirrors behind table lamps and wall lights to allow them to reflect the light and add to the ambiance.
In a dim bathroom, make your mirror the focal point of the space, and add a pair of wall lights on either side so that it reflects a flattering, glare-free light. In the bedroom, consider adding a large mirror above the bed that will reflect the light from the main overhead chandelier or overhead pendant. A dressing table mirror combined with a table light will create a relaxing glow, while a full-length mirror use in combination with a floor lamp will instantly brighten up any dark corners.
3. Choose doors that maximize the light coming in from neighboring rooms
If you have an interior doorway into your windowless room, consider giving it an overhaul by installing a set of French doors to create the illusion of an opening flooded with light. If you’re concerned about privacy, you can add a curtain, shade, or film over the glass. Using double doors and doorless arches can also help to bring in the light from neighboring rooms or hallways that have more light.
4. Opt for a lighter color scheme for the space
- Walls and ceiling – A lavish coat of white paint on your walls and ceiling will add instant brightness and a sense of airiness to a dark room without windows. This is because white simulates the fresh, full-spectrum sparkle of natural sunlight while reflecting light from every available source for the brightest look possible.
Carefully consider the shade of white to use as white varies from dazzling to chalky, and also varies in hue. For dim rooms, you might be able to get away with shades of white like cream and ivory, or even pastel shades like lilac, sky, mint, or butter. For dark rooms, however, the whitest white is your best option to open up your space.
You might want to choose one color for your ceiling and walls as it helps the edges disappear so that encroaching walls are not the main point of focus; rather, your possessions grab the attention.
- Floors – A lighter-colored carpet or pale hardwood flooring will reflect light and make a dark room brighter. However, if white flooring is just too high maintenance for your taste, consider a whitewashed or pale hardwood floor instead, or a cheaper wood-effect vinyl flooring.
Another alternative is to throw down some natural colored rugs in rattan or jute – these materials have a similar brightening effect to a cream rug but are more durable and easier to keep clean.
5. Add a couple of plants to your space
Adding natural elements to your dark room can help to compensate for the lack of natural light. Plants in particular are effective at making even the darkest of rooms feel a little brighter. Using pots in bold, vibrant shades such as crimson, canary yellow, or cobalt to display your fresh flowers and greenery can make your space appear even brighter.
You can place your plants on a console table, in the center of a coffee table, or on a bookshelf. Keep in mind that you’ll need to stick to plants that can tolerate low light, such as spider plants or ferns, so that they don’t end up dying on you. If you prefer something that won’t require constant care to maintain, silk plants are your go-to alternative.
6. Use reflective surfaces
Using reflective surfaces is one of the easiest ways to brighten a room that doesn’t have windows.
- Glass décor – Place glass knick-knacks, glass bowls, and furniture with glass surfaces throughout your room to reflect light around the space. In addition to adding brightness, the glass will also add a sophisticated feel to your space.
- Wallpaper – Wallpaper is your friend if you need to brighten a windowless room. Look for wallpaper that has a sleek, metallic finish and a pale background color to maximize the amount of light it will reflect.
7. Stick to clean simple lines
Where possible, avoid heavy, clunky furniture, instead choosing to go for slim furniture with clean, simple lines and low slung designs that will help the room feel more spacious and allow for as much light as possible to flow around the space.
Try to avoid anything too dark and instead go for furniture pieces that will adequately reflect light around the room rather than absorb it; think pale wooden TV stands, marbled sideboards, and mirrored or glass coffee tables.
Trying to brighten a room that doesn’t have windows poses one of the biggest design challenges. The lack of natural light seeping in from outside can leave the space dark and cave-like, which derails from the comfortable, inviting vibe you might hope to have in the room. If you’re tasked with decorating a windowless room, however, not all hope is lost. With a couple of basic changes and additions, you can brighten even the darkest, most soulless room to make it more habitable.