Ideas for dark rooms

Hall and stairs
You can increase the light cast over a dark hall and staircase by letting in a fan light or small window above the front door. You can create a feeling of light and depth by papering the ceiling in the hall with a bright, geometric paper. Add plenty of white, particularly on the woodwork, plus a mirror to reflect all the light things. Borrow light from the rooms leading off the hall and landing by fixing glass panels in doors, or by installing ‘windows’ in the walls. These can be disguised as shelving alcoves inside the rooms, and help to let more light on to the stairs.

White-painted banisters will look less heavy and dark than natural wood, and an open staircase with a light carpet will give a brighter, more spacious feeling. Don’t obscure the window on the landing, but help it by fixing hidden lights behind plants or ornaments strategically placed to highlight corners.

Living rooms
Large windows, combined with fresh looking curtains or blinds, warm lighting and a pleasant colour scheme all help to emphasize brightness in otherwise dark rooms. Be careful in your choice of furniture, however, as big heavy pieces like a mahogany desk or dark leather-covered sofa can be too over-powering if you want light. Don’t mix too many different colours together, as this looks messy; a plain colour will usually create a lighter feeling than a pattern, particularly where carpets are concerned. You can create a much brighter appearance simply by painting the floorboards white to reflect the ceiling, then adding shaggy mats, Spanish rugs or rush matting to make it more practical. Use plenty of table lamps with white shades to create the maximum amount of light, with spotlights in dark corners, and concealed lights in alcoves or behind curtains as back-ground lighting.

Dining rooms
The dining room is often the darkest room in the house, and if you tend to use it only in the evening, this does not matter too much, as then you can rely entirely on artificial lighting. If you have a young family, a dining room needs to be a light and airy place, and often a one-colour treatment is the most effective, with the walls, ceiling, floor and furniture painted in the same cheerful colour. At night the appearance of the room can be changed dramatically by the addition of a patterned tablecloth with matching blinds at the windows, and softer lighting. A low hanging light over the dining table will focus attention on it. If you think blinds are too harsh, hang fake curtains at each side of the window; these will frame the blind, but will not obscure the light by day.

Bedrooms should feel warm, so a pale colour is usually best avoided, even for a dark room. A lot of white in a north-facing bedroom is a particularly bad idea, and it is better to choose a sunnier colour. If you want the impression created by white, choose beige or oatmeal, which give a light feeling without looking cold. You can create an attractive effect by using a patterned wallpaper, preferably on a white background. Make up the curtains and bedspread in the same fabric, if possible to match the wallpaper, and pick out all the woodwork in white paint. The ceiling can be painted in one of the paler colours of the wallpaper, with a matching carpet. Carpets are expensive, though, and a cheaper way of brightening the floor is to paint the boards in a light colour to match fabric or wallpaper used elsewhere, whether it is yellow, sky blue or pink.