Bright ideas on increasing a home's light

Mirrors, cool colors, and cotton and linen fabrics are among tips offered by experts.

Posted: May 06, 2011

It's a request that designers hear constantly: Bring more sunshine into my home.

Whatever a person's taste, "I think almost everybody wants to maximize the light in their living space," says HGTV host Genevieve Gorder.

The conventional wisdom is that "if you have a room that's very sunny and packed with natural light, people use it more and they're happier in it," says designer and founder Brian Patrick Flynn.

Gorder, Flynn, and Betsy Burnham of Los Angeles' Burnham Design share some tips and tricks for helping the sun to shine brightly in any home:


All three designers recommend mirrors. "It makes a space feel bigger," Flynn says, "and if the space has a view and you put a mirror on the wall opposite the window with that beautiful view, you've doubled the light, doubled the view."

Burnham suggests having a large mirror expertly framed. It can be hung on a wall or, if it is tall, propped up against a wall and anchored at the top.

Smaller mirrors can be used anywhere. Line the backs of bookshelves with mirrors or arrange several on one wall. Also consider furniture with glass, chrome, or mirrored accents.

Cool colors

Many people try to maximize light by painting a room in a pale color. But the choice of shade is important. Yellow-based shades, even if fairly pale, can warm up a space.

"You want cool tones," Burnham says, like "blue-grays and taupes that are shades of off-white with a little blue in them. It can really chill things out."

Metallic paint colors also work well. Gorder likes to use paint with a reflective, metallic finish on ceilings, especially in dining rooms. She prefers shades that look like brass or pewter.

Minimizing dark pieces

"Instead of big, dark wood pieces of furniture," Burnham says, "try something lighter and airier, like a glass-topped piece with a metal base." That allows you to see the floor, drawing attention to a light-colored rug or pale wood flooring.

Gorder recommends doing the biggest pieces in a room, such as sofas and love seats, in light colors. Then she advises bringing in brighter or deeper shades for smaller pieces of furniture.

Using illusion

Some design choices don't increase the actual light in a room, but they make the space feel sunnier.

Cotton and linen fabrics in soft colors evoke cool summer breezes and sunny days at the beach, while "heavier fabrics, like velvets or brocades or even chenilles, sort of weigh a room down," Burnham says.


Some window treatments, such as Roman shades, block sunlight even when they are technically open.

Burnham suggests using "really tailored, simple draperies on rings on an iron rod, and maybe have a wand to push them back." Draperies hung that way are easy to open fully, so "you can clear the windows during the day, and it can still be private at night."

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