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Reflecting Light - choosing wallpaper for a dark space

Tuesday, 17 June 2014
Modern houses are designed to allow natural light to pour in through the clever placing of windows and  often by the use of glass within the architecture itself. However, if like me you live in a more traditional home there are bound to be areas where natural light is in scant supply. This is particularly relevant if you've extended your home. The good news is that dark corners and gloomy corridors needn't be a problem, in fact with a thoughtful approach that potentially dreary area can become the focal point of a room adding drama and the all important wow factor.

This is the back wall in our family room, the white freestanding cupboard is chock full of Bella & Bear's toys. Following an extension in 2007 the nearest natural light source to this wall is 24ft (7.3m) away (I just measured it). This could easily be a dark, dingy part of the house but by using bright clean colours punctuated with strong accents the space is lifted and never feels dull, grey or cold.


When faced with a design issue where the main problem is a lack of light many people will choose to paint the whole room white. While this will address the problem (white walls bounce light off each other and reflect it back into the room) the darkest wall and corners will always appear slightly grey and well it's a little uninteresting. Repeating the use of an accent colour(s) in furnishings and art will lift the look but can leave the room feeling like it's dotted with colour rather than being a coherent whole. The simplest solution, in my opinion is to opt for wallpaper, or if your budget doesn't stretch that far a painted feature wall like blogger Kaelah from The Clueless Girl's Guide has done here and Mandi from Making Nice in the Midwest has done here.

Here are a few quick pointers that will help you to get it right first time:
Dark wallpaper with a small print will make a space appear darker and smaller. Great for creating intimate drama but potentially claustrophobic.

Large, oversized designs such as botanical prints create an optical illusion whereby the walls appear bigger.

Wallpaper with a light metallic sheen will reflect more light than a matt wallpaper.

Choosing a brighter more saturated colour for the darkest wall will lift a room, but be careful about using a bright colour in a corridor or hallway as it can leave the space feeling more enclosed.

Painting the ceiling white and decorating walls in a darker or brighter hue has the effect of lifting the ceiling, a great trick for rooms with low ceilings.

Avoid light coloured wallpaper in kitchens, they quickly discolour.

Once you've found the right wallpaper, or paint for your room don't forget that the simplest way to address the problem of lack of light in a room is to simply add more light. Carefully placed accent lamps and wall mounted sconces will complete the project and highlight your beautiful bright home.

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