how to paint dark walls

Shocking true about white and its (in)ability to brighten up a dark interior!

How to paint a dark room?


Do you think that white is the ultimate and fail-proof solution for dark rooms? No, unfortunately not. I bet that you have just imagined bright  and airy interior full of white and you dont  understand how it could not work. Something like this..

white bright interior idea

or this..white bright interior idea

These are really nice examples, how it should look.  If there is a plenty of natural light, great windows or French doors,  white is a very good choice.

But in case your room is oriented to the north and your windows are too small, white will not work and it will neither brighten, nor make your interior look bigger. Exactly as on this picture – although there are no window treatmens and windows are quite wide, without enough direct light, white walls just don’t work.

how to brighten up dark room



It all comes from theory of color and physics/optics. I know, theories are boring, but trust me – this is really interesting! The color spectrum contains colors visible by human eye – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo ,violet. And color that we see, is actually simply reflected from existing colored item. So, if we see red chair, it means that it absorbed all other colors of spectrum and reflects only red…


And when it comes to white color – if we mix (additively) all spectrum colors, we see white. That means, that it reflects all light. And this is  how  the myth about white-color-brightening-each-interior appeared.

color theory

If there is plenty of light – yes, it reflects it all with double pressure and the interior is twice as sunny, optimistic and bright than with any other color. BUT if there is very  low light in the room – there is almost nothing to be reflected from the white wall! White colors can end up looking sad and gray.




Tip 1 –  more pigmented  “clean” color


paint chip

Dark  room means more shadows which will subdue any color you put on the walls. So tip for you is to choose a more pigmented/saturated color.  “The cleaner the color, the lighter and brighter the paint color is”. The cleaner = the less black it contains.

In the picture, colors in the top row are brighter = truest color hues.

Therefore I recommend my clients to use clean hues of cream, light beige, vanilla or clean gold from the top row, but it is not needed to use the lighter ones. If we look on yellow chip with 7 different hues – ideal would be the 3-4-5 hue.


Tip 2  –  semi-gloss finish of wall paint color

Choose eggshell or semi-gloss/satin finish of paint color instead of flat/matte. Why? Because there is a potential to reflect  even this small amount of light that comes from outside. But you have to know that if there are any imperfections on your walls before you paint, they’ll stand out.


Tip 3 – glossy wallpaper

glossy wallpaperConsider wallpaper with glossy effect – from the same reason described in point 2:  better reflect of light!


Tip 4 – oversized mirrors

tips for brighten up a dark room

Place oversized mirror(s) opposite the window!

Tip 5 –  reflecting surface furnishings

tips to brighten interior

Try to reach your white desired interior using  furniture or decoration made of “bright&reflecting surface” white material, such as some sort of satin on  pillows, curtains, lamp shades etc.,  porcelain/glass vases , or glossy/mirror furniture.


Tip 6 – artificial light

Use artificial light zones, but on color base described in point 1. Because if you do it with white walls combination, the light may be reflected in ugly blue or orange shades.


Tip 7 – give up & be bold

contemporary living room

Don’t use white at all in interiors that are pretty dark with no  potential. Instead of cold and grayish white, go more bold and create cosy and chic “box” interior atmosphere. You will have to use more artificial light, but it will look  good. You don’t need to be scared of ugly shades (like it was with white walls), because bold and dark colours will absorb all unwanted dark shadows.


Ok folks, that’s all for today.

If you think this summary of tips is usefull, please like the article! Thank you very much  & wish you all a beautiful day!  Oli 🙂

Picture sources:    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

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