Do you ever get to the end of a long project, and you forget just how far you’ve come? That’s exactly how I felt when I saw the before picture of the master bedroom in our new house. Behold:
We are pretty sure that the master bedroom is what kept people from buying this house. It is small, and it had a tiny closet. But I think more than that was that it was soooo dark. As someone who embraces sunshine and all things white, I was a little nervous that nothing could remedy the dingy feeling of this room. I mean, I knew some basic tricks on how to brighten a dark room, but this room seemed almost hopeless. Fast forward a month, add a bit of elbow grease and some strategic decorating, and I think it polished up nicely.
The before picture is actually after we ripped out the navy blue carpet, which made the room look even smaller and darker than it was. There was a pretty spectacular flooring surprise underneath–do you see the flowers?! Apparently it’s some type of flooring that was popular in the early 1900’s that looks like wallpaper. Delicious.
Okay, so can you guys take a leap of faith and trust me on something? Both the before and after photo are completely unretouched. They were both taken in the afternoon on a sunny day, with the same camera on the same settings.
So, trick photography and professional designers aside, do you guys wanna know how easy it is to take a dark room and bring it back to life? There are three main elements you will want to take into consideration in how to brighten a dark room, so lets dive in and break it down!
1) Choose Your Paint Carefully
It seems pretty obvious that if you’re going for an airy feel that you wouldn’t put a shade of chocolate brown on your walls. But did you know that the difference between the before and after paint color in this makeover is the SHADE of white that was painted on?!
I had a crew of wonderful friends and family helping me paint my whole house, and my mom painted this room while I was busy in another. I asked one of my friends, who’s in the business, on what shade I had to go with. And his response was that I had luckily chosen some good accents surrounding the furniture. When I saw the finished product, I couldn’t believe the huge transformation in the room just going from one white to another. We joked (but seriously) that it was the biggest change in the whole house. And that included painting over wood paneling, yo.
The color that was in there was a creamy white color with yellow undertones. In certain other rooms of the house, it looked like a true white. But when we painted over it with an off-the-shelf pure white, you could see just how dirty it was making the room look.
The bottom line? If you’re a chicken about picking the right white (I sure am!) just go for pure white. It has no undertones to clash with anything and its really easy to warm up with the right accents. If white isn’t your thing, just make sure the paint you are choosing has cool undertones, not warm undertones.
2) Hang Curtains the Right Way (Or Forgo Them Altogether)
Guys, as soon as we closed on the house, the very first thing I did was march into the master bedroom and take the curtains off the windows. The Very. First. Thing. Then I did a huge happy dance, cause hey, I just bought my dream house. 🙂
If you like natural sunlight in your house and if you want the ceilings to feel taller and your windows to feel bigger, it all comes down to how you hang your curtains.
Previously, the curtains were hanging inside the window. Not only does this visually shrink the size of your window, it cuts out major sunlight from your house. This is a cardinal sin in my book!
As you can see, when I hung the curtains outside the frame of the window (I chose to go 9″ past the window, and I find that this is a good length for standard curtain panels), the whole window gets bigger and the room gets brighter. Hello, 8 foot window! Since these windows are floor to ceiling, I obviously hung the rod at the top of the window as close to the ceiling as I could get, but even with standard windows, you want to hang the rod at least 5″ above the window to add height to your room.
You can also do what I did with the smaller window and not hang any curtains at all. The bare look is great for a casual, minimalist look, especially if you happen to like the trim around your window. It also proved to be the right choice for this room since the window was off center, and I didn’t want to draw too much attention to it. I thought the lack of symmetry was going to bug me sooooo much, but I actually haven’t been bothered by it at all!
3) Accents Matter!
I guess another way of saying it would be “sweat the small stuff.” Okay, okay, I don’t want you to sweat the small stuff, but I do want you to think about a few specific things.
First of all, consider your flooring. Whether you are using carpet, hardwood and rugs, or something else entirely, make sure that your floor choice isn’t sucking up your sunlight. What I mean is, if you go really dark, the floors will become a sort of black abyss for the bright and airy feeling you are trying to create.
And if the thought of white carpet makes you nervous, well, that probably just means you are human. 🙂 I know my carpet looks pretty white in the photos, but it is actually slightly off white. It is more forgiving than bright white and warms up the space. It is also a berber-type carpet with a pattern on it. In my experience, berber just sucks up anything that gets spilled on it and makes it disappear. The carpet also has tiny flecks of brown and grey in it. This is the real trick to having a livable white carpet. By choosing carpet with texture, pattern, and different flecks of color in it, you can really get away with anything. Seriously–I have a two-year-old and a husband. So far it has effectively camouflaged mud, dirt, juice, grass stains and blood. Yikes.
Another thing to think about is the color of your furniture. I chose to make all the large furniture white, so that it would blend into the walls and shrink away. This is especially important in a small room. By keeping it white, it reduces the visual weight of the pieces and doesn’t create the “black hole” effect that a large dark dresser might create.
Lets talk about the window situation. If you feel like your room still doesn’t have enough light after following all these tips, it could be because there aren’t enough windows in the room, or perhaps they aren’t big enough. There is a solution to your problem, don’t you worry!
Do you see the mirror on the dresser to the right? I know I kind of cropped it out, but it is actually lined up with the window above the bed. Any light that comes in the window above our bed gets reflected back in the mirror, instantly creating double the light. Pretty sneaky, huh?
Lastly, remember to give thought to the finishing touches.
To go with the natural and organic feeling I wanted the room to have, I used a lot of bare wood and (surprise) green plants. Since we were fitting a king size bed in a small room, there wasn’t a lot of room left for nightstands. We searched and searched, but I couldn’t find anything that would fit the space, so I designed some and had my husband build them out of plywood. Not too bad for $12, right? They keep a clean, minimalist look, while still having storage space inside. Hello, hidden charging station. Stick some fake Ikea plants in pots on top and you’re good to go.
To further tie in the natural wood look, I had my husband throw together a wooden frame out of some scrap wood, and I hung a boxwood wreath in it for a little pop of green. It also helped add balance where the window is off kilter from the bed. I’m telling you, if you need to bring a room to life, add some plants!
Okay guys, that’s the tour! Our master bedroom, the first room to be completed start to finish, and everything we did to brighten a dark room. To recap, choose a cool paint color, don’t block sunlight with curtains, use light flooring, light furniture, and mirrors! Pretty simple right?
If you decide to give these ideas a try, be sure to share your before and after photos on Instagram with hashtag #thedefineryco so I can see what you guys are up to!
I linked up at http://www.iheartnaptime.net/!