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Painting solid timber goes a long way to brightening a dark space


When it comes to brightening a space there are a number of simple things you can do that will make a massive difference.

I don’t have a house style and will never impose a particular view on anyone but there are a couple of things I can’t help suggesting as I know will they will make a huge improvement to anyone’s home.

Top of the list is painting out timber banisters, doors, architraves or skirtings, especially where there are different types of timber competing for attention.

I know that many of you reading this will feel that painting solid timber is wrong but unless it is hand-crafted specialist joinery you are trying to make a feature of, I guarantee once it is painted it will look a whole lot better.

Timber panelling
This is especially true if the room or space is dark. Timber panelling in particular really darkens a room and tends to yellow over time making it very difficult to match furnishings or fittings.

By painting it you not only brighten the space but it will give you a blank canvas to work with in terms of adding colour back into the room.

We refurbished a home for a family recently where the hallway was panelled in pine tongue-and-groove boarding.

The space looked dated, was really dark and, because the door’s skirtings, architraves and floor were all different kinds of timber, the space felt cluttered and confused. After painting all of the timber white the space was transformed.

If you are working with a dark space what you want to do is get as much natural light into the room as possible, either by widening the windows or putting rooflights in.

In this house we replaced the solid doors with glazed doors, letting the light from surrounding rooms into the hallway.

We changed the light fittings from overhead flush lights to fittings with a number of lights that could be directed at different areas of the hall. This created a much softer atmosphere than the previous single-light source.

Your choice of artificial lighting is also really important. Putting overhead lights on dimmers allows you to control the ambience.

Try to have a number of different light sources: a combination of lamps, overhead lighting or wall lights. To avoid dark spots make sure that corners have lamps or other light sources.

Corridors and halls are great spaces to display art in. Group pieces that work together or with colours that complement your colour scheme for a gallery-like feel.

Picture lights are a fantastic idea as they create an alternative light source which is much softer than overhead pendants.

And, finally, don’t forget your flooring. If the space is very dark using something reflective, like tiling, works really well and will bounce light into the space.

Keeping finishes light and running the same finish from one room into another without thresholds will give a seamless finish and make the space feel larger.

Denise O’Connor is an architect and design consultant

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