21 Clever Tricks to Make Your Home Look Bigger and Brighter

Some spaces feel tinier and more constricted than they have to, whether due to poorly placed windows or a lack of square footage. Luckily, short of knocking down walls, there are a few tricks you can use to make spaces light, bright, and airy with minimal time and effort. Try these tips to help brighten up any room in the house, from basement bedrooms to cramped living quarters.

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Clean the Windows


This may seem like an obvious solution, but it’s one that’s often overlooked: Cleaning the windows can make a noticeable improvement in the brightness of a room. To get your windows sparkling, you can make a simple cleaner by mixing one part white vinegar with two parts water in a spray bottle.

Related: 14 Home Essentials You Never Need to Buy Again

Use Mirrors Strategically

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Position mirrors opposite windows to reflect more light around the house. If your walls are spacious, you can add an eclectic touch by assembling a gallery wall using mirrors of various sizes. Another smart trick: Place a mirror strategically at the end of a cramped hallway to make the corridor seem more spacious.

Related: 8 Bright Ideas to Boost Natural Light

Rearrange Furniture


If your furniture is obstructing any of the light streaming in through the windows, rearrange the layout so the sun can really shine in. 

Related: 10 Ways Your Furniture Can Make You Healthier

Streamline Your Shelves

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It may be tempting to pack your built-ins full of books and decorative objects, but be sure to leave a little empty space on the shelves. Too much clutter on display makes it look like your home is starved for storage space.

Related: 10 Novel DIYs for a Better Bookshelf

Cut Back on Clutter

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The fewer objects in a room, the airier it will feel. In smaller rooms, scale back on bulky decor, tchotchkes, and other unnecessary items. Either get rid of them or move them to larger rooms with more natural light.

Related: 7 Ways to Declutter Without Throwing Anything Away

Hang Sheer Window Treatments


Ditch heavy window treatments in favor of lighter ones. Choose sheers, if possible, which will let in the most light while still offering some privacy.

Related: Lose the Drapes: 12 Better Ways to Dress a Window

Cut Back Foliage


Look out your windows. If there are low-hanging tree branches or overgrown hedges preventing light from coming in, trim them back to restore your view of the outdoors. As well, whenever you change up the landscaping around the exterior of your home, consider what the new plantings will look like when they’re fully grown, not just what they look like at the nursery.

Related: 12 Backyard Updates You Can Do in a Day

Choose the Right Fabrics


Heavy fabrics like wool, velvet, and fur have a big presence and can make a room feel overdecorated. Lighter picks, such as cotton, linen, and lace, draw less attention to themselves, which can help a small room feel more open and bright.

Related: The Best Blankets You Can Buy Online

Hang Curtains Strategically

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When you install a curtain rod, make sure it extends beyond either side of the window casing. Not only will the windows look bigger, but when the curtains are open they won’t block the glass or the incoming light. Likewise, mounting the curtain rod several inches above the top of a window will make it look taller.

Related: 11 Renter-Friendly Ideas for a Reversible Remodel

Use Natural Materials


Furniture, upholstery, and decorative accents made of natural materials can help a room feel open and airy, provided they’re not too dark and heavy. Focus on lighter colors like those found in jute rugs and blond woods, and add plenty of plants.

Related: 14 Easy DIY Living Room Updates Anyone Can Do in a Day

Swap Out Doors

Zillow Digs home in Portland, OR

Replace solid doors with French doors in rooms that don’t require complete privacy. The transparent glass panels will make a room feel more spacious, as will installing transoms over doors.

Related: 14 Spaces That Blur the Line Between Indoors and Out

Lighten Up Floors

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Dark colors on floors, walls, and ceilings can make a room feel smaller and more closed off. While it’s easy to paint the walls, changing out dark floors is an expensive proposition. For a quick fix at a fraction of the cost of replacing the floor, try laying down lighter area rugs or carpet tiles over a darker floor to set a brighter color palette for the space. 

Related: The 9 Rules for Rugs That Everyone Should Know

Layer Your Lighting

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Use multiple light sources in each room so no matter how much or how little natural light is coming in from the outside, you can always add a little more. Start with a primary light source—for example, overhead lighting—then mix in secondary sources, such as accent lamps or task lighting.

Related: 8 Common Lighting Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes

Scale Down Furniture


If you can, swap out heavy furniture for pieces with slimmer profiles. Opt for sofas with exposed legs and low tables made of materials like wrought iron, glass, and acrylic to make a space feel roomier.

Related: 7 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Shopping for Furniture

Check Light Bulb Labels


Light bulbs are now required to have a lighting facts label on the packaging. It looks much like the nutritional facts label you see on packaged food at the grocery store, and it tells you how bright the bulb is (measured in lumens) and whether the light appears more warm or cool (measured on the Kelvin temperature scale). Cool light makes a room look whiter and brighter and is a good choice for a small bathroom or kitchen.

Related: Your Guide to Navigating the New World of Light Bulbs

Use Dimmer Switches


Put primary light sources on dimmer switches so you can brighten a room as the light changes throughout the day.

Related: The 15 Smartest and Smallest DIYs You Can Do for Your Home

Don’t Forget Utility Spaces

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Utility spaces like laundry rooms or closets are easy to neglect, but these are often the places that feel the most cramped. Use solutions like undercabinet lighting or spotlights to illuminate every nook and cranny.

Related: 20 Instant Updates for a Laundry Room You Can Love

Be a Minimalist on the Walls

Zillow Digs home in Washington, D.C.

A cluster of gallery-style artwork may not be the best choice for a small space. Choose a few pieces of art and make sure there’s plenty of space around each one to make the walls feel more expansive.

Related: 10 Inventive Ways to Display Family Photos

Raise the Ceiling Height

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Make standard ceilings feel higher by incorporating vertical lines into your room design. Painted lines aren’t your only option—adding beadboard or board-and-batten wainscoting will draw the eye up just as well.

Related: 9 Clever Ways to Counteract Low Ceilings

Carve Out Hidden Storage Space

Zillow Digs home in San Francisco, CA

Tuck nonessentials out of sight with dual-purpose pieces like storage ottomans or benches. Less visual clutter on shelves and other surfaces translates into an airier interior.

Related: 15 Sneaky Tricks to Double Your Storage Space

Use Paint to Your Advantage

Zillow Digs home in San Francisco, CA

Nothing will brighten up a room as quickly as painting it in a light, neutral color palette. Make your bold statements with pops of brighter colors for furnishings and accessories.

Related: The Only Colors You Should Use in a Small Space

Happy Home


What are you waiting for? Give a few of these tricks a try to transform a dark, small room into a light and spacious place.