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.

  1. Clean the Windows

    Clean 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

  2. Use Mirrors Strategically


    Zillow Digs home in Paradise Valley, AZ

    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

  3. Rearrange Furniture

    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

  4. Streamline Your Shelves

    Built ins

    Zillow Digs home in Bethesda, MD

    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

  5. Cut Back on Clutter

    Clutter free

    Zillow Digs home in Daniel Island, SC

    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

  6. Hang Sheer Window Treatments

    Sheer curtains


    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

  7. Cut Back Foliage

    Clear hedges


    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

  8. Choose the Right Fabrics

    Light fabric


    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

  9. Hang Curtains Strategically

    Hang curtains strategically

    Zillow Digs home in Naples, FL

    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

  10. Use Natural Materials

    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

  11. Swap Out Doors

    French 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

  12. Lighten Up Floors

    Lighten dark floors

    Zillow Digs home in Bellevue, WA

    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

  13. Layer Your Lighting

    Layer lighting

    Zillow Digs home in New York, NY

    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

  14. Scale Down Furniture

    Slim 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

  15. Check Light Bulb Labels

    Light bulb label


    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

  16. Use Dimmer Switches

    Install dimmer


    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

  17. Don’t Forget Utility Spaces

    Laundry room

    Zillow Digs home in Duluth, GA

    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

  18. Be a Minimalist on the Walls

    Minimal art

    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

  19. Raise the Ceiling Height

    Ceiling height

    Zillow Digs home in Washington, d.c.

    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

  20. Carve Out Hidden Storage Space

    Storage seating

    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

  21. Use Paint to Your Advantage

    Neutral paint

    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

  22. Happy Home

    21 clever tricks to make your home look bigger and brighter


    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.

  23. See the House of the Week


    Discover and admire beautiful and innovative home architecture, from grand Victorians to quaint cabins and all the styles in between. Take a look at the latest images and inspiration!