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Brightening a Small Dark Room

When my partner and I made the daunting but exciting move to the UK ten years ago, we were determined to garner some of that charismatic noir that was so missing in the sunny space we extolled from and bright it was. California is famous for its sunshine, among other things. 

After swishing around castles and savoring the heady delights of the British accents and all that goes with being British, we were hell-bent on renting a GateHouse or small cottage somewhere in the frosty green countryside. My husband’s first rule was that it was near our local pub. 

In my mind, I had neatly landscaped a cottage, along with fairy lights set upon a dreamy dewy forest that was tickled with rain now and then. Views for miles spilling out of tiny aged windows and roses bent against a chilly wind were my mental picture. Reverie and reality are all heady stuff, and I was determined not to sway away from my fantasy. I clung to it parasitically despite the sparsity of these cottages and the heavy rentals. 

In the end, (in order not to write a book here), I will get to the point. We settled on a barn conversion. I wasn’t too happy with the conversion part. That meant brand new kitchens, new bathrooms, and all that newness was not a part of my dream of living in the Cotswolds. 

But I did fall in love with the rustic stone exterior, and I did come round to the tall windows surrounding the living room on both sides. These windows were sliding doors opening onto a dazzling lawn that seemed to go on for miles. I did get to plant my fairy lights down our driveway! We did appreciate the warm glow of natural light that poured through the glass until sometimes 10 pm in the summer months, particularly after a long winter. 

The bedroom was starkly different. There was no window aside from a tiny aperture above-average eye level. The problem with the room’s darkness was that it was partially underground. The great thing about this was I could spot people’s feet as they stood at the door. Although their shoe choices sometimes confused us, mainly as our garden was quite muddy with that constant mist of rain we had been looking forward to after living in California for decades. 

We would watch the wilted autumn leaves blow by through this tiny window slip while languishing in bed on a Sunday morning munching on crumpets. I decided to self-soothe and convinced myself that I had managed to bag a house that had everything. It had modern conveniences with all that had to offer and the mystery of days long ago. After a while, the room’s dimness got to us both, and we decided to add some light and decorations to help make the room feel brighter. 

Here are the tips and tricks we used:


It might seem a bit of a no-brainer, but artificial light was our best friend in this situation. We learned a little more about the types of light that can flood a room. There is light, and then there is light!

After heading off to our local IKEA and chatting with their helpful salespeople, we learned three important factors regarding light and three main types of light in a room. 

  1. Overhead lighting 
  2. Accent lighting 
  3. Recessed Lighting 

The overhead lighting should be used for general brightness and is very practical, accent lighting, which adds touches of color and light here and there, and recessed lighting. 

We chose a soft diffuse light for the overhead lighting. Overhead lighting can cast harsh shadows around a room, which is the last thing we want. Soft diffuse light can be in pale yellow tones or fussy white tones, depending on the mood you want to set. 

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