I was invited over to my friend’s home the other day to help her come up with ways to brighten and update her first floor. The holidays are upon us, and with entertaining, we all become critical of our home’s décor! We started to discuss what was bothering her the most so we could try to zero in on where to focus, and she kept repeating the phrase “brighten up the place.”
Her home was built in the ’80s and has dark oak throughout the house: baseboards, crown molding, staircase, kitchen cabinets, wood blinds – you get the picture. Over the years she had complimented her dark wood with darker furniture and maroon paints. While her home looked nice, it didn’t have the bright feel she now desires. When I asked her if she was willing to paint her wood, she immediately exclaimed, “No!” While she knew it wasn’t ‘in’ anymore, she couldn’t imagine ‘ruining’ it with paint, since she had heard that you can still see the grain of the wood through the paint. She suggested painting the walls a lighter color and update the throw pillows on her couch with lighter fabrics. While these are all great ideas, I thought there were some additional measures should could implement that would help achieve the lighter, brighter look she wanted.
If you have a house with dark wood or inadequate lighting, the house will feel dark, no matter what you do to the paint colors or fabrics. Here were my suggestions:
- Compromise: My friend didn’t want to paint all of her dark wood, so I suggested she consider painting only some of the wood on her first floor in either a white or a cream color. I explained that by painting the crown molding, baseboards and windows panes, there would be an immediate brightening and she could leave the wood floors and wood blinds for contrast.
- Try a Glaze: In the kitchen, we talked about painting and glazing her cabinets. So many times homeowners have replaced well-built, high-quality cabinets when they could have re-painted them for a fraction of the cost! I suggested she take a look at another friend’s kitchen, who had just had her cabinets beautifully painted and glazed, for inspiration.
- Improve Lighting: Lighting is one of the easiest ways to brighten your home, but it’s also often overlooked. There are plenty of options – sconces, canned lighting, lamps — that can help brighten your home and also add a bit of style to a space. I’ve also used under-cabinet lighting in my kitchen and it’s brightened the space significantly and was so easy to install. It’s also important to consider lighting your hallways with canned lighting or sconces to help relieve that dark feeling.
My friend wanted to move in smaller steps rather than take on a complete overhaul of her home, so she decided to paint the spindles, crown molding and window trim for now. She also planned to update her wall colors to a lighter hue in the near future. Sometimes homeowners overdo it by brightening all the elements — wood, paint, fixtures, furniture and fabric — and it leaves them with a space that then lacks contrast and depth. I think she’ll find these steps will make a big difference and that the dark furniture will ultimately add richness to her home’s overall feel.