No windowless room is doomed to forever be a dark stain on your house’s floor plan. Neither is it condemned to scorch your eyes with fluorescent burn as soon as you flip the light switch.
With a bit of careful planning and smart choices, you can make a windowless room brighter with natural light. Or the closest approximation of it.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at how you can make a dark room brighter.
This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking a link like that, I’ll earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) to feed the bottomless pit that is my cat.
Ensure good artificial lighting
If your room has no windows and no natural light, the obvious solution would be to invest in light fixtures. However, this is not just about screwing in a light bulb into overhead light and calling it a day. Let’s first talk about choosing the correct light bulbs to simulate natural light.
How to choose a light bulb that simulates natural lighting
The color temperature of a light bulb is measured in Kelvin (K) and it tells you how warm or cool the light will be. A lower number like 2700K will give off a warmer, more yellow light, while a higher number like 6500K will give off a cooler, bluish white light.
This might be hard to picture in your mind but luckily there is this reference picture that properly shows off the difference the number of Kelvins makes in a light bulb:
As you can see, to simulate natural sunlight, you have to aim for roughly 3500-4000K, give or take another thousand.
Now, there is also the question of the number of lumens your light bulbs will need to brighten a dark room. You can, of course, wing it, but since we’re dealing with a windowless room, it’s better to count everything properly.
First, you’ll need to calculate the square footage of your room. To do that, simply multiply the length and width of your room. For example, if your room is 10 feet long and 7 feet wide, the square footage would be 70.
Once you have the square footage, let’s focus on footcandles. A footcandle is simply a unit measurement of light. One footcandle is defined as the amount of light cast on one square foot of surface area from a distance of one foot away from a single candle. We’re obviously not dealing with candles, but footcandles will help us determine the right number of lumens.
According to IES, the Illuminating Engineering Society, the type of room and the type of activities you’ll perform in the room will dictate the number of footcandles needed to ensure your comfort and safety.
So in order to save you some time, consult the chart below to figure out how much light (aka footcandles) your room needs:
Okay, now you have your square footage and the required footcandles. It’s time to put it all together.
Putting it all together
To find out how many lumens you need, simply multiply the square footage of your room by the number of footcandles.
For example, a 70 sq ft living room that needs 10-20 footcandles would require 700 to 1400 lumens.
The only caveat is that you’re trying to make a dark room brighter without the presence of windows to help out. So your main overhead lighting needs to be a bit stronger since it’s not working in typical conditions. Add an additional 10 footcandles per square foot in your calculations to make up for that.
If you manage to get your hands on dimmable overhead lights, you can go a bit higher with the lumens and adjust their brightness to suit your needs.
Types of artificial light sources
Now that we know how to properly choose the strength of artificial light for a windowless room, here are some suggestions that will help you achieve the natural light effect.
But one light bulb certainly won’t be enough. The key to making a room brighter without windows is to layer light. You can achieve this by incorporating several types of light sources in the room:
- Ambient lighting: These are your typical ceiling lights, track lighting, recessed lighting, or wall sconces. The goal here is to evenly light up the room so there aren’t any dark corners.
- Task lighting: This is a more focused light that you’ll need for things like reading, cooking, or working at a desk. Table lamps, wall lights, and under-cabinet lighting all fall into this category.
- Accent lighting: these are lights that you use to highlight certain features in the room, from picture lights to recessed lights, and track lighting.
The best way to achieve a bright, well-lit room is by layering different types of light. By mixing and matching ambient, task, and accent lighting, you can create a bright and inviting space – even without any windows.
TIP: while a large overhead fixture can create an attractive focal point, be mindful of the ceiling height as it can make the room feel cramped.
Mirrors are a great way to reflect light and make a room appear brighter.
The typical focal point in the room is the window that lets in natural light. However, dark rooms lack that kind of focal point which is where a mirror comes in.
By hanging a full-length mirror opposite the light source, you can create an artificial point of convergence that will reflect the light and brighten up the room.
You can also use mirrors to reflect artificial lighting from floor lamps and other types of targeted lighting. For example, setting a table lamp beside a mirror on the nightstand in the bedroom will also help conceal how little natural light there actually is in the room.
And you can actually use a mirror to simulate an industrial-style window as shown in this tutorial.
Put in a (fake) window
Another option is to add windows, even if they’re just fake ones.
This user-friendly LED light system from Pro Sky Panels effortlessly mimics a window that can be installed in just 10 minutes. With its modular structure, EDGEWIN is easy to set up, and you can choose the kind of view you’d like to see out of your brand-new window.
It’s a great way to add a bit of natural light to a dark basement that you’d like to convert into a living or dining room. And once you frame it with curtains, your guests would be none the wiser.
Paint walls lighter colors
If you’re painting or redecorating a room, consider using light colors.
Light colors reflect light while dark colors absorb it. So by painting the walls and ceiling in a light color, you can make the room appear brighter.
In general, lighter shades of white, cream, blue, green, and gray can mimic the full-spectrum sparkle of natural light while also faintly reflecting light.
When you combine this reflective quality of bright walls with a large mirror and the right ambient lighting, you’ll have the room feel airy, spacious, and bright – windows or no windows.
Choose light furniture
Along with light walls, you should also choose light-colored furniture.
Furniture that’s close to the color of the walls will help create an illusion of a larger space. And like light walls, lighter furniture will reflect light rather than absorb it.
Of course, not everyone can simply decide one day to toss their old furniture and buy a completely new set.
If you have dark-colored furniture in a room with no windows, you can still achieve a similar effect by adding a white slipcover or bright accents. These accents include throw pillows, blankets, desk covers, and extra reflective surfaces.
Add more reflective surfaces
In addition to light-colored walls and furniture, you can also make a room brighter by adding more reflective surfaces.
These are the surfaces that reflect additional light back into the room like the aforementioned mirrors, pendant lights, shiny metal, glass, and overall glossy finishes. By incorporating these materials into the room, you can maximize the amount of warm light that’s reflected back into the room.
You can add reflective surfaces to just about any area in the room – from the walls to the floors to the ceiling.
For example, you could install a glossy white backsplash in the kitchen or hide your TV in a mirrored cabinet. You could also go smaller and place glass or metal accent pieces onto the coffee table or bookshelves.
Additionally, you can incorporate these materials into the lighting itself. Reflective metallic fittings like glass, silver, or chrome can guide more light into the room and create a stunning focal point.
Lighten up the floor
We’ve touched upon the furniture, the accent pieces, the walls, but what about the floors?
Adding a light rug can also help wash light across a dull room and reflect it into the darkest corners. Additionally, bringing multiple textures into the room can make it feel brighter and, most importantly, cozier. A fluffy white rug or jute and sisal blend is perfect for this.
Not only will they lighten up the room, but they’ll also make it feel more inviting.
Consider the doors
French doors are a popular choice for a windowless dark room. Not only do the double doors look stylish, but their blend of solid wood and glass can simulate both the look and the feel of a real window.
By allowing the natural light from the adjacent room to flow through the glass panels you can further brighten up your dark space and rely less on the light fittings.
And to further extend the French doors’ resemblance to a window you can frame them with sheer curtains.
TIP: you can also simulate a window by creating an accent wall with curtains.
Give sunset lamps a try
A room without windows may never know the true beauty of a sunset, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fake it ’til you make it.
With the help of sunset lamps and some soft ambient lighting, you can easily create an approximation of the stunning colors and tranquil mood of a setting sun. Whether you’re looking to unwind after a long day or simply want to bask in the soft glow, these simulated sunsets will leave you feeling sunny side up.
Most of these sunset light fixtures come with several color options so you can experiment and see what looks best in your windowless room.
Install a skylight
One of the best ways to let in additional light into a room with no windows is to install a skylight.
A skylight is essentially a hole in the roof that allows natural light to enter the room. They can be fixed or operable, meaning you can open them up to let fresh air and light in.
Not only will a skylight brighten up your room, but it can also improve your home’s energy efficiency.
In the winter, the sun’s rays can help warm up the room and in the summer, you can open up the skylight to let the heat out.
This, of course, requires a larger renovation effort and can be quite costly. But, if you’re looking for a long-term solution to brighten up a room with no windows, then a skylight may be the way to go.
Add some plants
If you’re looking for a way to brighten up a dark room, here’s some advice: go green. Not only will plants add more light to your space, but they can also help make your room feel like it has natural light.
That’s because our brains unwittingly associate plants with the presence of natural light. So by placing plants in a windowless room, you can create an illusion of the presence of natural sunlight.
And yes, you can grow plants in a windowless room. In fact, there are two options available to you.
First, you can simply populate your dark room with resilient plants that don’t need much light at all. These include snake plants, dragon trees, arrowheads, and the list goes on and on.
Second, remember how we mentioned that in order to brighten a dark room you need to layer multiple light sources? Well, amongst all of that practical task lighting you can mix in a few grow lights – light bulbs specifically designed to help plants grow in low-light conditions. You can get standalone light bulbs that you can screw into a floor lamp but some of them are sold complete with an overhead light fitting.
Either way, these light bulbs can up your room’s lighting and help your plants grow in windowless conditions.
And no, not all grow lights emit a blueish-purple color. The light bulbs below produce a soft natural light that will fit in perfectly with any room.
Use light to accentuate
Once you’ve got your ambient and task lighting sorted, it’s time to add a little something extra in the form of accent lighting. Just like salt helps to bring out the flavor of food, peppering in a few accents can help to highlight certain features in your home and make them really pop.
This often includes:
- Hanging a string of fairy lights around a piece of artwork
- Installing a dimmer switch to create different lighting moods
- Placing floor lamps next to your sofa or favorite armchair
- Using wall lights or LED strips to highlight architectural features
- Highlighting your TV setup with LED strips
The options are really endless when it comes to accent lighting. And the best part is that since you’re not relying on them as your primary source of light, you can really have fun with them and experiment to see what looks best in your home.
So there you have it, a few tips on how to make a room brighter without windows. By layering multiple light sources, you can create the illusion of natural light even in the darkest of rooms. And with a little bit of creativity, you can use some decor items, plants, and paint to really make your space pop.