Interior design tips to help liven up your rooms

Co-author: Dhayana Sena

Sometimes the smallest things make the greatest impact. Whether you’ve just moved in or are looking for a little home pick-me-up, here are some simple and affordable interior design techniques to freshen and brighten up your living spaces.


The amount of light that a room receives can affect the way a shade of colour looks on the walls. So, it’s best to avoid cool colours in dark rooms and instead balance any weak, natural light with warm, pale shades. If you want to be sure of how a paint colour will look, use a tester to try out your chosen hues in the room under different light conditions.

Lighter neutrals such as warm white, dove grey or light taupe will make a room appear more open and airier, but don’t simply paint the walls. If your ceilings are low, consider painting them the same shade as the walls to elongate the room.

Generally speaking, though, always paint the ceiling a lighter colour than the walls, preferably a bright white. That gives you the feeling of space and height, which really opens up the room.  It will also reflect any light that’s directed to the ceiling from lamps or fixtures.

It’s always best to use a paint with sheen. Painting in flat, matte or satin finishes will soak up light, while semi-gloss, high-gloss and lacquer finishes tend to reflect light, which make a darker room feel brighter and lighter. If you choose a neutral grey, for example, make sure to stay away from brown or black undertones.


Artwork with white matting creates contrast against darker walls. Instead go for a gallery wall or a collection of artwork to make the wall feel brighter, watching out for darker artwork, which – like painting a room a darker colour – can take away the light that would otherwise bounce around the room. Large-scale artwork in lighter colours or even in black-and-white can make a room feel more spacious and brighter.

Get rid of distracting personal objects. Less is more. While the room technically won’t be darker if there are too many accessories, it will feel less open and airy. Opt instead for a few central statement pieces that are carefully curated.

If you’re wanting to use drapes, make sure these aren’t too heavy, as they block out the natural light, giving you the claustrophobic feeling that you’re living in a cave.  If your windows are small, don’t cover them with heavy blinds or curtains. Instead, use sheer or lighter fabric to offer an illusion of more space and light in the room. According to interior designers, the number one drape design crime is to hang drapes in front of windows – they should be just off the glass. It’s okay to cover the window frame, but make sure you allow the natural light in.

Adding live plants will give your room a brighter and livelier feel. Some plants, such as ferns, are a safe bet, as they can thrive for days in limited sunlight. Plants are a perfect way to add a dramatic effect to the dingiest areas of your rooms.

Crystals and shiny finishes reflect the light and make the room feel more alive. Try adding sparkly accents, a gold table or a metallic-finish wall hanging to brighten the room and add style.


Substituting artificial light for natural light can make a room feel brighter. Instead of relying on one overhead light, place table and floor lamps throughout a room for balanced illumination.  Lamps with off-white shades are ideal and dimmer switches give adjustable ambient light.

When the corners and borders of a space aren’t well lit, the room can feel cave-like and dark.  Directing recessed fixtures out from the walls up onto the ceiling will make those shadows disappear.

Try placing corner floor lamps or wall sconces in the room. These could be a good option for those who are renting and don’t want to incur the expense of hiring an electrician to install pricey recessed fixtures.

Make sure you have an assortment of lighting types. Overhead lighting (recessed fixtures, pendants and chandeliers), task lighting (desk lamps, art lighting and table lamps) and accent lighting (sconces and under-cabinet lighting) should work in harmony so that a space feels layered in light without feeling alarmingly bright.

Dimmer switches are powerful tools in creating the right lighting look so use them whenever possible. A room should be well-lit without being blinding or institutional in feel. ‘Yes’ to the vibe of a beach house on a summer day, ‘no’ to the feel of a caustically bright hospital waiting room.


Looking to add mirrors in your home? Choose decorative instead of full-length mirrors. Try a vintage mirror or mosaic mirror to bounce around light, while avoiding the somewhat annoying side-effect of seeing everything, including yourself before coffee consumption, perfectly reflected in the clear surface.

A vintage mirror, mercury mirror or convex/concave mirror will assist with scattering light throughout your space while feeling a little less obvious than a wall of mirrors or an oversized floor mirror.

Cut the clutter

Remember, when deciding how to update that tired old room, the first place to start is to de-clutter it. This doesn’t necessarily mean a mass throw-out, though, if it doesn’t spark joy, you should really give it away or bin it.

Decluttering doesn’t have to mean throwing away the things that have sentimental meaning to you. What it does mean, however, is finding homes for the belongings you don’t need right away and putting them away in their rightful place to give your room a more open, inviting feel.

Refinance your existing home loan

Making interior decoration changes and renovations to your home can come at a cost. In certain instances, you might be able to refinance your existing home loan to help pay for the renovations and redecorating. Read Canstar’s refinancing tips here and compare home loans by following the link below.

Cover image: Shutterstock: Lightfield Studios 

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