Better Design For Dimly Lit Spaces

by Jason Brubaker

The lighting in your space is capable of shaping how visitors experience it. Lighting greatly influences a room’s atmosphere, whether it’s a lively restaurant, theatre, or quiet evening in your home.

Building owners and designers can create the right look for their space, by designing with a low-light setting in mind. There are a few components to putting your space together when you’re working with dimmer lighting, so read on to find out what considerations you’ll want to make so you’re headed the right direction.

Dark vs. Light Flooring in a Low-Light Setting

One of the first things to determine is the color and type of flooring in the space. Before you choose your floor, think about what people in your space are doing. What is the purpose of your space?

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Both dark and light hardwoods, for instance, can look great and complement a room with softer lighting, if you know what you’re working with. Darker floors usually make rooms appear smaller and “calm” a space. You might notice that restaurants and bars feature a darker hardwood floor. This makes the room cozier and inviting, great for quiet dinners and private conversations.

By contrast, a light hardwood floor typically makes a space look bigger. Lighter hardwood can also draw more attention to the characteristics of the flooring. If you want draw attention to your hardwood’s authenticity and natural beauty, light hardwood might be the way to go. Knots, swirls, and other patterns in a hardwood floor can bring a small yet important creative element to your interior design.

Either option looks great in a dimly lit room, but know what you’re opting for when you’re selecting your floor’s color and feel.

The Details: Furniture in Your Low-Light Setting

The same can be said for surrounding furniture and decor, not just the flooring. Going with darker design aspects can make the space feel smaller, while brighter items can make the room “pop” and feel more spacious.

You’ll want to ensure that your furniture complements the flooring, as well. If you have dark-colored cabinets or tables, you may want to reconsider going with a dark-colored hardwood floor. Try to go for a shade or color that plays off of your furniture, as opposed to trying to match the shade perfectly (which usually doesn’t work out).

If your floor has a rich, traditional feel, it’s a good idea to incorporate furniture that gives off the same vibe. If your chair set looks brand new and pristine, while your floor has a more rustic, old-fashioned look, you might not get the results you’re looking for in the space.

Freshen Things Up: Using White in Your Space

If you’re trying to brighten up a dark room, adding white is a great option. White not only adds balance to a dark space, it scatters light. This provides a good amount of brightness to balance a dimly lit space.

A good place to start is with your furniture or other large pieces. A white table or couch placed somewhat near the center of the room will help to disperse light around it.

If your goal is to counteract the room’s darker lighting, add white to the walls. Go with white frames and wall art to really add brightness to the room. Color, especially a bold color like white, can dramatically affect the feel of a space, so use wisely!

Consider Wall Color

If you really want to brighten up your dimly lit space, you might consider brighter paint colors for your walls. Pale yellows or blues can act as artificial light without overpowering your room, and can help to showcase any decor or furniture in the space.

If you want to encourage a warmer, intimate vibe, rich brown colors make an excellent option. This color can make the space feel smaller, so adding some light furniture can help balance the space so it doesn’t feel too heavy or cluttered. If you do choose a shade of brown, you’ll want to make sure it plays off of your flooring choice, as well.

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What Mood Are You Trying to Create?

Are you a restaurant owner looking to bring a friendly, cozy dining environment? Or are you just trying to find a new, high-traffic type of floor for a busy theatre? How the space is used makes a big difference in the choices you make.

Take notes while you’re out and visiting different types of spaces. How does a dimly lit waiting area affect the mood of a hotel lobby? How do details like art work, furniture, and type of flooring contribute to the space?

Whatever atmosphere you are going for, observe what others are doing and incorporate elements that bring out the character of your own space. A low-light setting can provide more than one kind of feel in a room, so look into a variety of design options before you get to work.