How To Light Up a Dark Room - OKA U.S.
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  • How To Light Up a Dark Room

    Dark coloured walls are having a moment. Whether navy, racing green or black, there’s something quite mysterious about a dark room. But how do you prevent it from feeling drab and lifeless? OKA co-founder Sue Jones decided to create a dark and dramatic scheme for her autumn look this season, and the lighting she chose was the key to making it work. “I have always wanted to create a house with dark walls. You have to get the balance right though – go for stylish, not gloomy. The lighting is very important.” So, we asked her to share with us her fail-safe tips for lighting up a dark room.



    How do you light up a dark space?

    If your room is dark, surely flooding it with the maximum amount of light possible is the answer? Sue says not. “Veer away from overhead lighting – it’s too bright. I only use overhead lighting with a dimmer, otherwise the harsh light spoils the atmosphere in a room.” The exceptions are in a hallway, where a decorative pendant lamp or chandelier can set the tone for the rest of a house, and in kitchens and bathrooms, where the light needs to be bright and more functional.


    In her dark sitting room, Sue layered light using a combination of table lamps, floor lamps and wall lamps. “You ideally want to have a range of lighting options in a room, which can be used differently depending on the time of day or year.” This means you could just turn on the table lamps for a subtle glow in the evening, or use all three types of lighting if you wanted to brighten up the space on a grey day.



    How can you increase the amount of light in a dark room?

    Lighting is always needed, even in summer. Big windows will of course help flood a dark space with light, but sometimes a few lighting tricks are needed. By placing lamps in front of mirrors or on top of a mirrored table, you can instantly double the amount of light in a room. You could even combine the two, so the light is reflected from behind and from below, to create a twinkling ‘hall of mirrors’ effect. “Using mirrored surfaces in a dark room helps to lift and brighten the space. Any available light will bounce right off and back into the room,” says Sue. This effect also works well for bedrooms – using lamps on metallic or mirrored bedside tables help to illuminate the room while keeping a warm and relaxing tone.


    Another option is using multiple lamps. “I love the symmetry of lamps – I always use them in pairs – and I thought I’d take it one step further here. In this relaxed snug, I placed a line of lamps in front of a line of mirrors. This creates a wall of light behind the sofa, which gives the room just enough brightness,” Sue explains. “The lamps I chose were very tall and narrow with a small shade, to ensure they didn’t obstruct too much of the mirror.”


    Lastly, you could swap your light bulbs for higher wattage ones, so they shine that little bit brighter, but be careful not to lose that warm atmospheric glow that’s vital for a dark room. If you’re unsure which light bulb is best for which room, take a look at our helpful guide.




    What lighting is best for a dark dining room?

    As we usually entertain in the evening, dining rooms lend themselves to dark décor. But, Sue warns, “an improperly lit dining room can ruin a very good meal.” She took inspiration from low-level lighting found in fine-dining restaurants and jazz clubs, and placed a line of lamps down the centre of the dining table. “I love the metal shade of our Grisewood lamp, and it’s also quite small and thin, so it doesn’t take up too much space – something that’s very important on a dining table where you also need room for plates, glasses, servingware and other personal touches.” Of course, you’ll need to ensure you have sockets under your dining table and make holes in your tablecloth to thread the wire through, but we think the finished result is well worth the effort.



    By combining different lighting sources with mirrored or metallic surfaces, Sue was able to add depth to this dark house, thus helping it to feel less monotone. The lamps she chose had intriguing silhouettes for the daytime, but were dark coloured so they camouflaged into the background. She also brought the room to life with splashes of colour via velvet cushions and chairs: “To break up the blackness, I introduced the bright cushions. They just have that bee sting of colour that the room needs.” We think you’ll agree that the overall effect is so dramatic and inviting, you’ll never shy away from decorating with dark colours again.


    For tips on lighting up the rest of your home, explore our helpful room-by-room guide.


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