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01.23.2006

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light bright how to brighten up a dark room  
by Yee-Fan Sun
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1 2 3
continued from page 1

2 Made in the shade. If you're well stocked with lamps but the room still seems gloomy, take a look at your lampshades. Different materials, colors and shapes of lampshades can vary radically with regards to how much light they let out. Dark lampshades tend to block light, especially if they're made of a thick material; replace with a light-colored, semi-sheer shade and you'll find your lamp yields a lot more illumination. Meanwhile, shades that enclose the whole bulb will generate a more diffuse light that extends over a greater amount of space, while a cone-shaped shade will give off a brighter light but over a much smaller area. Choose the right shape to suit your specific needs; the former will be best for general ambient lighting, while the latter is perfect for focused task lighting (say, over a work desk, dining table or kitchen counter).

3 Change the bulb. Different white bulbs give off slightly different colorcasts. Some bulbs are slightly blue, some have a hint of green, some are decidedly yellow, some are a smidge red. If your current lamp or fixture seems to give off a sort of dingy light even with the maximum wattage installed, the problem might not be the brightness so much as the color. If your supposedly white walls seems way too yellow for your taste, try bulbs that explicitly tout that they give "natural," "true," or "pure" light and you should get light that's as close to the real, sun-derived white sort as you're going to find without actually putting in more windows in your abode. If, on the other hand, you prefer a warmer-than-sunlight tinge to your artificial lighting (personally, I do), choose a regular incandescent bulb or a "warm white" energy-saving fluorescent.

4 The color game. In a room that gets scant natural light, dark walls and dark furnishings will only exaggerate the problem. A few coats of paint, some new slipcovers and a fresh color scheme will make a world of difference. So where to start? Most folks assume white is the easy choice for lightening up a cave-like space, and yes, it's true: white can be a miracle worker. Still, finding the right white can actually be somewhat tricky. Choose a white with too much purply-blue in the undertones and the end result might well be too stark; use one that's a hair gray, and the end result might feel tired and drab. As when choosing any paint, load up on paint chips at the store and tape them up to your wall to see how they look at home; pick the white that looks nicest in your particular space. In general, I find that a really pure white or a clearly cream cream work best; shades that are only slightly off-white have a tendency to just look dirty in low-light rooms. Remember too that there's no need to limit yourself to plain white. Color can work brilliantly to perk up a dark space. The key is to think light, or bright, or warm-toned. Pale apple green? Sure. Brilliant orange? Fun! But if you're toying with decking out your single-windowed, north-facing room in navy blue or maroon, you might want to think again. For making spaces feel lighter and brighter, dark, muted tones are generally not your friends.

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