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Lighten Up! 5 Ways to Bring Light into a Dark Room

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Pretty Handy Girl: Lighten Up! 5 Ways to Bring Light into a Dark Room

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lighten Up! 5 Ways to Bring Light into a Dark Room

On Monday I showed you my fireplace painting from white paint back to brick. This was only one step in our major living room renovation. I hope you will hop back again this week to see some of the other transformations we made to this room.

1. Faux painting brick over a previously painted white brick fireplace
2. Lightening up a room in 5 steps (this post)
3. Painting decorative graphics on a wall
4. Preparing to Install Antique Heart Pine Floors (and living to tell about it!)
5. Installing Heart Pine Floors and the Final Reveal


After the bricks were painted, I enjoyed the results for a few months, but I had bigger ideas for this room. The first was to lighten up the room. This room has no windows, only a sliding glass door that opens to a screened porch. No ceiling lights except two eyeball lights aimed at the fireplace.  Add to that a deep pine green paint on the walls and this room was one dark cave.

These pictures were taking before we moved in:


Years ago Pretty Handy Guy and I learned that the first thing you need to do to increase light in your room is to scrape the popcorn ceiling and repaint it using Valspar's Ultra Bright Flat White Paint.
Photo courtesy of DIYNetwork.com

This always makes a dramatic difference in how much light is reflected (as opposed to being absorbed by the popcorn texture and dull builder's white paint.)

Okay, so if you are thinking that I scraped the ceiling myself, think again.  I may be pretty handy – and there isn't much I can't do – but this is one job I choose NOT to do. I scraped our pantry ceiling and it was easy, but my neck hurt for days! Do yourself a favor and hire someone to scrape, spackle and sand for you if you have neck or shoulder issues like I do. Then you can prime and paint with a roller on an extension pole.
 
Ceiling scraped, spackled, sanded, primed, and painted with ultra white paint. Wow, that is bright white!
Just kidding. I didn't take a picture of the ceiling.

Most people know that adding a lighter color to a room increases the amount of light. Dark colors absorb light while lighter colors reflect them. (Remember the wisdom of not wearing black on a hot sunny day).

After much deliberation*, (because I liked the green color that was already there) I chose a lighter green for the walls. Wasabi Powder by Behr. But I had my favorite "paint guys" at Ace Hardware match the color in a Benjamin Moore Satin Aura Paint.

*When I deliberate, I bring home about 50 different swatches from many brands for each room I am trying to decide for. Then I put up a few at a time stuck in door jams, light switches, etc. I move them around on different walls at different times of the day. Then weed out the ones I don't like. I live with the colors for at least a week, taking time to narrow my choices down to three. Then I run to buy the little sample paint jars of the colors I chose or have the paint department at Lowe's mix one ($3 for a sample of ANY color! Woot!)

At this point I am so gung-ho about painting that I grab my brush and paint big 3' x 1' patches of the finalists on all four walls right up against the white trim (so I have one edge against white not the existing wall color). But, If you aren't quite ready to paint on your walls, you can paint your swatches on big pieces of poster board instead. Usually within a day I can decide on "The One."


Since this was my first experience with Benjamin Moore Aura paint. I was shocked when the paint covered the deeper green with only one coat! Pretty Handy Guy and I are perfectionists about painting, so we have always used two coats on any room we paint. We both agreed that this time we couldn't see ANY spots showing through with this paint!

 Legalese: Of course, your results may vary.
We have since painted the office from a dark sienna color
to a light stone color and definitely need the two coats.

One more thing about Aura paint, it really is super low odor. It is more expensive, but you don't have to use as much since it covers better, no roller marks, and ...hey, it is good for you and the environment!

The new color made a difference, but the biggest unexpected change in light happened when we widened this doorway:

  This was a measly 4 feet opening from the kitchen to the living room.

I had been trying to convince Pretty Handy Guy for ions months that we really needed to open up the doorway. I wanted to be able to see what our two screaming boys were up to while struggling to pull dinner out of the oven. Or be able to participate in conversation with guests when they sat in the living room and I was busy in the kitchen.

I tried taping up cardboard to show him the new width. But, he just couldn't see the potential. Luckily, he finally gave in.

The next day, I hired a contractor to open up the doorway. This guy was worth his weight in gold, especially when he proposed a brilliant idea:


"Why not add sconce lights to each side of the opening in the living room since I have to cut holes to move the wiring in your wall anyway?" YES! I yelled. I could kiss that contractor. To this day, I still love those sconces and the light they add to the room. But, most of all, I loved the expression on Pretty Handy Guy's face (sheer quizzical skepticism) when he heard "sconces". I found out later that Pretty Handy Guy didn't have the same vision as I did:



Opening up that wall had an unexpected bonus. It allowed all the light from the kitchen bay window to spill into the living room. So, to recap, here are the light altering changes we made:
  1. Scrape Ceilings
  2. Repaint Ceilings Ultrabright White
  3. Repaint Walls Lighter Green
  4. Add Sconce Lights to both sides of the wall opening
  5. Open Doorway

And the results speak for themselves!

Before shot: Living room during daylight with table lamp lighting

  After shot: Nighttime room lit by fireplace lights
(gotta love Santa's magic North Pole footprints made with baking soda!)

After shot: Nighttime room lit by fireplace lights, sconces
and (okay) a few Christmas tree blinkies

Before shot: 4 foot doorway looking into living room

After shot: Same doorway widened to almost 8 ft. (doorway looking into kitchen)

Final shot: Way too early Christmas morning!

Stay tuned! 

And then...Dec. 26th 2009...Christmas is over, take down the tree and remove everything from the room. Make way for reclaimed antique heart pine floors! You gotta see this (coming soon.)

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12 Comments:

At August 19, 2010 at 9:12 AM , Blogger Michelle @ Dream Home DIY said...

Oh your new doorway is just PERFECT!! And I laughed out loud, sitting in my office, when I scrolled down and saw the scone picture hahaha

 
At August 19, 2010 at 9:21 AM , Blogger Cozy.Cottage.Cute. said...

What a difference!

I love that green by the way. :)

 
At August 19, 2010 at 9:59 AM , Blogger Amanda@The Hand Me Down House said...

Fantastic post, Brittany! (As always!!) These are some wonderful tips -- and believe me I'll be using them! I love the color you chose for your living room -- as well as the molding -- it's beautiful!

 
At August 19, 2010 at 10:34 AM , Anonymous Carrie Lorfano said...

I love the sconces, Brittany! I believe that every home should be full of them!

 
At August 19, 2010 at 3:07 PM , Blogger The Pennington Point said...

Oh dear...I desperately need to remove the old popcorn ceiling. Like you, I don't want to do it myself. Your post is a reminder that I really need to have it done. I love the results of all of your hard work. Lisa~

 
At August 19, 2010 at 7:19 PM , Blogger Brandy said...

I so want to get rid of our popcorn ceilings... sigh. but I just don't see me doing it!!! I wish.
great post!!!
lifeofperks.blogspot.com

 
At August 20, 2010 at 2:45 AM , Blogger Jeralee said...

Love the green! Benjamin Moore is usually my first choice for interior paint. Most of my trim is done in the satin Impervo... good paint!

Great tips here.

 
At August 21, 2010 at 11:21 AM , Blogger rebecca @ older and wisor said...

Those sconces were a FANTASTIC idea! Smooches to your contractor. I hope he's on your Christmas card list. You never know what you might need done next, eh?

Our living room is always dark too, thanks to an enclosed sunroom (game room) out the sliding door/covered porch out front/mature trees out windows/etc etc etc. Too bad I can't open up any walls to do some wiring.

Maybe I'll just have some scones instead...

 
At August 25, 2010 at 12:28 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the room. So glad you mentioned the bright white paint for the ceiling. We didn't scrape our popcorn but did first thing paint over it with bright white cause did realize other was sooo dull. Does make such a difference.

Donna (got here from Decor Lady too with her pantry)

 
At August 28, 2010 at 7:11 PM , Blogger Jen said...

Haha regarding the sconces! I sold PartyLite for years and I had so many guests fill out their sheets telling me that their favorite piece was the 'scones'. Beautiful home, btw. =)

 
At September 27, 2010 at 10:08 AM , Blogger That One Girl said...

OKAY! I'm following you from now on. My house is TERRIBLE! I can't WAIT to be able to redo it! I'm only changing the paint and whatnot. Our living room is not huge, but not tiny either, and the former owners painted it chocolate brown and brick red. Our master bedroom is on the smallish side... peach and chocolate brown sponge paint... backwards... (dark on top) and every room in the house had popcorn on the ceiling!

 
At October 4, 2010 at 11:59 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice job....

We did those prints but not for Santa (wish we'd thought of that), but the Easter Bunnies' prints coming out of the grass on to the front porch...kept them believing a little longer...my brother-in-law came around with his little foot print kit..thanks for the memory :)

Kathy :)

 

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