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Light solutions – how to brighten a gloomy room

BY Ned Browne

1st Jan 2015 Home & Garden

Light solutions – how to brighten a gloomy room

Even a small windowless room can be transformed into a bright, roomy space. These are some of the best techniques:

Sun tunnels

These reflective tubes funnel light into the ceiling from a dome that can sit on a pitched or flat roof.  The great advantage of sun tunnels is that they are straightforward to install as they sit between roof joists. A 10-inch tube creates the equivalent light of three 100-watt bulbs. Prices start at around £200, and they can be installed by an experienced DIYer.



These require more work than sun tunnels, as they are that much larger and more complex to install.  Good quality skylights start from about £800 and come in all shapes and sizes. Larger ones cost far more. However, unlike sun tunnels, many can be opened, thus allowing fresh air in too.



Is there an external wall? If so, this could be a great option. Windows can be purchased off-the-shelf at a fraction of the cost of their custom-made cousins. If the wall doesn’t overlook anyone, and is at the rear of the property, no planning permission is likely to be required. However, always check with your local planning department before commencing.


Paint the walls and ceiling white

This is the easiest way to create the illusion of space. If white seems too cold, off-white works wonders as well. Beware of using more than one colour, as that will betray the room’s diminutive size.


Replacing solid doors with glass doors

If you can’t add light any other way, replacing the doors will bring light in from adjoining rooms. If it’s a bathroom use frosted glass, or put a clear glass panel above the door.


Smart glass walls

If money isn’t a constraint, how about smart glass (sometimes known as switchable glass)? When a current is passed through this glass it switches from clear to translucent, which is ideal for bathrooms. Smart glass is now commonly found in top-end hotels and prices are bound to come down.


Remove walls

Could the room be incorporated into another room to take advantage of the light that already exists? Assuming the wall isn’t a supporting wall this is not as hard as it sounds: about a week’s work for a competent builder. If you don’t want to remove the entire wall, you could remove a section to allow in light.


Glass bricks

These offer the advantage of some structural integrity (although glass brick walls cannot be load-bearing), plus light and privacy. The construction is no different to a normal wall, as the blocks are typically bonded together with mortar. As such, they should be highly durable and simple to build.



Large mirrors will reflect both natural and artificial light to make the room brighter. They also bounce light around the room, which should make it feel larger too.


Artificial lighting

Careful positioning of up-lights and down-lights can give the feeling of natural light. The trick is to keep the bulb out sight - say, under the wall cupboards - so there’s an impression of light, but with no obvious source.


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