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Easy ways to brighten rooms in winter

  • JESSICA WACHTEL VIA AP
                                To lighten up a room, designer Jessica Wachtel suggests adding a patterned rug in light and bright colors, as she did in this Bethesda, Md., living room.

    JESSICA WACHTEL VIA AP

    To lighten up a room, designer Jessica Wachtel suggests adding a patterned rug in light and bright colors, as she did in this Bethesda, Md., living room.

At this time of year, it can feel like brightness and light is in short supply in most any home. The sparkly holiday decorations have been put away, and the daylight hours are still way too brief.

Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can “do in a single day to hedge against the winter doldrums,” says Washington, D.C.-based interior designer Josh Hildreth. We’ve asked Hildreth, home designer Marnie Oursler and interior designer Jessica Wachtel of GTM Architects in Bethesda, Md., for advice on easy decor changes that will brighten up any room.

Light from below

Hildreth suggests taking a cue from the design style of Nordic countries, where winter days are short: Try painting wooden floors white or cream, or bleaching them to a light shade of brown.

“When you use sort of a wonderful cream color or white on a floor,” Hildreth says, “everything put against it pops.” Even heavy, dark wooden furniture will feel more contemporary and less formal.

Oursler and Wachtel suggest swapping out dark rugs for lighter and brighter ones.

Maximize your light

Removing heavy draperies will let in more natural light, Wachtel says.

Also, she says, consider using brighter lightbulbs or taking out a ceiling fixture that has just one bulb and replacing it with one that has several bulbs. You can use a dimmer to make sure the room doesn’t get too bright.

Another practical trick: Add large mirrors to amplify natural light during the day and lamplight at night.

Add openness and lift

Rearranging furniture is an inexpensive way to give a room a different feel, Oursler says. “And you de-clutter at the same time. … Once you de-clutter, the space will feel brighter and bigger,” she says.

As you rearrange, consider whether any of your pieces could be replaced with something less dense and heavy. If you have a heavy coffee table or solid wooden end tables, Oursler says, consider switching to lighter pieces made of metal and glass.

Also, she adds, make your space feel taller and more open by adding some wainscoting painted white about two-thirds of the way up a wall, and decorate above it by adding grass cloth or paintings in that space just below the ceiling.

Furniture coverings

If your dining table has dark chairs or your sofa is dark, Oursler suggests slipcovers in a light shade.

Hildreth says the same about covering a dark wood table: Since that dark table may dominate your dining room, he says, “a wonderful heavy, light-colored linen tablecloth is a beautiful idea.” The light color will open up the space.

Citrus scents

Hildreth points out that scents can also brighten a room: Potted citrus trees in his sunroom add a crisp scent, but candles and diffusers can do the same.

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