HOME IMPROVEMENT TIPS

‘Lighten up’ a small space to save energy, improve look

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A dark or small living space can be made to appear larger by “lightening up,” saving energy in the process, a design expert explained.

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Interior design and decorating expert Jillian Cariola said that favoring lighter colors, opening as much space as possible within rooms, and even moving lamps to different locations not only improves the appearance of a home, it can help save money by improving ventilation and using more natural light.

“You are not only making your home appear happier and more welcoming but you are also creating the illusion that it is bigger than it seems, an advantage for those who live in small spaces,” by improving the lighting, Cariola said. “It also lessens your use of artificial lighting, which saves energy and money.”

For people who have the funds and own their own homes, renovations such as removing interior walls – provided they are not structurally necessary load-bearing walls – or creating new windows are other ways to brighten a space and improve airflow, but for those who do not have those options, Cariola offered a number of design tips.

The most effective change is to repaint walls and ceilings with light colors. Cariola stressed that the ceiling should not be overlooked. “Dark beams makes a ceiling look like it is positioned too close to the floor, so be sure to paint them as well,” she said.

Likewise, she suggested that the popular trend of using wood flooring also makes a room look small.

“Many design experts will tell you to ditch the carpet and embrace beautiful hardwood flooring, but dark staining makes a room look small and cramped. Either refinish the dark wood or cover it up with a light-colored area rug,” she suggested.

Likewise, choosing lighter-colored, less bulky furniture makes a room seem more open. “Use furniture that allows you to see the floor underneath, open shelves, and glass or acrylic tables,” Cariola said.

She also cautioned against blocking natural light with furnishings or large accent pieces. “Move any and all furniture pieces away from windows. Also, avoid decorating windowsills with large vases, figurines, and the like, or keep the sills bare altogether,” she explained.

Other tips that do not require renovation to the room’s structure include using sheer curtains or other window treatments such as Venetian blinds, and mounting mirrors on walls, particularly in locations where mirrors can be hung on opposite walls or at right-angles to each other.

In addition, using shiny decorative accents such as picture frames, doorknobs, and handles on drawers or cabinet doors can also make the room appear brighter, Cariola said. She also recommended locating lamps next to walls or in corners to use the reflection of the light-colored wall to increase lighting. Changing to more energy-efficient and brighter LED bulbs also increases the light while reducing electricity use.

Finally, Cariola made a gentle suggestion to “clean and de-clutter” the space. “How long has it been since you cleaned the glass panes of your windows and doors? You might be surprised how much brighter your home will look once dirt and grime has been wiped off and more light gets through,” she said, also suggesting that unused items be discarded or packed away, to avoid taking up space.

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