How to brighten up your home, according to interior designers

Greg Stevens

Spring seems to have flown by in the blink of an eye and summer is already halfway over, so you’re probably already knee-deep in family barbecues and hosting events with your closest friends to create new memories. As your revolving door of guests continues to swing, you might be thinking about some new decor that’ll wow them the next time they arrive.

Shop TODAY asked interior designers for their best tips on how to lighten and brighten your home with both decor and actual lighting pieces, no matter what size space you’re working with.

How to brighten up your home with lighting

If you’re trying to bring more light into your home, an easy place to start is by looking at the literal lighting fixtures. Interior designer Brittany Marom likes to start with ceiling fixtures because they’re at the highest point and are best at flooding a space with light. After those come wall sconces, which she says can be helpful when accenting darker areas that an overhead light potentially wouldn’t reach. She notes that they can also help illuminate art and serve as mood lighting.

And then there are lamps. “Lamps are everyone’s best friend because you can put them in any part of the room,” Marom laughed. She added that taller lamps, preferably around 72 inches tall, give you the best effect and light output and tableside lamps are ideal for corners that don’t get as much light.

Linda Hayslett, a Los Angeles-based interior designer and owner of LH.Designs, offered a DIY solution she’s seen on social media recently. To add light to an area that doesn’t have electrical wiring, she suggests mounting a sconce, hiding the wiring behind it and putting a puck light inside that can be controlled remotely. “It can really make a moment in someone’s home,” she said.

How to lighten your home with decor

Beyond lighting fixtures, the experts also offered tips on how to brighten up your home with decorative items. Hayslett started out with bringing citrus-scented candles and adding vegetation and low-maintenance plants into your decor.

“Some plants aren’t really hard to take care of. Once they grow, it just can really make a home feel very light and airy and [give it] an indoor/outdoor feel even if you live in a small space,” she said, before adding that small lemon and orange trees could be useful options for small spaces.

Marom suggests swapping darker upholstery for lighter colors, a tip echoed by interior designers Habiba Koroma and Kerrie Kelly. Koroma likes to embrace seasonal changes by switching up the color scheme of her decor. For example, for spring, she prefers pale pastels and lighter neutrals like ochre. She says swapping out smaller items like towels, throw blankets, pillows and shower curtains can make all the difference in “curating a seasonal collection,” as she called it.

Koroma emphasized the importance of using your senses to help you be more purposeful when decorating. For touch: look for throw pillows and blankets (or what she calls “soft goods”). For sight: color schemes. Smell: choosing candles, essential oils and diffusers with summer scents. Even hearing! “I think it’s important to pick out some songs or tunes that remind you of spring,” she said. (Her personal favorites are tracks by Miles Davis and Will Smith for spring and summertime vibes.)

Kelly offered a simple (and mostly free) solution for brightening up your home: opening your windows, doors and drapery. She added that swapping your window coverings can provide some additional sunlight.

Interior designer tips for brightening a small space

Products should have more than one use

Every interior designer emphasized the importance of filling your small space with items that have more than one use. Ideally, you’d choose items that can double as or offer storage like coffee tables or baskets.

“Having maybe nesting tables instead of a big chunky coffee table helps keep the space lighter and airier, not feeling as heavy and bogged down with furniture,” Marom told us.

Use decor to create the illusion of more space and light

Marom likes to use mirrors positioned opposite a window to create more light in a small space. “Putting a mirror opposite the window is always really great because it bounces light and then it opens up space really, really well,” she said.

Another tip she offered is using tall lamps to create more widespread light in a small space. “The taller the lamp, the better because a lot of the times small spaces don’t really get overhead lighting,” she noted.

By creating the illusion of spaciousness and light in a small space, you’ll be doing what Kelly describes as “blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor living.”

“Sometimes there isn’t necessarily square footage we can walk out to. But that visual of the sunlight, the organic elements like bushes and trees coming indoors creates a sense of spaciousness we can all celebrate,” she said.

Use what you already have

If you don’t want to buy new pieces, Koroma encourages using what you have to create collections that you can put on display.

“If you’re curating the things that you have on a beautiful open shelf — as long as it looks intentional, it’s collected, it’s curated — you can really get away with having more but in a more intentional, well-designed way,” she said.

This advice also applies to soft goods. For throw pillows, instead of buying entirely new ones every season, she suggests just buying pillow covers to match your decor. As a self-anointed throw pillow junkie, she’s found that this technique works best in her personal spaces. She likes the ability to match her seasonal decor while increasing the longevity and sustainability factor of her original pillows.

“Think of your home and the accessories in your home like your wardrobe. You change your wardrobe through the seasons depending on where you live, it should be the same,” she said. “Dress your home like you dress yourself for the season.”

For spring and summer, she recommends using more linens, white colors, sheer fabrics and “playing off of those kinds of textures that make you feel more bright and light and airy and really help you celebrate the season.”

Other things to keep in mind

Measure, measure, measure

Before you start buying everything you see that you think will fit the vibe you’re looking for, Marom emphasized the importance of measuring first. Whether it’s lighting fixtures or decor, you don’t want to end up with something that’s either too big or too small for your space. Understanding your layout and the space you have to work with will make the design process as seamless as possible.

Have a seasonal mindset

You might buy something that makes you happy for one season that you’ll want to put away for another and that’s okay, assured Koroma. She encourages having a “seasonal mindset” when shopping for decor.

“It just frees up a lot of that mental pressure that some of my clients have expressed to me where they’re wanting their items in their home to do everything and it doesn’t really have to,” she said. “It’s supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to reflect the mood. It’s supposed to create and inspire. It doesn’t have to be everything at all times. Just relax with it.”

Be intentional and know your style

“It’s easy to just run out and get [some stuff] for the moment but I think if people just step back and think ‘What do I really need here for my own space that will make me happy?’” Hayslett said. This thought process is one that she says can help alleviate some of the heaviness that can occur in a space where it feels like “junk [is] sitting around for no reason.”

Koroma echoed similar sentiments about figuring out what makes you happy and, furthermore, what the seasons feel like to you as a way to help guide your decorating process.

“Think about those things that transport you back to a beautiful summer lazy day at the beach or even that first day when you can go outside without a coat, confidently. That’s like my favorite day of the year,” she laughed.

Lighting fixtures are also a way to express your personal style and can even double as artwork, Kelly added. “Lighting can work double duty in being something that’s very decorative but something that’s very functional as well,” she said. Lighting can provide layers in the decorative process from chandeliers to task lights, she explained.

Lighting can be used as a safety tactic

Kelly also offered lighting being used strategically not just for decorative reasons but also for safety purposes.

“I think someone who may want to burglarize your home, if the house is lit up, it’s not going to get that kind of action,” she said.

It can be as simple as hanging string lights in a backyard or placing foot lights along a walkway.

Best decor to help brighten up your home, according to interior designers

Brightroom Decorative Coiled Basket

Hayslett likes Target’s seasonal decorations and said she often finds herself going in for one thing, only to end up there for hours (we’re totally guilty of this, too).

One of her small space tips was to use neutral baskets — much like this one we found — as both storage and decoration throughout the year.

“Have them labeled and then you can have them there for when you want to put things away and when you want to take things out. That just makes things so much easier and will lighten up a space really quick,” she said.

Clare Paint Make Waves

If you want to completely overhaul your space for the season with a fresh paint job, Koroma likes several shades from Clare, a paint company founded by interior designer Nicole Gibbons. Make Waves was one of her color choices for spring, along with other several other shades including Pink Sky, Good as Gold, Hyperlink and Flatiron.

Clare Paint Two Scoops

For summer colors, Koroma suggests beach tones and a “calm, coastal neutral” color palette. She also likes On Point, Windy City, Views, Summer Friday and Blue Ivy.

Anthropologie Aracelli Rug

Anthropologie is another favorite of Hayslett’s, who said they have “great, fun things especially when it comes to summer.” This tufted rug is proof of that with a pattern featuring bouquets of bright florals. It’s suitable for small and large spaces coming in a variety of sizes ranging from two-feet-by-three-feet all the way up to eight-feet-by-ten-feet.

Afloral Orange Dried Formosa Banksia Flowers

Koroma chose these dried flowers for the “see” portion of the five senses strategy she uses when decorating. She also likes this bunch of dried phalaris grass.

Angled Modern Form Pillow Cover

Take advantage of Koroma’s tip about pillow covers with her pick from West Elm. It comes in two colorways and you can buy an individual one or a set of two. If you like the design, you can add a bath mat with a similar pattern to add a pop of brightness to other parts of the house.

Soft Corded Pillow Cover

Another one of Koroma’s picks for pillow covers, this one can be paired with the matching throw in one of five different colors.

Organic Tassel Stripe Bath Mat

Embrace your sense of touch with Koroma’s summer pick for your bathroom. It comes in five different colors and three sizes.

Estelle Colored Glass Wine Stemless Set

If you’re wondering how to use your sense of taste for decoration, Koroma recommends looking at this mint green set for summer. They’re perfect for enjoying your favorite refreshing summer cocktails with friends.

Edens Garden Beach House Essential Oil Blend

The right scent can transport you and make your space feel like an indoor oasis. It has notes of coconut and sandalwood to “inspire beachy vibes wherever you go.” Koroma likes this scent for summer to make you feel as light as the rest of your decor.

Best lighting fixtures to help brighten up your home, according to interior designers

Frontgate Bonaire Table Lamp

While on the pricier side, Hayslett likes Frontgate pieces because she says the quality is high enough that it’ll last you long enough to take with you over time, long enough to get your money’s worth. These tabletop lamps are made from mouth-blown glass with an either classic or textured base.

Handwoven Jute Table Lamp

For summer, Koroma called out this table lamp from West Elm that is described as being “inspired by the beach” and designed “for plenty of bright light to filter through to your home.”

Cedar & Moss Mira

Marom likes Cedar + Moss for their contemporary-style offering of light fixtures. “They’re trendy and they’re all made in the US,” she added.

48-Foot LED Outdoor String Light

Kelly suggests these outdoor string lights for keeping your space bright all the time, but especially when hosting.

“Run string lights from the top of the house or pergola and place ambient lanterns around the corners to provide beautiful illumination that fits a nighttime party aesthetic. Additionally, install outdoor ceiling fans that hang above the patio table, helping to make outdoor dinners a more comfortable experience,” she wrote in an email.

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