Lighten a space without going all white?
Raise your hand if you wish this could happen to you.Without a doubt, some of the most beautiful rooms I’ve ever seen are totally white. Still, a solid white room just doesn’t work for me. So I compiled a few of the ways I’ve been working to lighten and brighten the living room and dining room without going all white.
1. PAINT DARK FURNITURE IN NEUTRALS
Although this chest is in perfect shape, the color dated it to the 1990s’s and made it rather heavy for the space.
And now, it hardly looks like the same chest. The difference is remarkable after just a little chalky-type paint in light neutrals. It is also a perfect example of how painting part of a piece can lighten and brighten a huge space. All of the details on how this piece was refinished are here.
2. CREATE COHESIVE COLOR
As odd as it may sound, using a variety of neutrals and soft-toned colors together can lighten a space by making it cohesive. Once the wall in the living room was lightened with the painted chest, the foyer needed lightening, too. Without a doubt, the dark door and trim had to go.
So it was painted with the trim color, which isn’t a pure white because it has lots of black and a bit of raw umber in it. But the color works well with the 20-year-old honey oak floor color and actually reads white to the eye.
Yes, I know the floors need darkening, but the entire main floor is hardwood. At some point, I’ll take the plunge, but not yet. 🙁
Anyhoo, back to the freshly painted door and trim.
3. USE OPEN and TEXTURED – Not Solid – ART WORK
As seen in the picture above, this metal piece adds a nice, open metal element to the corner. It is flat enough for the door to swing all the way open and provides visual interest via texture. It’s just perfect for that little corner and better yet, it is not another mirror or painting.
Thank goodness, because honestly, I already have lots of furniture in the living room upholstered in heavy fabrics and several dark pieces of wood. There were also several large oil paintings and two mirrors in the living room and dining room combined. For this little corner, it seemed like the more open a piece of art work was, the better for the space.
4. LIGHTEN THE WALL COLOR BEHIND ART WORK
Although the metal piece was the right size and provided an open and textural element, two problems remained.
One was that the corner was still slightly dark. So I tried to lighten it by painting the wall behind the texture. I used Sherwin Williams Dover White and then a super light blue from the oooops counter. What I learned was even though the neutrals did lighten the space, for this particular piece, the colors were a little too harsh. So the area was topped off with some diluted brown glaze and the look was significantly softened.
But even after living with it for a bit, the overall paint and texture combo just never seemed settled. It was nice and neutral and followed the palette in the living room —So I still believe that using paint behind artwork as a way to lighten rooms is a good option. But my problem was with the actual piece. It just wasn’t cohesive with the other accessories. I think that if I used this piece with the paint behind it in another space, it would have worked just fine. But I needed this piece to work here….in this very spot.
5. ADD REFLECTIVE SURFACES
So I had to come up with a way to make this rusty piece of metal compliment the vintage mirrors that flank it in the living room and dining room. Although the mirrors are different in size and shape, they are mirrors just the same, so I surely didn’t want yet another mirror in this corner. The way I saw it, all this rusty piece needed was a reflective lift. Something that would make it appear a bit more formal.
Enter metallic cream.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve really come to respect the diversity of this little product. First, I used it to paint upholstery fabric (click here to see). Then, I used it to makeover a side table — in 5 minutes (click here to see). So I knew that it would provide just the lift this wall art needed —-a little transparent glitter to reflect the light, but without changing the color.
It only took about 10-minutes to wipe the cream on the metal. It dries in about 10 to 15 minutes and doesn’t require any kind of sanding, buffing, or topcoating.
The overall color appears a bit more gold and there’s a less noticeable difference among the colors on the piece. This makes the piece more cohesive as a piece of wall art, but it is also more polished so that it fits with the other accessories.
You may notice, too, that the little side table with the plant on it (next to the chair in the living room) was changed out to a more open piece. This is the exact same concept as the wall art. The openness in the side table, even though the table is black, made the space seem lighter and brighter.
I am still working on making the super dark mahogany furniture in the dining room lighter…..without painting it! Simply using the power of light neutrals, open pieces, and reflective surfaces has made a huge difference. If you have these kinds of pieces that you’d like to lighten up, please stay tuned. There are plenty more before and after pictures coming.
But until next time….if you’d like to check out how I lightened…..
Black bars stools to creamy white chairs (click here)
How a dark piece of artwork was lightened with chalk paint and glaze (click here)
How the pantry was built and painted to maximize the light (click here)