Furniture Makeovers Home decor

5 Ways to Lighten Without Going White

A rustic metal piece of wall art is dressed up with gold metallic ceam | #sponsored Country Chic Paint |

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. 


Although this chest is in perfect shape, the color dated it to the 1990s’s and made it rather heavy for the space.

Hooker serpentine chest is prepared for refresh |

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.

Hooker serpentine chest refinished with chalk paint | #sponsored Pure & Original |


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.

Foyer makeover before updates to artwork and front door painted white |

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.

The front door is lightened with a creamy white that was used on the trim. The color provides cohesiveness with the rest of the space and the sheen reflects light. |


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.

5 Ways to Lighten Without Going White | #sponsored Country Chic |

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.


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.

To lighten art work, consider painting the wall area behind the texture a lighter color |


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.

A light coat of a transparent metallic cream will lighten dark art work | #sponsored Country Chic Paint |

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.

A rustic metal piece of wall art is dressed up with gold metallic ceam | #sponsored Country Chic Paint |

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.

A bit of gold metallic cream applied to rusty wall art creates a softened look and bit of glam | #sponsored Country Chic |

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.   

A little bit of gold metallic cream creates a whole lot of glam | #sponsored Country Chic |

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.  

In case you want to lighten up a space, but don't really want to go white...this post is for you. A traditional living room and dining room with heavy fabrics and dark wood are getting a lighter and brighter refresh. This post shares a few simple lightening tricks |

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)




  • Reply Carolann May 23, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    I really appreciate this post. I’ve been trying to lighten up some areas in my home and this is such a great way to do that. Everything looks so much more welcoming too. My front door trim is while but the door itself needs some perking up too. Great ideas and love them all!

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 23, 2016 at 8:05 pm

      Thanks, Carolann….I simply must use what I have. These little tricks have really helped make it work.

  • Reply Toni @ Small Home Soul May 23, 2016 at 6:41 pm

    All these are such great ideas and they have made a huge change to your rooms. I love your new front door!!

    I have dark furniture in the dining room and with the darker wood floors we recently installed the dining room is daaark. I have already covered the chair seats which helped but I’m considering painting the buffet a lighter color to give the room a lift.

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 23, 2016 at 8:06 pm

      Thanks, Toni. We may need to see what we can come up with. I’d love to have lighter furniture in the dining room, but do not have the heart to paint the big hutch.

  • Reply Debrashoppeno5 May 23, 2016 at 7:24 pm

    These are very good tips. Sometimes you don’t want to paint the furniture so your tips are an alternative to that and lighten the room by tricking the eye.

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 23, 2016 at 8:07 pm

      Thanks, Debra. I hope these ideas can be helpful! XO

  • Reply Michelle James May 23, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    I love this. You are really rocking the metallic cream. Everything you do is gorgeous but I am still in love with the little side table (5 minute project) Thanks for sharing your tips to lighten a room. I have been working hard on the same thing in my home. Next up….a slipcover for dark sofa. EEEEK!

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 23, 2016 at 8:55 pm

      Thanks, Michelle. Oh!! I need slip covers for two chairs!! I look forward to reading your tute.

  • Reply Sue May 24, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    I will forever think of this piece of art you transformed perfectly. It has the scroll, swirl to it to compliment the mirror and has a wonderful artsy look in a big elegant presentation. I am so glad you are now in my pocket as a go-to for ideas.

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 24, 2016 at 4:55 pm

      Thanks Sue. You are too kind.

  • Reply melanie33180 May 24, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    I’m reading this lovely post while sitting on my porch waiting for the painters to finish the mammoth job of painting my living room and stairway! It’s going from yellow all over (including the ceiling!!) to light gray walls and white ceiling. So much in the space has always felt dark, and I think this new paint scheme is going to make a big difference. I love your other ideas though too!! Great choice painting the door trim! It does make things look more cohesive. I think your space looks fantastic 🙂

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 24, 2016 at 4:58 pm

      Hi Melanie and thanks for stopping by. My walls will probably keep the khaki color since they are facing South and wash out like crazy every day. But the creamy tones, open pieces, and reflective surfaces have done wonders to lighten up. I have already remade the dining room drapes and removed the heavy elements. Still working in this area for now. I look forward to seeing your new paint. There’s nothing so nice as fresh paint. Your creativity will go wild.

  • Reply Marie, The Interior Frugalista May 25, 2016 at 1:41 am

    Excellent tips Susie! I like how you’ve given another alternative to lightening without a can of white paint.

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 25, 2016 at 3:35 pm

      Thanks so much, Marie.

  • Reply Heather Northington May 25, 2016 at 8:12 am

    Wonderful tips! Thank you for sharing. They really did make a difference in your already beautiful home. I love them all, but the front door has to be my favorite. It really does brighten up the entry way lots and looks fantastic.

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 25, 2016 at 3:42 pm

      Thanks, Heather. I agree…that front door is like a day and night difference. I’m so glad I lightened it.

  • Reply Heather May 25, 2016 at 10:59 am

    Love these sophisticated design tips, Susie. It’s the most subtle of changes that can create that harmony and cohesion that is so often just out of reach. Thank you for sharing such an intelligent approach to the challenge! xoxox

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 25, 2016 at 3:43 pm

      Thanks so much, Heather. I truly hope the ideas that made such a difference in my front rooms can help others, too.

  • Reply Katie @ The Crafty Blog Stalker May 25, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    Fabulous tips! It really is amazing how simply lightening the color of some items in the room can completely change the feel. Love this post and have pinned to save for later.

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 25, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      Thanks, Katie. I am totally amazed at the difference in my front rooms. It’s shocking how much lighter they are now.

  • Reply Kathy Owen May 25, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    Great tips and I love your wall art!

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 25, 2016 at 7:14 pm

      Thanks, Kathy. Appreciate so much.

  • Reply Marjan Beck May 25, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    I love the art piece, and what a clever idea to paint the wall behind it, it really makes it stand out!

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 25, 2016 at 7:15 pm

      Thanks, Marjan… Appreciate so much.

  • Reply SheilaG@Plum Doodles May 25, 2016 at 7:50 pm

    Those are great tips for lightening up an area, Susie. I love that piece beside your front door. And as much as I like the trend for black doors, I have to say I like your lighter color better.

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 25, 2016 at 8:02 pm

      Thanks so much, Shelia. I totally agree. I love the door painted this color. It really does read white to the eye, doesn’t it?

  • Reply Florence May 25, 2016 at 10:40 pm

    Hi Susan,
    I enjoyed your post! Yes I agree with you on the white….it can be too much sometimes. Love how the door turned out and the chest. Where did you get that cream paint? Is it paint or is it finish?

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 25, 2016 at 10:56 pm

      Hi Florence, Thanks so much. The cream paint for the trim? It’s a custom color…I can send you the recipe on FB if you would like to have it.

  • Reply Farmhouse Nightstand Makeover - The Chelsea Project May 26, 2016 at 6:11 am

    […] In the meantime, if you’re like me and like light and bright, but don’t want to go all white, here’s a post that offers 5 easy ideas to help with that.  Click here to see. […]

  • Reply Mary-The Boondocks Blog May 26, 2016 at 6:19 am

    Susie, this post is perfect for me. After I redid my fireplace, everything around it looked to dark. So now I am painsakingly redoing everything. I painted a frame and instead of just plain white I added a glaze. But I really like the effect of the metallic cream. Maybe I can get them to send me some? It’s worth a shot. I love how your metal artwork turned out.

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 26, 2016 at 7:44 am

      Thanks, Mary. I hope yo can get some of the metallic cream. It will either go on transparent or opaque… it’s really an amazing product. Good luck with your project. Be sure to post some pics.

  • Reply Linda May 26, 2016 at 10:51 am

    Really timely ideas here. I think we are ALL trying to lighten things up a bit. I’ve changed out drapes, pillows and accessories in the living room and now down to the wood furniture. These three pieces are all irreplaceable so will have to figure out something other than paint to change them. Have repainted the room as well, but still isn’t “it” just yet. So I sure do get your efforts with the ironwork! Excellent job!

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 26, 2016 at 12:02 pm

      Thanks, Linda. I’m with you about having some pieces that are just not getting painted…no matter what. I have this going on in my dining room right now. Maybe I should write some of the ideas I’m using in there… it’s taken some time to figure these out. Might be helpful to others…..

  • Reply Sledgehammer Queen May 27, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    Susie, great ideas. I always admire white rooms in photographs, but I just can’t live with a white room. I think all I see in my mind’s eye is my home when I bought it 34 years ago, stark white walls with green carpet. Still gives me the shivers!! Anyway, I think the key is many different shades of white working together!

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 27, 2016 at 3:40 pm

      Thanks so much. i hope the ideas are helpful.

  • Reply simple nature decor May 28, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    You have such a lovelyl home, I was trying to take a break from bloggy today, but as you see I am visiting other blogs! Love the vintage wall decor! It looks great naturally lightened.

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 31, 2016 at 6:57 pm

      I know exactly what you mean about trying to take a break from bloggy… I can’t seem to do it either. Thanks so much for stopping by. Appreciate the visit and sweet comments.

  • Reply Time With Thea (@TimeWithThea) June 24, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    This is brilliant Susie! I have a home with some dark colours in it that I love. This whole white thing is really not my thing. Although it is stunning in photographs. I so appreciate your tips. My favourite is to lighten behind darker wall art. You have given me something to think about!

    • Reply theChelseaProject June 24, 2016 at 11:36 pm

      Thanks so much,Thea. I always hope that the ways I solve problems in my home can be helpful to others,too.

  • Reply How to Turn a Kitchen Cabinet into a Wardrobe - The Chelsea Project August 24, 2016 at 7:16 am

    […] To see how to lighten a space without going all white – Click here. […]

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