How To Brighten Up Your Dark Kitchen – Tips And Tricks For A Lighter Space
A dark kitchen can be a challenge to work in and can feel uninviting. If you’re struggling with a dark kitchen, don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to lighten and brighten it up. From changing the lighting to adding colour, there are many things you can do to make your kitchen feel brighter and more welcoming.
In this post, I’ll go over some ideas to help lighten up a dark kitchen, so you can create a space you’ll love to cook in.
Let’s get into it!
What Are The benefits of creating a brighter kitchen?
Whilst there’s nothing wrong with a dark, moody-looking kitchen (I love those too) there can be great benefits to a brighter, lighter kitchen space.
- Improved mood: A bright, well-lit kitchen can help lift your mood and create a positive atmosphere in the space. Exposure to natural light, or bright artificial light, has been shown to have a positive impact on overall well-being. It can help boost your mood and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
- Increased functionality: Good lighting is essential in the kitchen, especially when you’re preparing food. Bright lighting can help you see what you’re doing, making it easier to chop vegetables, measure ingredients, and cook meals. This can reduce the risk of accidents and make cooking a more enjoyable experience.
- Enhanced aesthetics: A bright kitchen can look more modern and stylish, enhancing the overall look and feel of your home. Light-coloured countertops, cabinets, and walls can reflect light and make the space appear brighter and more open. This can make your kitchen look more inviting and increase your enjoyment of the space.
- Better health: Exposure to natural light has been linked to improved overall health and well-being. It can help regulate your sleep-wake cycle, boost your mood, and improve your cognitive function. By incorporating natural light into your kitchen design, you can improve your health and quality of life.
- Improved safety: Good lighting is important for safety in the kitchen. Poor lighting can make it difficult to see potential hazards, such as wet floors, sharp objects, or hot surfaces. By improving the lighting in your kitchen, you can reduce the risk of accidents and make the space safer for you and your family. It can be especially important for accessible kitchen design.
how to Brighten up a dark kitchen
I’ve thought up a range of different ways to brighten up a dark kitchen. Some are more effective but may require more work. While others are a quick and easy win but might not totally transform your space. However, there’s something here for everyone no matter the scale of your project.
1. Paint the cabinets a lighter colour
Starting with the most obvious. Painting your cabinets a lighter colour can do wonders to help brighten up your kitchen. Choose a light colour, such as white or a pastel shade, to make the room feel brighter and more open.
Light colours reflect more light and help make the room feel larger and airier.
2. Install under-cabinet lighting
Under-cabinet lighting not only provides functional task lighting for food preparation but it can help to brighten up your kitchen and countertops. You can choose from several types of under-cabinet lighting, including LED light strips or round puck lights. There’s so much choice on the market you’ll easily find the option that best fits your kitchen’s needs.
3. Add a skylight or light tube
Not a quick or simple solution. However, it is a very effective one! A skylight or light tube can help bring in natural light and brighten up the kitchen considerably. This can be especially effective if the kitchen is located in a part of the house that doesn’t receive much natural light.
4. Use light-reflecting surfaces
Light-colored countertops, backsplashes, and cabinets help reflect light and make the room feel brighter. Consider using materials such as granite, quartz, or marble for your countertops, and choose a light-coloured backsplash to help brighten up the room. Polished, gloss or semi-gloss finishes will work best at reflecting the light around your surfaces and into the kitchen.
5. Add a pop of colour
Introducing a pop of colour into the room can help liven up a dark kitchen. Adding a brighter or more colourful backsplash such as light-coloured glass or bold and bright patterned tiles can help to break up a dull dark space.
It could even be as simple as painting one ‘feature’ wall a brighter colour.
6. Remove wall cabinets
If you can stand to lose a little bit of storage space, removing some wall cabinets can be a great way to open and brighten up a kitchen. It can give the feeling of a bigger space and allow more natural light into the room.
Opt for open shelving or a stylish countertop ledge. This can help add a little extra storage and create a beautifully curated Instagram-worthy look! Those handmade artisan bowls need to be shown off after all!
7. Hang window treatments
Light-colored window treatments can help diffuse light and brighten up the room. Choose sheer curtains or blinds that allow plenty of light to come in, and consider using lighter colours to make the room feel brighter. A dark-coloured blind, even when up, can draw the eye and give a sense the room is smaller and darker than it is.
8. Add a mirror
A quick and easy option as well as an old interior design trick. Mirrors reflect light, making them an excellent option for brightening up a dark kitchen. Consider installing a mirrored backsplash or large mirror on one of the walls to help reflect light and make the room feel brighter.
9. Bring in plants
Plants can help brighten up a dark kitchen by adding natural elements and bringing life to the room, which is a cornerstone of biophilic design. Additionally, some plants, such as ferns, are known for their air-purifying qualities, which can help improve the air quality in your kitchen.
Consider adding several potted plants or hanging plants to bring in some greenery and help brighten up the room.
10. Use recessed lighting
Recessed lighting provides bright, even lighting that can help brighten up a dark kitchen. They can be especially helpful in kitchens with lower ceilings as there’s nothing hanging down making the room feel smaller.
Consider installing several recessed lights in a row to provide bright, even lighting throughout the room. And as an extra little tip, opt for white covers on your recessed lights. Most ceilings will be painted white, and having white covers it helps them blend in and disappear into the ceiling.
11. Add pendant lights
Pendant lights can not only provide functional focused lighting over a specific area, such as a kitchen island or sink but can also help to introduce some character and visual interest into a kitchen. Having that additional lighting can help to brighten up a dark space.
Choose lighter-coloured pendants, such as white or clear glass, to help reflect light and brighten up the room. Heavy-looking or darker-coloured pendants can make a room feel smaller.
12. Open up the room
Not a simple task and not always possible. However, if you have the ability to knock down a wall to create a more open-plan kitchen living/dining space it can be a fantastic way to brighten up the room.
Not only will it give the room more space to breathe but could also mean that more natural light can enter the kitchen area.
How do you Brighten dark cabinets?
If you want to focus purely on your cabinets and not the kitchen as a whole, here are some quick ideas to brighten those dark cabinets.
- Paint the cabinets: One of the easiest and most effective ways to lighten up dark cabinets is to paint them a lighter colour. Choose a light colour, such as white or a light cream, to help brighten up the room. If you have wooden cabinets but don’t want to paint them, consider sanding them back and finishing them with a lighter wood stain or finish.
- Add lighting: Consider adding lighting to the interior of the cabinets to help brighten up the contents and make it easier to see what’s inside. You can use battery-operated LED lights or install lights that are hardwired into your lighting system.
- Change the hardware: Replacing the hardware on your cabinets, such as the handles and hinges, with lighter-coloured options can help brighten up the look of the cabinets. Consider using brushed nickel, stainless steel, or other light-coloured hardware to help lighten up the look of the cabinets.
- Add glass doors: Installing glass doors on some of the cabinets can help brighten up the contents and make the kitchen feel more open and airy. Clear glass is the best option, but you can also choose frosted glass or other types of textured glass to add some visual interest to the cabinets. Fluted (or reeded) glass is a trending look right now!
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What colours make a kitchen brighter?
Lighter colours tend to make a kitchen feel brighter and more open. Here are some colours that are commonly used to brighten up kitchens:
- White. White is a classic choice for kitchen walls and cabinets, as it reflects light and makes the room feel bright and open. White can be paired with other light colours, such as neutral or pastel shades, to add some visual interest to the space.
- Light blue. Light blue can be a great choice for a kitchen, as it is calming and soothing, and helps to brighten up the room. Light blue and white cabinets have been a very popular two-tone look for many years, with the two colours creating a bright and fresh look.
- Yellow. Yellow is a cheerful colour that can help brighten up a kitchen. Consider using a light, soft but sunny yellow for the walls or as an accent colour on cabinets or accessories.
- Light green. Light green is a fresh and natural colour that can help brighten up a kitchen. Light green walls can be paired with white cabinets and light-coloured countertops for a bright and airy look. Alternatively, consider opting for light sage-coloured cabinets paired with warm white walls and a light-coloured wooden floor. A perfect mix to create a warm, fresh and inviting kitchen.
- Light cream. Light cream is a warm and inviting colour that can help brighten up a kitchen. It can be a fantastic base colour for your walls or cabinets to then introduce other stronger colours to create more visual interest whilst still maintaining a light and bright kitchen.
If you do use a darker colour, consider using it as an accent rather than covering the entire room. Perhaps you could have one dark-coloured feature wall or use a rich dark tone for your island cabinets whilst keeping the rest of the kitchen cabinets a lighter colour.
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How can I Brighten a dark kitchen without a window?
If your kitchen doesn’t have a window, you can still brighten it up by using a combination of lighting, colours, and other design elements:
- Install lighting. Overhead lighting, such as recessed lights or pendant lights, can help brighten up the room and make it feel more open. Consider using a combination of lights, such as recessed lights in the ceiling and pendant lights over the island or sink, as well as under-cabinet lights to create a well-lit space.
- Use light colours. Choose light colours, such as white or cream, for the walls and cabinets to help brighten up the space. Light-coloured countertops and backsplashes will reflect light and make the room feel brighter.
- Install a skylight. If the layout of your home and kitchen allows for it, consider installing a skylight to bring in natural light. Skylights (or even light tubes) can be a great way to brighten up a dark kitchen and make it feel more open and airy.
- Use mirrors. Mirrors can help reflect light and brighten up a dark room. Consider installing a large mirror on one of the walls or using multiple smaller mirrors throughout the kitchen to help reflect light and make the room feel brighter.
- Install light-coloured flooring. Light-coloured flooring, such as a light wood or a light-coloured tile, can help brighten up the room and make it feel more open. Larger format tiles can help give a sense that the room is bigger than it is. Smaller, or patterned tiles can have the opposite effect and can create a busy-looking room.
How can I lighten my dark cabinets without painting Them?
If you can’t paint your kitchen cabinets for any reason or you really can’t be bothered with the hassle of taking them all apart and sanding everything down, here are some easy ways to lighten up dark kitchen cabinets without painting.
- Install cabinet lighting. Installing LED lights inside or under the cabinets can help brighten up the space and make the cabinets look lighter.
- Add glass fronts to cabinets. Consider adding glass fronts to some of the cabinets to create a lighter and more open look. Glass fronts will allow light to shine through, making the cabinets look lighter and brighter.
- Install open shelving. If your cabinets are dark and you’d like to make the space feel lighter, consider removing some of the cabinet doors and installing open shelving instead. This will allow you to display your dishes, cookware and books, while also making the space feel lighter and more open.
- Replace hardware. Replacing dark hardware, such as cabinet knobs and handles, with lighter-coloured hardware can help brighten up the cabinets and make the space feel lighter. Consider using a light-coloured metal, such as brushed nickel or chrome, for a bright and modern look.
- Add a backsplash. Installing a light-coloured backsplash, such as a white subway tile or a light-coloured glass, can help brighten up the space and make the cabinets look lighter. A backsplash can give the illusion of more light and make the space feel brighter and more open. Giving
By making some of these changes you can brighten up the space and make the cabinets look lighter, even if you don’t want to paint them.
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There you have it! A dark kitchen doesn’t have to be a source of frustration.
By using a combination of lighting, colours, and other design elements, you can brighten up your kitchen and make it a space you’ll love to spend time in.
Whether you’re looking to install new lighting, add a light-coloured backsplash, or replace your dark cabinets, there are plenty of ways to brighten up your kitchen and create a space you’ll enjoy using.
Start exploring these ideas today and create a bright, inviting kitchen you’ll love for years to come.
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Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for around 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.