The Top Paint Myth

But first, a word from out sanity sponsor, the garden. 

July is high season for day lilies and lavender.

This past weekend I helped my daughter choose paint colors for her new apartment.

We briefly touched on the subject of white paint and small, dark rooms (her living room). I realize now that I very poorly, or maybe not at all, explained how white wall paint affects a dark room.

This post should rectify my shortcoming in the explanation department.

Myth: painting a dark room white will make it lighter and brighter.

Reality: painting a dark room white will make it look dingy. White paint lovers, read on before you click away.

Assuming we cannot knock a hole in the wall and put in a window, if we do not add artificial light, and lots of it, a small, dark, white room will forever look drab and dingy. Not white. In comparison, a small, dark green room just looks dark.

Layers of light is the only thing that makes any dark room brighter and lighter. Layered light is more simple than it sounds. It is a variety of light sources placed at different heights. Layered light sounds better, faster to say too.

Some examples.

Meg Braff hung a rustic iron fixture from the rustic wooden planks of the ceiling, a floor lamp provides light a little lower down and a table lamp at sitting/reading height. Light at all levels of this small room.

Meg Braff

Alessandra Branca, no stranger to color and pattern, turned this basement into a cozy media room with the help of many light sources. Down lights, table lamps, a console lamp, and floor lamps. The floor lamps look like they are adjustable, a plus for reading.

Alessandra Branca

Mirrors qualify as light sources. Mirrors multiply light. There isn't a room that can't benefit from a mirror or two. Handy of course for checking your hair or lip gloss, they are an absolute must for small rooms.

Mirrored folding screens are versatile, virtually doubling a room's size. A big plus, no need for art on the wall behind the screen.

Celerie Kemble

Alessandra Branca

Wall mirrors in any size. The huge wall mirror in my client's compact living room opens up and amplifies the space, and reflects ambient light. Wall sconces, a table lamp, and a crystal ceiling basket wash the room in three layers of light once the sun moves on. Wall sconces do not have to be hard wired, great for apartment renters.

Brass is back.

Shiny objects and mirrored furniture are light reflectors, on a smaller scale. For non-holiday decor, one bigger mercury piece is better than 5 little votives.

Gulf Shore wallpaper from Thibaut's Grasscloth Resource 3
Thibaut's new grasscloth collection is a winner. Beautiful. I will be using it soon.

Silver is subtle and pleasingly old school. These facets bend the reflections adding interest and movement.

My clever client found these great silver pieces...at a thrift store if memory serves correctly.
I like that she let the decanter base tarnish just a bit.

If your dark room has a fireplace and you don't plan on a flat screen for the mantle, then a mirror is a given.

The last light source to consider adding, with caution. Light real candles in the evening.

Nothing is as flattering to skin tones as real candle light. Gently glowing from the mantle, candle light is calm, lovely, maybe even magical. Romantic goes without saying but I just did. If you must have a candle on your coffee table, use the flameless variety.

West Elm Bird's Nest Taper Holder

So white paint lovers, roll it on but buy some lamps.

A few white rooms to enjoy and percolate those ideas.

4 layers of light. Frances Russel Interiors.
Swapping the pinks for blue, or green with black would give it a more masculine, or gender neutral, tone.

These are from the latest issue of Milieu Magazine.

White and pink perfection for a tropical home. I don't see it in a New England winter. 

This barely pink combo would work well up here in New England. Summer or winter.

Mary McDonald's prints and wovens for Schumacher; Sherwin Williams paint.
Conch Shell looks pinker on my screen than in real life. We could add some white to it.
That's the great thing about paint. We can always tweak it.

This post was not sponsored by any of the companies mentioned.

Do you have white walls?

Hope you are enjoying summer's warmth!

Thanks for reading,
Linda Pakravan


  1. Anonymous15.7.14

    Garden as sanity sponsor? Absolutely!! First of all, what gorgeous images you provide us. Your advice to not rely solely on white paint to brighten a dingy room is invaluable and an area I need to work on in my own old barn. I'm so happy I've found your beautiful blog, Linda!

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by!

    2. Linda, this is a great blog post! You have given me a lot to think about. Some day . . . .

    3. Thank you! Hope you are enjoying summer.

  2. Hey! I didn't know you had a blog! Thank you, good resource:).

    1. Hey! I do! Thanks for visiting!

  3. This is serendipity! I am currently planning the white painting of my dark sitting room and have made notes from this useful post.

    I wondered if highly polished mahogany would work in two smallish pieces or is that too dark?

    1. No, not too dark and should be a stand out against the white wall. I assume you have plenty of lamps, etc. Hope you post a pic on your blog. Thanks for stopping by!


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