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How can I brighten up a dark hallway?

Having a dark and gloomy hallway can make your home feel uninviting. A dark hallway also presents safety concerns, as it can be difficult to see where you are walking. The good news is there are many simple, affordable ways to brighten up a dark hallway.

What makes a hallway dark?

Hallways are prone to being dark for a few key reasons:

  • Limited natural light – Hallways are often in the center of a home without access to windows or skylights.
  • Minimal lighting – Many hallways don’t have enough lighting fixtures to properly illuminate the space.
  • Small size – The narrow shape of most hallways means there isn’t a lot of room for light to spread out.
  • Dark colors – Existing paint, flooring or other finishes like wood paneling can make things feel darker.

Before looking at solutions, take note of what factors are making your hallway feel dim. This will help you choose the best remedies.

Should I increase the lighting?

Increasing the lighting is an excellent first step for brightening a dark hallway. Consider these options:

  • Add more fixtures – Install overhead ceiling lights, wall sconces and even plug-in lamps along the hallway.
  • Use higher wattage bulbs – Replace existing bulbs with higher lumens/wattage to produce brighter light.
  • Try different bulb types – Use bulbs designed to produce brighter, whiter light such as LEDs.
  • Add under cabinet lighting – Useful to highlight hall tables or accent pieces.
  • Install recessed lighting – Recessed cans create an even glow without visible fixtures.
  • Accent with track lighting – Flexible for highlighting specific areas or decor.

When adding or upgrading lighting, stick with warm white bulb temperatures (2700K-3000K) to prevent an overly sterile, cold feeling.

What types of paint help brighten a hallway?

Along with adding lighting, a fresh coat of paint in a lighter color can work wonders at brightening up a dark hallway. Consider these paint options:

  • White – Classic, clean and bright. Avoid flat finish for durability.
  • Light gray – Warmer than white, but still reflective.
  • Soft yellow – Cheery color that feels sunny.
  • Light blue – Crisp and airy feel.
  • Light green – Subtle splash of color.

Paint the walls and ceiling for maximum impact. For trim and doors, use a crisp white for contrast.

How can I make a small hallway feel brighter?

To combat a feeling of darkness in a narrow hallway, try these tips:

  • Use semi-gloss or high-gloss paint for maximum light reflection.
  • Hang mirrors to visually double the space.
  • Paint the ceiling white to expand the space upward.
  • Add recessed floor lighting for a feeling of spaciousness.
  • Install shelving tucked close to the walls to avoid encroaching.

Should I remove dark wood paneling?

Dark wood paneling can make a hallway feel closed in. For a quick brightening effect:

  • Paint panels white or cream using a primer made for paneling.
  • Stain existing wood a lighter tone like natural birch.
  • Add filler pieces to reduce the dominance of the dark panels.

For a more extensive update, removing wood paneling entirely opens up the space. Drywall installed in its place can then be painted any color.

What flooring helps brighten up a hallway?

Along with the walls, don’t neglect the flooring when looking for ways to make a hallway more luminous. Some good options include:

  • Light hardwood – Choose a light oak, birch or maple.
  • Engineered hardwood – Can be easily installed and topped with a bright white coating.
  • Luxury vinyl plank (LVP) – Durable and available in natural wood looks.
  • Porcelain or ceramic tile – Reflective surface amplifies light.
  • Laminate – Budget-friendly option, also easy DIY install.

For any option, use large planks to open up the hallway visually. Natural unfinished wood avoids a dark or dated look.

What are some good stair railing ideas?

For hallways with a staircase, the railing provides a great opportunity to brighten things up. Some options include:

  • White painted railings or balusters for crisp brightness.
  • Railing accented with glass panels or inserts.
  • Thin metal rods as railings to limit light blockage.
  • Light sheer fabric draped and wrapped along the length of the railing.

These more open railing styles allow light to filter through from above to reach the staircase itself.

Should I add a skylight?

One of the best ways to introduce natural light is by adding a skylight if your hallway ceiling allows for it. Consider a skylight with these features:

  • Located near the end of the hall to distribute light down the length.
  • At least 2 feet wide to allow ample light.
  • Double pane glass for energy efficiency.
  • Ventilation for fresh air circulation.
  • Covered with screen to prevent energy loss when not in use.

A solar powered, remote-controlled skylight makes operation easy. Install proper insulation around the opening to prevent leaks or drafts.

What types of mirrors work best?

Mirrors amplify light and visually double the space, making them a perfect addition to dark hallways. Consider these mirror ideas:

  • Full wall mirror – Dramatic effect to open up one end.
  • Mirrored doors – Practical for closets or accent spaces.
  • Sunburst mirror – Vintage look with light-catching shape.
  • Hanging mirrors – Arrange mismatched frames for eclectic style.
  • Leaner mirror – Long and low placed to reflect railing and fixtures.

Avoid darker frames, instead choosing bright metals like stainless steel or nickel for maximum reflectivity.

Should I add accent lighting?

Strategically placed accent lighting can make a hallway feel warm and welcoming versus dark and utilitarian. Consider these accent lighting ideas:

  • Sconces or picture lights to illuminate artwork.
  • Table lamps for decorative ambiance.
  • Step lights on sides of staircase.
  • Uplighting behind potted greenery.
  • Under cabinet LED strips to accent displays.

Install these on a dimmer switch to control brightness as needed. Warm white (2700-3000K) bulbs keep accent lighting cozy versus harsh.

What decorative touches help brighten up a hallway?

Beyond lighting and paint, a few key home decor elements can make a difference in brightening a gloomy hallway. Consider adding:

  • Houseplants – Greenery brings life to unused spaces.
  • Light rugs – Woven textures and light colors reflect light.
  • Framed prints – Opt for light-colored matting and frames.
  • White shelves – Great for displaying collected white objects.
  • Pale curtains – Help soften windows at hallway ends.

Change out decor seasonally to keep the hallway fresh and lively.

How can I brighten a hallway without renovating?

For rental homes or to avoid major renovations, there are easy ways to brighten a hallway on a budget:

  • Use peel-and-stick wallpaper on dark paneling.
  • Attach contact paper to cabinet fronts for quick change.
  • Swap out light switch wall plates for glossy white.
  • Replace dated lighting fixtures with simple new ones.
  • Apply ceiling paint for bright overhead reflectance.
  • Add a fresh coat of semigloss paint to the doors and trim.
  • Hang wall mirrors adhesive hooks for impermanent install.

Focus on quick changes that have an outsized effect on feel and appearance.


With a combination of lighting enhancements, reflective paint, and a few decorative touches, it is possible to transform even the darkest, gloomiest hallway into a bright and welcoming space. The important thing is addressing all the elements that influence the ambiance of the hallway, from floor to ceiling. Don’t be afraid to make bold changes – fresh paint, new lighting and mirrors can make a dramatic difference. With some strategic upgrades done over time, you can easily enjoy a bright, cheerful hallway space.