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10 Big Ideas for Brightening a Dark Kitchen

Whether you’re replacing or upgrading your kitchen, this guide will help you bring light into even the dingiest of spaces

Houzz Ireland Contributor. I’m an an Architect and House Consultant based in Dublin…. More

There’s no lovelier place to start your day than in a bright, light-filled kitchen. But what if yours is a gloomy cavern where the lights are always on? Should you start again, or can you tweak what you already have? Whatever stage you’re at, there are many ways to maximise the light in a room. Here are 10 ideas to consider.

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Liberate the windows
If you’re replacing your kitchen – or installing your first one – think hard about the layout of the units: this alone can have a huge impact on how light enters and is reflected about the room.

Keeping the kitchen units away from the windows, for example, will improve the flow of both space and light, especially if you use full-length windows or doors.

Kitchen units at a window can ‘entrap’ the overall space and impede the relationship we crave between the inside and outside spaces.

If you have a long wall, a single-wall kitchen, rather than units on both sides of the room, can allow the table to enjoy the space both inside and outside the window at the same time – even if you don’t have floor-to-ceiling glazing, as this lovely bright room has. Where wall space is limited, wall units and an island can achieve the same effect of freeing up the window wall.

How to make the most of a single wall kitchen

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Harness the garden
Having made sure there are no units blocking the windows, you can add to the effect by making the outside space work hard to reflect light. Painted walls, pale paving and careful planting will all help here and further blur the boundary between inside and out.

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Max the glass
If your space demands that kitchen units be placed across the window wall, make the area of glass facing the garden as large as possible. This may mean sacrificing overhead cupboards.

On other walls, it may be possible to introduce windows above the wall units, as seen here. A small window at low level could also provide useful ventilation, as well as a shot of light or even sunlight.

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See the sky
If your kitchen is a single-storey space, it may be possible to introduce a skylight – always a powerful source of light.

Depending on the orientation of the room, an angled roof light might even allow some precious sunlight to enter a space that has never enjoyed sunshine before.

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Be floored
Where natural light is truly limited, the right white will work wonders in all areas of your kitchen.

This includes the floor, the first element to be installed in your new kitchen and the largest horizontal, light-reflecting surface.

A low-sheen floor will be best for both light reflection and maintenance. A finish with a subtle pattern or veining will be forgiving of the odd bit of dirt or dust between cleanings.

Poured terrazzo is a wonderful, joint-free option here, with terrazzo tiles a good alternative. Stone, porcelain or ceramic tiles would work well, too, with cushion-backed vinyl a good choice if you prefer something softer underfoot.

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Pick pale units
In a dark kitchen, it makes sense to use white units, given the amount of space they occupy. If you fear blandness, injecting just a small shot of colour will provide a wonderful contrast and add a personal touch to your scheme.

Painting or replacing existing doors is always a great option for a quick refurb – and a canny way to update and brighten a dated space.

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Work your worktop
As the highest horizontal surface in the kitchen, the worktop can be used to reflect light – and a white surface will work the hardest. A low-sheen white worktop, coupled with white units – or units in a pale hue if you balk at an all-white room – would seriously challenge the darkest of caverns.

Choose from a wide range of options, including quartz, marble and Corian – or laminate where budget is limited.

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Splash out on your splashback
Depending on your room layout, your splashback is most likely to span both your hob and a length of wall between your worktop and your overhead units. A single sheet material, such as polished glass or stainless steel, is a great solution here when seeking to maximise light.

White tiles will work well, too; consider a brick or other offset pattern for visual interest.

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Polish up
The reflective qualities of polished surfaces are well known. From stainless-steel appliances and metallic light fittings to worktops and floors, there are myriad ways to harness this property in your kitchen.

So how far will you go? A mirrored splashback will amplify both space and light – and your arm muscles as you buff it after a fry-up! If your sink faces a wall, a mirror here can allow you enjoy a view of your garden as you work.

Keep stainless-steel surfaces shiny and streak-free by rubbing them down with baby oil. Your appliances will be as pristine as the day they left the factory.

See how a mirrored splashback works in this Victorian conversion

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Raise the roof
Ideally, you can accentuate whatever height you have to improve the flow of light, but you can also look at the surface of your existing ceiling. A natural timber ceiling, for example, will eat precious light. Painting it will transform it into a light-reflecting surface. It will still be timber, but with a unique and warm aesthetic of its own.

In a room of regular height, where serious structural work is not an option, flush light fittings, such as a track with spotlights, will make best use of the height available.

Have you tackled a dark kitchen? What tips can you share? Let us know in the Comments below.

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