How to Brighten a Dark Kitchen

Do you have a dark space in your house that you don’t like?  Do you want to know how to brighten a dark kitchen without windows?  Or maybe you have windows but they are small and don’t receive a lot of sunlight through them.  I get it, I’ve been there and today I’m going to share with you some of ideas of how to do that.  I’ve implemented many of these ideas myself.

brighten a dark kitchen

A year ago we moved into our new house.  While we were so excited to be purchasing a house that was mortgage free, after a few short days in our new space I quickly realized a lot of spots in our house were dark.  The sun didn’t shine through the windows quite right, on top of our windows being on the smaller side.  Honestly, it was depressing.

I’m a girl who needs a lot of light.  My last bedroom had a MASSIVE picture window that I woke up to every day, in the country, with beautiful trees and fields in my view.

Not so in the new place.

I’m so very thankful we were able to make this move to the north, as we get to do plenty of things outdoors like fishing, camping, hiking and more, but I had to do something with the darkness of the house.  Especially the kitchen.  I spend most of my time in the kitchen so it’s the first space I’ve done something with to brighten it up.

How to Brighten up a Dark Kitchen

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Paint it

One of the most affordable and easiest ways to brighten up a kitchen is to paint it.  That’s what I did. My kitchen was a dark olive green, and the cupboards were just wood (a very cheap wood.)  I painted EVERYTHING white.  Which is quite funny because anyone who knows me knows that I never paint anything white.  I love color.  However, desperate times call for desperate measures.

I wish I had taken a before picture but I can tell you, painting it totally transformed it.  I used to walk into my kitchen in the morning feeling a little down, but now the brightness totally lifts me up!

If you don’t want to paint your cupboards, you can just paint the walls.  For me I wanted to brighten it up as much as possible so that’s why I did the cupboards.  I even considered doing the ceiling, but the way our ceiling was, it would have been a huge job that I wasn’t quite up for right now, so I passed on that.  But, if you are up for painting your ceiling, you can do that as well.

Here are some colors to brighten up a kitchen:

  • white
  • yellow
  • cream
  • light grey
  • light blue

Add a bright colored backsplash

We didn’t have a backsplash and so we added white subway tiles, with white grout in between.  If that’s too much white for you, consider adding black grout.  It makes a huge difference in the look.

The backsplash was affordable because our kitchen is smaller.  We didn’t do the whole wall like many do these days.  We just did under the cupboards and behind the stove.

Adding the backsplash really made our kitchen look updated.  While I don’t usually go for “trendy” decor, I definitely am glad we went with the subway tile.  It brightens up the whole room!

Add a mirror

A mirror will not only brighten your space, it will make it look bigger.  There are a variety of ways you can do this.  You can add a mirror backsplash, or put a mirror at the bottom half of an island, or just hang a mirror on the wall.  If you don’t have a window behind your sink, consider a mirror there.

Keep it clutter free

Clutter makes everything feel smaller and darker.  The kitchen is notorious for collecting clutter.  Keep very few things out on your counter.  Things like the toaster, that gets used for a couple minutes a day, if that, can be stored in a cupboard.  We have our coffee maker out on our counter, a bread box, a bowl of fruit, and a container made out of pottery to hold our large utensils like spatulas, mixing spoons, etc.  I try to keep the counters fairly clear.  It doesn’t always happen as well as I want it to (because, children….) but we do our best and it does make a difference when the counters are clean.

Change the flooring

If your budget allows, consider installing a lighter colored flooring.  We currently have a dark colored flooring and It makes a difference.  Eventually when our budget allows we will change it out, but until then we did what we could to lighten the room which mostly involved paint.

Put in new lighting

This is actually the one that is next on our list.  Make sure you have bright lighting in your kitchen.  Add some pot lights, along with maybe some pretty decorative ones.  Install some lights under the cupboards where it natural light has a hard time reaching.

Change out small windows for larger ones

Again, this is going to only be an option if your budget allows for it, as windows aren’t cheap.  However, big windows are one of the best ways to brighten up a spot.  Some people even consider adding skylights.  Skylights can come with their own issues though, as many people complain that they can leak, but it’s definitely an option you can look into.  

However, if you might be like me and have a kitchen where you can’t really expand on the window that’s already there.  That’s okay though, because as you can see there are so many other options to brighten up your space without going through the trouble of installing a bigger window which really isn’t a small job either.

How to Lighten up a Dark Kitchen with Accessories


Add plants

Plants brighten up any space they are in.  Succulents are my favorite because they are easier to keep alive in my opinion.  I like to add plants on the windowsill and on some hanging shelves I have in the kitchen.  I have to be honest though, I’m horrible at watering them.  Thankfully I have a 15 year old daughter who is very passionate about plants, especially succulents and so she tends to be the resident waterer.


Buy white appliances

Okay, I feel like this one is the one I’m going to get letters about.  I know that stainless steel appliances are all the rage, but I love my white appliances.  They really brighten up the kitchen.  It’s true what they say, that white is classic.  If you really want to have stainless steel appliances, consider just getting your smaller appliances in white, like your coffee maker that might sit on your counter.

Use white candles

Candles add a cozy glow to any space, and even though they have a tiny flame, they somehow brighten up a space.  I love to burn candles in my kitchen, and I stick to these white ones as it’s just one more thing that adds brightness to the room.


How to Brighten up a Dark Kitchen Without Painting

Maybe you don’t want to paint your kitchen.  I mean, I’m not going to lie,  I love painting about as much as I love a root canal.  I’m just not a fan of it and that’s probably why I still haven’t finished painting my baseboards after I painted the kitchen.  (I mean, isn’t that a job we all wait to do until right before we sell the house?)

Or maybe you rent and you aren’t allowed to paint.  Different home rentals have different rules.  If that’s your situation, all is not lost.  While you may not be able to get the full affect of lightening up your kitchen as you would if you painted it, it isn’t hopeless.  Like I mentioned above, you can add accessories like candles, white candles, plants, and a mirror.  Little changes will at least make a small difference.

Use these ideas anywhere in your home

These ways to brighten up your kitchen don’t just apply to the kitchen.  You can use them in other areas of your house to brighten up a dark living room, bedroom, or bathroom.  Some additional ideas to brighten up other spaces is to purchase light colored furniture, change out dark curtains for light and airy ones, and change any kind of dark carpet.  

You don’t have to live in what feels like a dark cave even if your space doesn’t receive a lot of natural light.  Use some of these ideas on this list or even all of them to transform your dark space into a bright, cheery kitchen.  Take a look at your budget and decide how much you can do or how much you want to do and get to work changing your kitchen to a space you are excited to be in.  It will make doing dishes less dreary!




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