Nate Berkus swears by this contrasting color trick to make dark rooms look brighter

'A lot of people have been asking me, how do I lighten up a room that feels dark?' – finally, Nate answers the question on everybody's lips

Nate Berkus
(Image credit: Courtesy of Nate Berkus and mDesign)

With Nate Berkus' place among the world's most renowned interior figures comes the inevitable design questions he faces on a recurring basis. Among them: how can we make a dark room brighter? Well, we need to wonder no longer.

'A lot of people have been asking me, how do I lighten up a room that feels dark? Honestly, the easiest way that I have found is that you need to balance it out with things that are light.' Nate comments. 

His trick is as simple as it sounds. Ultimately, you need to create a contrast between the dark features (whether that's our walls, ceiling, or another element) with lighter furnishings, such as curtains or a sofa. In the footage, Nate demonstrates this with white ivory linen and floor-to-ceiling drapery against a dark paneled wall.

'You [no longer] notice the darkness of the room any longer; [but instead] you see the contrast,' Nate says.

'I love using lighter, upholstered furniture; I tend to steer away from a pattern and a tremendous amount of color. It’s a pure move to do something solid and ivory or off-white, or bone, or chalk against a dark wall. That is my top advice.'

While this contrastable tip is Nate's go-to, he doesn't stop sharing other ways to make spaces lighter. Next up, he shares his lighting ideas and advice. 

'You’ll notice in all the products that I do, myself or for clients; there’s always a mix of sconces, floor lamps, and small table lamps, basically scattered throughout the room. What I like about that is that it allows you to control the mood.'

Nate Berkus for 1stDibs
Nate Berkus

Since Nate’s first appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2002, he has become one of the world’s most recognizable interior designers. He has authored two New York Times bestselling books and stars alongside his husband, Jeremiah Brent, in HGTV's Nate & Jeremiah Home Project.

While much of Nate's advice is centered around making spaces lighter, the designer also notes that, in many cases, we may just want to embrace darker hues. 

'There's something really beautiful about flooding the wall with light on a dark wall,' he says. 'This room is obviously very light, and most of the finishes are pretty light in here, but this would translate really well into a dark space.'

These picks are a great starting point for any dark living room looking for that contrast. We're beginning with the curtains, since this, too was Nate's starting point. 

While adjusting the natural light levels in our room is not simple, making our dark rooms lighter is easier than it initially seems. 

As Nate reminds us, it's all about creating the all-important juxtaposition and painting with pockets of lighting  – because while we can't control sunlight, we can maintain the mood.

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.