How to brighten a small bedroom and embrace your tiny space (but big style)

From lighting tips to style tricks, here's how to brighten a small bedroom, literally and figuratively

Small white bedroom on a grey and pale pink background; pottery barn dorm
(Image credit: Pottery Barn Dorm)

If you're wondering how to brighten a small bedroom—perhaps one that's akin to a cardboard box when it's empty—you've come to the right place. Even if square footage is minimal, we have plenty of grand ideas that more than make up for it. 

From small steps, like adding vertical wall storage, to bigger undertakings, like painting, our expert-backed guide will make you look forward to the task at hand. Sure, the room might not be *quite* like the one you had at Mom and Dad's, but that doesn't mean it can't be fabulous. 

We'll let you in on all the secrets about how to maximize space in a small bedroom so that it feels airy, light, and yes—the unthinkable—spacious. Let's get to it, shall we?

How to brighten a small bedroom, according to design experts

When brightening a bedroom, or any part of your apartment for that matter, the first thing that probably comes to mind is lighting

"Whether faced with an atypical layout, a cozy box room, or the challenge of crafting the perfect lighting design, the right illumination can completely revitalize your space," says Kate Duckworth, trends and interior expert, at Swift Direct Blinds.

But brightening goes beyond wall sconces and mushroom lamps (as much as we love those). Here's what you need to know about looking and feeling brighter in your sleep sanctuary. 

Kate Duckworth
Kate Duckworth

Kate Duckworth is a trends and interior expert at Swift Direct Blinds, which specializes in blinds, shutters, and curtains. She is a brand marketing professional with a focus in the interior, textile, and fashion e-commerce markets.

1. Use LED Bulbs

Snagging wall sconces and picking out a boho-styled lamp for your nightstand is half the battle. You have to be mindful about how the space looks when everything is lit. 

"Always go for LED bulbs with a warm color temperature to help you achieve that much-desired cozy atmosphere," says David Amos, CEO at Amos Lighting + Home. "Steer clear of overly bright or harsh lighting as this can make the space feel stark and uncomfortable, creating a glaring environment."

Likewise, Matthew Currington, technical director of The Lighting Superstore, suggests leaving the cool-toned light bulbs for other spaces throughout the apartment or dorm. 

David Amos

David Amos is the CEO at Amos Lighting + Home, which offers beautiful lighting and furniture for customers, as well as lighting design services. 

2. Avoid using one lighting source

Yes, space is scare, but that doesn't mean you should only use one overhead lamp to  liven a dim space. This is only going to create shadows and make things look less inviting (particularly when reading). 

"Avoid relying on just one source of light as this can be quite stark or create uninviting shadows," Currington suggests. "Aim to build layers of light throughout the room which will allow you to change up the mood of your space, depending on what you’re using it for."

Matthew Currington

Matthew Currington is the technical director of The Lighting Superstore, which has been around for nearly 40 years, expanding from showcasing lampshades in the '80s to opening an online store. 

3. Avoid oversized lighting

Yes, it's true that a headboard or piece of art can act as a grand statement piece in a small bedroom, despite the size. However, lighting should not be said statement. 

"Oversized lighting can overwhelm a smaller bedroom and take up valuable space," says The Soho Lighting Company's co-founder, Lee Lovett. "Stick to smaller lighting choices that are in keeping with your décor but also give you the correct lighting levels."

lee lovett
Lee Lovett

Lee is the co-founder of The Soho Lighting Company, which fuses high-end designs with high-performance technology to create beautiful pieces for your home.

4. Opt for voile blinds

That golden hour glow is in high demand, and there are a few ways to maximize the light of those late-day rays. 

"Voile blinds can beautifully diffuse natural light, enhancing the room's sense of space and serenity while providing privacy," Duckworth says. "Leveraging natural light can truly transform a room, making it feel more expansive and welcoming. So embrace it."

5. Add mirrors

While mirrors are perfect for helping us style outfits, they're also great for playing tricks with our eyes—in a good way! 

"Ideally, situating [a mirror] opposite a window can marvelously amplify natural light, making the room radiate with brightness and spaciousness," designer Artem Kropovinsky says. 

If you're curious where to put a mirror in a small bedroom, our experts have all the intel on positions, styles, and more. 

Artem Kropovinsky
Artem Kropovinsky

Artem Kropovinsky is an interior design expert and founder of Arsight, an award-winning interior design studio based in New York.

6. Pick the appropriate colors

Colors can crowd the space, and if there's too much intensity in a small bedroom, chances are you're not going to feel terribly relaxed (which is the whole point).

"Light hues are your friend," insists Kropovinsky. "Pale palettes or even monochromatic schemes, can open up the space and make a room feel airier. This is especially true if your room feels more cramped than cozy."

7. Add plants

We are never ones to deny ourselves a Golden Pothos or Snake Plant. Check out the best plants for apartments that deliver ultimate style with minimal effort—a win-win. Who wouldn't appreciate cute greenery breathing life into their space?

8. Use vertical space wisely

Let the record show, your vertical space is highly undervalued—and designers agree. Whether it's a cute shelf or hook, there are plenty of ways to keep your room clutter-free and stylish in the process. 

9. Nail down a storage system

Whether it's shoving things *neatly* under your bed or switching out your clothes for the season, the key to a bright, airy room is space, which means you'll have to get creative when tucking things away. Might we suggest a few vacuum bags? (Psst: avoid these storage mistakes at all costs, folks.) 


How do you declutter a small bedroom?

Though it might seem impossible, our expert organizers have revealed how to declutter a small bedroom: rotate clothes seasonally, find a storage system that works, and of course, clean regularly!

What are the best small bedroom ideas?

No shadows in sight: here's how the pros suggest you light a small apartment

Danielle Valente
Content Editor

Pleasure to meet you! I'm Danielle, a content editor at Real Homes who loves scoping out interior trends. I've specialized in lifestyle writing and editing for 10 years with a focus on events, food, and books, among other areas. When I'm not working, I'm usually cooking, reading, or searching for a new project for my apartment.