Bright walls take vintage pieces from drab to dazzling.

How to Brighten Up a Room of Antiques

by Lorna Hordos

Antiques add charm and a sense of timelessness to your home, but a dreary or dark vibe can settle in along with them. In a roomful of typically dark and sometimes worn vintage pieces, using the right colors throughout makes all the difference. Your lighting and the window treatments help set the tone, too. And there’s never enough to be said about evicting dust bunnies and keeping them at bay.

1. Use White or Bright Colors

The right paint or wallpaper color makes a drastic impact in a dreary space, but don’t stop with the walls. Redo a few dark wooden pieces, such as the arms and legs of a vintage chair or two, with white paint to make scrolls, twists or fluted designs stand out, and to inject the room with airiness. Whether on the walls or on some more inexpensive furnishings, choose a white color with warm yellow undertones instead of gray notes, which can read as dirty or lackluster. Muted pastels -- light rose, pale goldenrod, dusty lilac -- are broadly era-appropriate options if you're not a fan of white walls. As for wallpaper, experiment with a tiny floral or delicate paisley print on the front of a beyond-distressed wardrobe or poorly restored dresser drawers.

2. Improve Lighting

Improving your room’s lighting may seem like an obvious way to infuse light, but the type of bulbs you choose really do matter. In a space that boasts old relics and aged treasures, a warm glow is more than functional and flattering -- it’s essential for developing the spirit or character of days gone by. Incandescent bulbs draw out warm colors -- reds, gold, yellows -- with little damage, while florescent bulbs cast damaging ultraviolet rays, for example. In a room full of antiques, turn off all forms of lighting when they are not needed.

3. Window Treatments

Unless you eliminate them or hang them high and wide -- or just high, in the case of blinds or shades -- your curtains or draperies can rob your space of valuable daylight. Extend drapery rods so that when you push open the fabric, it’s not blocking any of the window. Curtains or blinds that you hang nearly to an average-height ceiling not only clear the way for sunlight, but also make a room appear taller. Use a designer trick to make the space seem even brighter by hanging a mirror where it will reflect a window’s natural light. But don't flood the room with rays of sunshine from dawn until dusk, which can damage or fade artwork and vintage fabrics. In sun-filled rooms, install light-blocking or at least light-diffusing roller shades to pull down as needed.

4. Sparkling Clean

A room full of accessories and furnishings takes time to dust, and for busy parents, time is a precious commodity. Dust, grime or a layer of life’s decorations -- sticky fingerprints and the general mess that seems to follow children from room to room -- steal any remaining shine from wooden antiques; the duller the furniture, the duller the room’s atmosphere. Dust everything often, and use a vacuum cleaner with a good filter to suck the dust from the air and keep it from settling back on your room’s treasures. Change your furnace’s dust-laden filter at least every three months -- monthly if your family includes furry or feathered members. Keep smaller vintage accessories to a minimum throughout the home to decrease cleaning time and increase the focus on key items.

About the Author

Lorna Hordos has owned a home-flipping business for more than two decades. She uses her construction and interior design experience to write friendly, conversational home and lifestyle articles for Daltile, Marazzi, Lowes and numerous other publications. She also enjoys writing for children, and has been featured on the cover of Humpty Dumpty magazine.

Photo Credits

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