I'd like to make my one-bedroom flat brighter and lighter. It's a small space and I'm limited on the amount of change I can make. It's off-white and yet there seem to be so many dark corners that I avoid using (and looking at). How can I maximise what I do have, and make it feel and look brighter? Light is perhaps the most vital ingredient of any home, whatever style and size it may be. A home flooded with light never fails to look wonderful and feel fantastic - you can really never have too much.
1. White is always the best base shade for enhancing any home - but it's definitely not just about traditional white. Look at any paint shade card and you'll see hundreds of different whites - from the ubiquitous "brilliant white", marvellous in rooms that are flooded with warm, yellow-toned natural light, to a multitude of soft whites with hints of pastels, and the more sophisticated "old" whites that are grey-toned and look best in older properties rather than new-builds. Creamy whites, too, will look warm and are especially good used in rooms that don't get a lot of natural light. Use bright colours with brilliant white and more subtle tones and pastels with softer, off-whites.
2. All shades of white look most interesting - and most friendly and welcoming - when broken up with interesting colours. For a contemporary, uplifting feel, introduce unusual colour combinations such as chartreuse and citrus shades in conjunction with dark grey: together, they contrast with white to give a rather classic, international style. Look for dark furniture in rattan and wood and allow the zingily coloured accessories (whether that's lampshades or floor cushions) to bring life to the monochromatic scheme. After all, it's easy to substitute a pair of cushions or a set of new bed linen without completely redecorating, and textures can be introduced in the form of curtains or blinds, rugs and upholstery fabrics, while accessories such as lamps and works of art will bring the whole look together.
3. Alternatively, go for something softer. Introduce subtle colour into an off-white room by painting the woodwork in a soft shade such as dove grey, moss green or greenish-blue and picking up on the contrast in the furnishing fabrics. If you don't want to paint, do the same using soft furnishings and accessories. Elegant and calm neutral colours, such as dove grey, beige or even a faded lilac, soften the effect of a brilliant white room when used for rugs or bed linen, and always look classically stylish.
4. To maximise light you have to maximise space. The best way to create a sense of space to make sure you follow through the use of colours to keep a continuous flow - both within a single room and from room to room, and to do so in every aspect possible, right down to the smallest detail. 5. Use artificial lighting cleverly: a single, adjustable spotlight can be angled towards a painting; you can light an alcove from above with recessed, low-voltage halogen down lights, and fit glass shelves for displaying contemporary ceramics or small sculptures at their most effective. Keep the eye distracted. Having even just one or two interesting pieces can enliven those dark corners - it could be as simple as a dramatic candlestick or a pretty vase.
6. Choose glass as much as possible - and where it's not glass, go for Perspex or other translucent materials. It allows the gaze to travel seamlessly over the room without being halted, which has a dramatically space-saving effect. It's a point worth remembering from the tiniest to the biggest items, from glass tealight holders to Perspex chairs and side-tables. 7. Minimalism is vital to maximising the brightness of any room - but a common misconception is that, to make a home feel spacious and bright, furnishings and accessories need to be kept small and insignificant. In fact, the opposite is true. Go for big and bold - and stick to a simple few favourites, leaving lots of light-bestowing space between.
Emily Davies was talking to Gail Abbott, a home-styling consultant and the author of Living with Light, published by Cico Books. She can be contacted on +44 1223 479434.