3 Simple Ways to Brighten the Kitchen on Dark Days

updated May 4, 2022
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These days I’m ready to go to bed as soon as the kids go down — at 7:30! When I head back to the kitchen to finish up the dishes or work on the computer, it might as well be midnight, which makes it particularly hard to motivate myself to get anything done. And the days are just as bad — gray and cold, making my kitchen feel drab and uninviting, despite my wall of normally sunny windows.

So this time of year, I’ll do just about anything to cheer up my kitchen (especially since it’s my office, too!). Here are a few ways to make the kitchen a space you’ll love even on darker days.

The Perfect Kitchen Rug Is Pretty, Washable, and Surprising! (Image credit: Laure Joliet)

1. Brighten just one kitchen accessory or linen.

That black-and-white striped kitchen rug may be airy and chic for summer, but in winter, cycle in a kitchen rug that’s a brilliant red, poppy orange, or sunny yellow. Do the same with some colorful dish towels, or fun gloves that hang off your kitchen sink. I just added a perky runner to my table and it helped.

Similarly, consider switching out some of your regular countertop items in tasteful natural materials for fruit bowls or utensil canisters in lighter, brighter colors. Even just putting apples, lemons, or limes into a bowl can do the trick — any little pop of color and texture will give the room new energy.

2. Brighten the lighting.

When the sun is weak, your lighting game has to be strong.

First step: Clean your fixtures (in my old apartment this worked wonders!). Remove any shades and wash them with soap and water, then be sure to let them dry before replacing them. Dust any bulbs or fixtures if you can’t remove them.

Then, consider adding another layer of lighting to eliminate shadows and brighten the whole space, like tacking battery-operated strings of LED lights to the undersides of your upper cabinets.

3. Brighten by bringing in nature.

Certain natural fragrances, like citrus, peppermint, rosemary, and eucalyptus, will automatically lift your spirits when you enter a room. So incorporate them in whichever way suits your style: Tie together a bunch of eucalyptus branches and hang them from the door, boil lemon slices in water and let the steam float around, or light a scented candle or spritz a room spray.

And greenery itself always makes a room feel more lively, whether it’s a teeny succulent on the windowsill or a big old fiddle-leaf fig in the corner. It’s a nice reminder that even if everything’s dead outside, there’s still hope for spring!

Any tips on freshening or brightening the kitchen in these dark winter days?