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It's illegal to use a room without a window as a bedroom in New York, so why do so many New Yorkers do it? The answer is probably obvious: tenants and apartment owners are looking to get more sleeping space for their money, and landlords may be willing to look the other way, or even market illegal bedrooms as legit to maximize the rent.
We're not encouraging this, but we also recognize that people do it, and if you're living in a windowless room right now, you may not have other options immediately available. In the long-term, there are good reasons you should be looking for a room that gets natural light. Access to sunlight boosts your physical and mental health, and living without it can throw of your circadian rhythm, pitching your whole life out of whack. So in the short-term, if you're stuck in a room with no window, it's a good idea to try to brighten up your box.
For advice, we reached out to Clare Spooner, a senior designer at Meg Braff Designs. She’s no stranger to the design challenges of small, windowless bedrooms that are so prevalent in New York City. The trick she says is “making your own sunshine," even if you’re on a tight budget. You can do this, she says, by investing in fours things: lighting, mirrors, wall decor, and rugs.
For lighting, Spooner recommends a lot of it!
“Overhead lights, table lamps, standing lamps, whatever you have to do,” she says. “If you can, put the lights on a dimmer, even better, and make sure the overhead light isn't glaring down on you. A fun fix is installing a chandelier and putting little tiny shades over the exposed bulbs.”
2) The mirror trick
To accentuate the lighting further, Spooner prescribes the mirror trick.
“I suggest picking a wall where you imagine the window should be, and put a huge mirror there,” she says. “The trick is to fill up the wall where the window should be. This way the light from all of your lamps will be magnified and reflected. And if you put a mirror opposite the bedroom door, it can also catch the light coming from outside of the room and bounce it around the windowless bedroom!”
3) Brighten up the walls
Spooner says painting your bedroom or installing wallpaper can make all the difference in lifting your mood. The standard cream color that most apartments are painted can be uninspiring.
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“If you can afford wallpaper, do it,” she says. “But if you can't afford wallpaper, paint is your friend. I'd choose a happy blue or green and paint everything, especially if the ceilings are under nine feet high. Walls, ceiling, trim, doors—everything! You might as well have a little fun.”
4) Treat your toes right
Last but not least, the bedroom floor. The trick is to make it as cozy as possible.
“Get something down on the floor that feels good under your toes,” Spooner says. “In a windowless room, rugs should be even more plush. I love putting down a natural fiber rug like a jute, which is soft and can be found at an inexpensive price at places like World Market, and then layering a plush sheepskin over top.”
5) Those personal touches
Making the room truly yours is the final step, whether that means buying plants at a local store, stacking your favorite books on the bedside table, or hanging artwork. This will all help make a 12-month stay in a windowless bedroom bearable, if not deeply satisfying.
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