Kiva Brent can solve any design dilemma in 60 seconds or less. Just check out her “Design Dilemmas” Reels series on Instagram, where she encourages followers to submit images of their space so she can provide design solutions. Brent’s natural ability to make design easy and accessible is how she was able to successfully pivot from being a biochemistry major in college to dishing out design advice to more than 250,000 subscribers on YouTube and 100,000 followers on Instagram.
As someone who has always been a firm believer in making a space feel like home, Brent was inspired to share her insights with the masses after finding herself quarantined at home. “I was studying in the midst of a pandemic, and I took a moment to rethink what I was doing,” she says. “So, I started making videos and posting on YouTube, and here we are.”
For Brent, “here” is creating content from her home in Pittsburgh. The Baltimore native says that whether she’s helping folks with mobility problems be able to navigate their space better or helping individuals distinguish between DIY versus professional projects, her goal is to give everyday people access to design.
Even though Brent uses social media to promote and grow her design influence, she acknowledges that Instagram is a highlight reel that can give people false impressions about design. “Something that looks ‘minimal’ may really cost four million dollars to put all together,” she explains. “Or maybe folks have a room or two that’s super done and staged, and the rest of the home isn’t so put together. Your [own] home doesn’t have to look curated and aesthetic all the time.”
Still, one Instagram-favored design aesthetic that can’t be ignored is a room with an abundance of natural light. Whether it’s energizing morning rays or dreamy sunsets, good natural light is a feature that everyone craves in their home. For those with darker interiors, Brent offers some easy DIY tips for making the most of (or even creating) natural light in your home.
Mirrors reflect light, which, in turn, can make a room feel bigger. “Reflecting light can help a space appear larger, and mirrors can maximize the little light you may have in a room,” she says. Brent suggests a combination of floor mirrors, wall mirrors, and even mirrored tabletops or furnishings to allow light to be able to bounce around.
Artwork in lighter tones can help amplify the feeling of light in a space as well. As Brent explains, “Allowing artwork to be the bright part of the room is another fun way to add light into an otherwise dark space.” Whether installing one large work or a gallery wall, this is a trick that marries design with functionality.
Another great way to create the illusion of light is to paint dark spaces white. “Dark colors can make a space look like it’s closing in on itself, so, if a room is small, skip dark paint colors,” she shares. If an entirely white space is too minimal for you, Brent suggests painting the ceiling white. She adds, “A white ceiling can help open up the top of a room.”
Of course, having light-colored furniture is one tip that Brent shares, but if you’re really wanting to put a dark piece of furniture in a space where natural light isn’t the best, opt for furniture that allows light to pass above, beneath, or even through it.
“Having couches and chairs that rise off from the floor and allow light to pass through can make the room feel more open,” she says. “It’ll help spread light throughout the area, and you can get more of what light you do have in through the space.”
If you can’t tap into any natural light in a space, make the most of your fixtures. End tables and floor lamps can add light into dark corners, and lighting suspended from the ceiling can transform a room. Brent is also a fan of adding artificial lighting into unconventional spaces, noting that “you can even add lighting to shelves, cabinets, and closets to create dimension and make a space appear larger as well.”
Brent recommends investing in smart light bulbs to transform dark spaces. Bright white lights will create a larger feel in rooms and are ideal for bathrooms and kitchens. LED lights are another great lightning option to play with. “I love the small LED lights to light bookshelves,” she shares. “It’s pretty, and it opens up dark structures like shelves or cabinets.”