How to make a room less creepy?
October 13, 2013 8:00 PM   Subscribe

This is a design question, not a paranormal one: how can I make the creepy end of my house less creepy?

One end of my house is configured so that two rooms have windows that look out into black nothingness -- into a dark corner of the yard, with trees and bushes about 6 feet away. I think this must be the reason for the odd vibe, because the other rooms of the house either look out onto something (neighbors houses), or have more open space outside of them.

We keep lights on in the rooms in the evening and have colorful curtains drawn against the black night, but still these rooms are creepy. Is there anything I can do to the rooms or to the yard that will make them less foreboding?
posted by xo to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Light the trees and bushes?
posted by The Deej at 8:02 PM on October 13, 2013 [9 favorites]

Soft warm lighting (reds, yellows, etc), remove the focus from the windows by putting bright colors or spot lights away from it, maybe some indoor plants
posted by The Whelk at 8:06 PM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

A Skylight?
posted by brujita at 8:06 PM on October 13, 2013

Would the room get more sunlight if you got rid of the trees or the bushes?

How about some full spectrum lights?
posted by Loudmax at 8:23 PM on October 13, 2013

Do the rooms feel creepy all the time, or just at night? I would hang thick window coverings, something like either black-out curtains or even velvet, if it's climate-appropriate. Are the rooms themselves kind of stark or bare? I would bring in texture, warmth, and light - these things all spell "cozy" to me. For the wall color I would think a nice warm neutral ( for a universally likable paint color choose one any shade of a coffee drink - mocha, cream, cappuccino, etc. - not grey or stark white) would help things feel more welcoming. Really pay attention to the ambient lighting in the room. If you have just a bright overhead light, use lamps to bring in more warmth and coziness.

If they feel creepy during the daytime, do you think some flower boxes would help? Would positioning some mirrors facing the windows help catch any more of the view?
posted by aspen1984 at 8:31 PM on October 13, 2013

Lighting in the back yard might help, as might foliage that's right outside of the window--a small decorative tree, for example, or tall flowers.

If the current walls are any "institutional" color--white, cream, pale yellow--I'd reconsider that and paint with either a warm neutral, as suggested above, or something really friendly and not creepy--sage, or that blue color that's sometimes associated with French-style kitchens. Put up curtains and art, and actively work to make the inside of the room seem attractive and friendly. Plus bedding, for example, and warm wooden furniture. I think that a lot of rooms, especially rooms that aren't used on a daily basis, end up looking sort of institutional or sterile, and it makes people vaguely uncomfortable in a way that they can't articulate. I'd imagine that looking out into nothingness would only intensify this.
posted by MeghanC at 8:41 PM on October 13, 2013

Might help with more detailed suggestions if you describe the function of these rooms.

How is the temperature in the rooms? Does it feel chilly in those rooms when you walk in? If so, that may contribute to the creepy feel.

Try adding some cheerful and thick area rugs or carpeting to the rooms if they don't already have this. Seeing and walking on a cheerful warm cushiony plush-feeling rug in the room can help the room feel cozy.

Can you add an electric/faux fireplace, a real fireplace, or wood stove?
posted by gudrun at 8:55 PM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Put a cheerful yard ornament in with the trees and bushes, and light it? Like a statue of a dolphin or something with a spotlight. Then people would have something to look at and the view would make sense. Maybe not a statue with a human face, no angels. Maybe a birdfeeder or fountain?

Personally, I think lots of books make a room look cozy, but it isn't everyone's style.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:56 PM on October 13, 2013

Hang lanterns outside.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:59 PM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Can we get some pictures?
posted by oceanjesse at 9:00 PM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Different options:

Cascading flowers and lush greenery outside. Clear out dead foliage and anything blocking the sun.

White or stained glass window film, or rice paper over the windows.

Nthing decorate the room with whatever makes you feel warm, cozy, and safe. That could include scents. Get rid of any drafts.
posted by moira at 9:17 PM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm so glad you asked this question today!

I was at a local museum earlier, and saw a super cool fake smoked "glass wall" in a wood frame blocking a real window with a crap view. It looked AWESOME.

Memail me for more specifics, but basically, the light coming through the window made the patterned smoked glass (plexiglass, in this case) glow.

It was a super elegant solution for a shitty view out the actual window. You could easily softly backlight the smoked glass floating in the frame, for your purposes.

Memail me. I'm back there next Saturday and can totally take pics for you. Similarly, I have great recommendations for materials that will look sharp and be affordable.

Hope to hear from you.
posted by jbenben at 9:18 PM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

jbenben, would love to see a photo. Could you post a link here when you have one?
posted by Gusaroo at 10:06 PM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

We need a photo from the OP, and one from jbenben would be interesting.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:18 PM on October 13, 2013

Best answer: (Metafilter's favourite) A Pattern Language recommends that all rooms should have light coming from two sides. I think this would help here. Obviously you can't knock another window into the room, but can you put up a large mirror on another wall, or a big painting of nature, and/or paint the room very white (as A Pattern Language suggests for rooms that don't have the light from two sides), and/or put a very warm/cozy artificial light source along one of the non-windowed walls? I'm thinking a gas fire, or big lamp, or similar.

As a bonus, doing any of those things to a non-windowed wall would draw attention away from the creepy view. Without another focal point, a window tends to be the first thing that draws the eye, which can't be helping here. (In fact, I'd rethink your colourful curtains on that window. Neutrals might be better so as not to draw attention to that window at all.)

If you don't go with Jbenben's specific idea, something similar would be those window films designed for privacy. That might turn the weird view into just a source of light with no content at all.
posted by lollusc at 10:25 PM on October 13, 2013 [5 favorites]

Can you prune the trees and bushes to make them less dense?
posted by a halcyon day at 12:12 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I guess I would suggest having the trees and bushes professionally pruned (or find someone who's a Master Gardener who'll do it as a favor). Overgrown shrubs really do impact how a house presents itself to the world as well as the experience of the inhabitants. If you still want some privacy, it's possible that they are just growing too close to the house and thinning them out a bit will still keep eyes out, while encouraging growth in that direction (i.e. away from the house). Different types of plant react in their own ways to pruning, which is why it helps to have someone who understands this.

As to the interior I would consider more thoughtfully what it is about the room that you don't like. For instance, a lighter-colored ceiling is one way to open up a space psychologically. Perhaps a different color for the wall that is warmer or cooler depending. Brighten the space up with a few well-chosen trinkets or artworks, and then develop a color scheme that extneds or complements those colors. Think about creating focal points in the room that will draw your eye toward a thing rather than the expanse of wall or other things that you don't like. Move the furniture around; figure out what isn't working. Too much space between chairs/sofas? A narrow funnel effect? Pieces that force you to sit in uncomfortable ways? A bit of creativity and willingness to rethink things or even relocate/replace furniture items can go a long way.
posted by dhartung at 12:47 AM on October 14, 2013

More and different kinds of light. Can't provide links at the moment, but I'm thinking a nice long strand of DIY origami lights along the wall where it meets the ceiling. Instructions online. Basically pretty little colored and patterned paper boxes popped over the bulbs in a standard strand of Xmas lights. Bonus if you can find one with white wire and warm (as opposed to cool) LED bulbs. At least 50 lights. These provide beautiful and soft light.

Another thought: those big columnar paper (?) floor lanterns that serve as accent lighting. IKEA sells versions.

Definitely would help to know the purpose of the rooms. But light changes everything. And warm paint colors (so e.g., blue is out).
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 1:42 AM on October 14, 2013

Do you have any well-loved possessions that you can arrange in the room (a bookcase full of old, familiar books / photographs of loved ones) to distract from the window or arrange around the window? I find that a room looks much more welcoming when it has elements of the loved and familiar.

Houseplants go a long way towards making a room more welcoming too, I think.

Obviously this depends on what kinds of rooms we are talking about...
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:20 AM on October 14, 2013

I second the comment about lighting. Overhead light, especially as the only light in a room, can feel pretty harsh. Lamps, wall sconces, and even LED light strips in strategic places can help so much. And the color temperature matters too.
posted by lakeroon at 4:49 AM on October 14, 2013

Instead of bright colors or patterns, the curtains should be in NEUTRAL colors and designs: you want to draw attention at night AWAY from that window, not TO it. The focal point, the brightly colored/patterned eye-catcher in the room, should be something else entirely. Turn seating away from the window, to something like a fireplace or a wall-mounted TV on another wall.

And yes, seconding everyone who recommends warm lights (like pink), instead of harsh white light.
posted by easily confused at 6:58 AM on October 14, 2013

This is kind of out of left field, but something about your description of the rooms as being "creepy" and "foreboding," even with curtains drawn at night, really struck me. So I have to ask: do you have carbon monoxide detectors in these rooms? Any chance they are situated above your furnace, water heater, etc.?

Carbon monoxide can be responsible for weird feelings in rooms (or other haunted-house-like sensations). Without a photo, I obviously can't say if your rooms actually look creepy, but it seems like looking out on some dark trees and bushes wouldn't be enough to describe a room that way.

I'm probably way off, but I wanted to put it out there just in case!
posted by janerica at 9:48 AM on October 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Rule of thumb for lighting interior spaces -- 3 light sources. Just an overhead flush-mount or chandelier and nothing else? Blech. It's great for really lighting up the space but crap for happy mood or comfy lighting. Find a way to hang a lamp in the corner, have a standing lamp near reading/relaxation areas and "task" lighting where you need it. In most of the rooms in my house the overhead light is on just long enough for me to turn on table lamps, hanging lamps. Also: use reflected surfaces to create better ambient lighting. My bedside lamps is one of those crookneck lamps - if blaring right at me and my book, it's really unpleasant. However, angled toward the light-colored wall allows it to throw off adequate light over a greater range with less glare.

Where is the room? On the north/east side of the house, you get cool light later in the day. Use warmer colors in those rooms to make them feel warmer. On the west/south side you can get away with cooler colors to make the rooms feel less "hot."

What paint colors do you have? We had a small room painted a kind of sage green with only north-facing window. God that room felt dull and blech. I painted one wall orange and the other three a crisp white -- suddenly that room felt a millions times better. Accent color + neutrals or white works well because you can get a punch of color and then have that reflected around the room. Always depends on the space, of course, but really look at the colors.
posted by amanda at 10:30 AM on October 14, 2013

I find that uplights can really make a room seem open and welcoming. When you shine a lamp on a white ceiling, it reflects and gives an even, glowing light. It's not a substitute for task lighting, but as general lighting but it's much better than a ceiling-mounted fixture. You can get inexpensive clip-on lamps or point a desk lamp upwards; it doesn't have to be expensive.

Once you have the lighting right, give add a few objects that you like a lot. Also, your art/wall items should be fairly large and hung at eye level... and they should be things you really like to look at. I see so many rooms where there are 16" or smaller pictures hung too high on the wall, and it gives such a cold look. If you have smaller pieces, hang them in a group.

Choose something that you'd like to try do in that room. For example, set up great conditions for reading: comfortable chair, good light coming from a floor or table lamp, a surface for your book or reading device, a beverage, notebook, pen. If you tend to feel chilly when you sit still, keep a throw blanket close by. If there are certain scents you love, you might use one in that vicinity. Hang something on the wall. This all doesn't have to be have to be done in a hurry; the quest for what you need can be enjoyable. Think of it as creating a vignette -- pleasing to your eye, comfortable, and useful.
posted by wryly at 11:05 AM on October 14, 2013

Those rooms are getting less sun; are they colder than the rest of the house? A cool bedroom is nice for sleep, but chilly for climbing into bed. I use an electric blanket to pre-heat the bed, and turn it off when I get in. I second pruning the shrubs/ trees, as they keep moisture in, and that may be contributing to a clammy feel, as well as chilliness.

I'd embrace the darkness with a medium paint color, and lots of light to make the color feel strong. A dark white room feels unpleasant to me, a dark room painted in my favorite warm gray feels cozy and snug with a lamp on next to the bed. Before painting, I always think about how I want a room to feel, and choose accordingly.
posted by theora55 at 1:34 PM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

A small suggestion to add to the ones above. If you have/when you put lamps in those rooms, put them on timers. We have our living room lamps set to go on when we come home from work and go off shortly after we go to bed. It's really nice to come into an already glowing room, rather than fumbling around in the dark, looking for the lamp switch.
posted by sarajane at 3:07 PM on October 14, 2013

Best answer: Do you actually use these rooms or travel through them much in the course of a regular day? I am often just a teeny bit creeped out by rooms I don't use much, particularly those that are at one "end" away from the action. This happens even if my place is as small as a one-bedroom apartment and is mitigated by just moving some reasonable activity in there like watching movies or folding laundry or whatever. If you would like to use them regularly, maybe try that, and if you don't (guest room or whatever), maybe move any remaining spookified activities out and keep the door shut!
posted by zizania at 7:06 PM on October 14, 2013

Bird feeder?
posted by en forme de poire at 1:26 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

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