Natural light has a huge impact on our health and happiness. It not only aids the release of serotonin, the hormone that regulates our body clocks to help us wake up and fall asleep, but it’s also a major source of vitamin D – something that’s vital for our mood, our bones and our muscles. Yet for so many of us, natural light is an afterthought in the design process.
It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot over the past couple of months: I recently attended a talk on design for wellbeing by Oliver Heath, which prompted me to look into the reasons why my sleep is often disrupted, and I’ve been diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency. After realising that I frequently reach for the light switch even on bright summer days, I’m determined to maximise the amount of natural light in our house. For everyone who’d like to do the same, here are a few tips that might help…
Analyse the space
Before you start making any changes to your home, walk from room to room and look at areas where natural light is lacking. Think about when you use each space, and watch how the sun moves around to create different areas of darkness and light at different times of day. Once you’ve identified spots where a bit of extra light would make the biggest difference, you can start researching effective solutions.
Add more windows
Increasing the number of windows in your home will obviously increase the amount of natural light, and it needn’t be as expensive or as complicated as you might think. Installing a skylight, roof light or roof lantern can transform the space beneath, bringing in twice the amount of light as normal vertical windows – and they can often be fitted in a couple of days. They’re most commonly associated with attic rooms, but there are options to suit almost any pitched or flat roof, and they work brilliantly above desks, kitchen islands, dining tables and stairwells. What’s more, you probably won’t need planning permission, though do double-check the rules in your area. Roofwindows.co.uk has a selection of affordable options, together with practical advice on choosing the right design for your space and budget.
Think about window dressings
Avoid heavy, light-blocking curtains and opt instead for sheer fabrics which allow natural light to filter through; in bedrooms, you can always layer them with black-out blinds to create total darkness for sleeping.
Another option is frosted window film, which provides privacy without sacrificing light – Brume has plenty of designs which are custom-made to your window’s dimensions. They’re incredibly easy to install, and resemble expensive etched glass once in place.
Invest in shutters
If you have the budget, it’s worth investing in plantation-style shutters, which offer lots of flexibility when it comes to light and privacy. The tilting slats allow you to let in or block light as needed, and there are tier-on-tier versions with top and bottom sections that open independently. They’re also great for ventilation, as fresh air can pass through the slats even when the shutters are closed. Hillarys has a huge range of made-to-measure shutters, with all sorts of colours and combinations to choose from.
Consider internal glazing
If you have a room with little or no natural light of its own, look at ways to borrow light from elsewhere. Replacing solid doors or internal walls with glazed options lets light flow from one space to another, and this can work wonders in the dark central areas of terraced homes or apartment blocks. There are some fabulous crittall-style designs which create interesting architectural features as well as brightening gloomy spaces.
Other options for borrowing light include adding glass ceilings / floors above dingy basement rooms, and encasing stairwells in reinforced glass (the latter works particularly well if you have a roof light at the top of the stairs). But if you can’t stretch to major work, even adding a small glazed panel above a doorway can help.
Bounce light around
Decorating with pale colours such as white and grey maximises natural light, as they bounce it around the space rather than absorbing it. If you have a particularly dark room to deal with, you could even use paint which contains light-reflecting particles – Dulux’s ‘Light + Space’ matt emulsion is a good option. Using reflective surfaces such as tiles, polished wood and marble can also help. And don’t underestimate the impact of a well-placed mirror – hang one opposite or adjacent to a window and you’ll see an instant result.
Do you have any tips for maximising natural light in the home? If so, please do share them below!
This is a collaborative post with roofwindows.co.uk, but all words and opinions are my own.
Images via (from top): Rory Gardiner via Remodelista, Arch Daily, VIPP, Rory Gardiner via Remodelista, Janne Olander via Coco Lapine Design, Claus Brechenmacher for Annabell Kutucu, Bodie & Fou, Cate St Hill, Silver Blonde, Anders Bergstedt via My Scandinavian Home, and The Design Chaser