Good photographers get it. Good filmmakers use it as much as possible. Architects design around it. But there are still a few interior designers that haven’t quite grasped it. Natural light; arguably the most important factor ignored in a lot of homes. The lack of it can make even the most vibrant showroom pieces look lifeless; ill-arranged rooms that block it can turn corners into dank spots; and without acknowledging it, poor colour selections can be made all too easily.
A lot of interior design is about control and expression, so it’s unsurprising that our tendency is to reach for the lamps and shades whenever the need arises. But artificial light – no matter how soft – highlights corners, creates shadows, and often makes environments smaller. Natural light does precisely the opposite, it can suffuse like no lamp can, and make even the most cramped space feel spacious and airy. Not only does natural light offer aesthetic benefits that lamps cannot, good usage can make for a savvy way to reduce energy costs by delaying how quickly you reach for the on switch.
Let’s look at some ways you can improve the use of natural light in your home:
1. Understand Where, When, And What Kind Of Light You Are Getting
Which points do your windows face? Which areas of your home receive the most light? Do you receive more morning or evening light? Every home has its own character, and this is no less exemplified than in the type of light you receive. It’s worth noting the areas and times that your house seems at its brightest and its darkest, bearing in mind seasonal changes.
Areas that are particularly bright in the morning make for great morning breakfast areas, whilst areas that are more West-facing make for good evening lounge areas. Likewise, morning light tends to be clearer, crisper, and more suffusive, whilst evening light tends towards hues like red, purple, or blue. Remembering simple things like this can dramatically change how your home feels and can help make smart design choices.
2. Allow More Light Into Your Home
Unless your home has wide french windows, low-set furniture all over, and a lot of luck with regards to location, the chances are that it’s a mixture of dark and light spots, and that there are some things you could improve with regards to lighting. The most common improvements are lighter curtains or shades, lighter window frames, and the addition of paned doors.
It can also be a smart move to look outside the house at possible areas for improvement. Particularly obstructive trees can easily be removed or trimmed accordingly, and yard buildings such as sheds can be designed or renovated in such a way that they are less intrusive. Glass fencing is also a practical and sophisticated substitute for wood or iron.
3. Open Out Spaces That Receive The Most Light
There are a few simple things to improve even the most darkest and recessed spaces in the home. Primarily, it’s always a good idea to arrange your home so that the brightest areas have few, or at least low-stacked objects. More interesting features can be placed in these areas for emphasis, but are always best placed as far back as possible so as not to block light or create unwanted shadows.
Using more reflective surfaces can also reflect rather than diffuse light in a more elegant manner. Textures such as carpets, unvarnished woods, and fabrics tend to kill light off, whereas finished floors, mirrors, metallic or varnished furnishings accentuate and reflect the light available. (Sonja Brstina’s Belgrade design is a superb example of how a combination of textures can offer just the right balance in even the most tricky of spots)
4. Using Appropriate Colours
There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to colour schemes. As mentioned before, light tends to change throughout the day, and depending on where you are can be radically different. A house along the mediterranean will have plenty of hours of bright, unchanging light (hence you will find plenty of liberally applied block colours). A house in Northern Europe will be host to wildly different time-frames of light, that is often misty and soft (thus, textured colours and warmer tones apply).
One of the fundamental considerations for colour selection should be how it looks under all conditions. Will that beautifully detailed piece of darkly-shaded furniture look clunky and heavy under wisp-like morning light? Will your nicely-selected pastel shades be washed-out when the summer comes along? Again, location in the home becomes important, personally, I prefer dark spots to be designed that way with textured, darker tones, and brighter spots to be emphasised in the same way, though this is an aesthetic consideration to be taken by the designer.
Ultimately, even the slightest awareness of the natural lighting in your home can help with virtually every design decision. It can make the difference between a house that only looks great three months a year, and a house that looks pleasurably inviting in various ways all year round. Try it yourself; the simple act of arranging your angles and spaces to accommodate it is cost-free and something that anybody can try. You may find that its the most obvious and effective design change you never made.
[Images courtesy of Aqua Vista Glass]