We have said goodbye to the shortest, darkest days of winter, but not without appreciating the light factors in our homes that carry us through them, or perhaps realising that we need to find some new solutions. So we asked John Law of Woodhouse & Law to give us his expertise in the matter of maximising and improving the light in our homes.
It’s February and those much-anticipated spring months are almost upon us, and with them the promise of longer days and lighter evenings. The recent months will have seen particular rooms in our homes feel that bit darker than we remembered, perhaps that bit less inviting. Fortunately, there are some sure-fire ways in which we can improve light levels in any space, even in these winter months.
Light might be borrowed from a neighbouring space for instance; perhaps by glazing the door that links them, adding a window in place of an internal wall, or even introducing a glazed ceiling to lower floors such as a basement. A room can be equally transformed by introducing a roof light or atrium to the space. The feasibility of such options may of course be limited by budget or logistics; there is however plenty of opportunity still to give a greater sense of light to any room. We may just need get that bit more creative, carefully considering each and every component of the room in its own right.
Paints of a white or neutral tone on walls and ceilings instantly lift a space, as will those with a natural sheen to them. This might be complemented by the introduction of bright, vibrant artwork, allowing the injection of colour and character to a space. Reflective surfaces such as metals will help throw the light around further, as will large mirrors, especially when placed directly opposite a window. A floor offers just as much opportunity to brighten a space too; opt here perhaps for a light wooden finish, or a large rug in neutral tones.
These finishes will need to be complemented by layers of artificial lighting throughout the space, not only offering a greater sense of warmth but also making sure the space adapts to its use through the day. In a dark bedroom, celling lights offer more functionality in the day, but at night-time these are likely to be turned off in favour of bedside lamps or wall lights.
The choice of window dressing is also of huge importance. Heavy curtains and wooden shutters tend to reduce light flow considerably. In their place, consider a less-imposing alternative. Roman blinds, for example, add texture and interest without being overbearing; these might be accompanied by sheer Roman blinds to offer greater privacy in spaces such as bedrooms. Unclean windows can also reduce that much-sought light, so it’s worthwhile investing in a regular window-cleaning regime. Beyond those windows, ensure that unwieldy shrubs and trees aren’t restricting the natural light on offer to the property; this can be particularly noticeable in the summer months when they are in full leaf.
Before any such changes are introduced, it’s vital to consider the orientation of each room within our home, and how each space is used. The location of a breakfast room might be chosen to make the most of an eastern aspect for the morning sun, for example, with a more formal dining room enjoying the evening sun to the west. A darker, north-facing room might also make for the perfect snug; a space in which darker colours might be embraced, complemented by layers of texture for warmth and interest. In the absence of generous, if any, windows, the use of green colour tones and house plants can help counter that lost connection to nature. The space might not necessarily offer the best habitat for house plants, so it’s reassuring to see a growing range of impressive and convincing faux plants on the market.
In our rush to bring in light, we mustn’t forget that this can come with its drawbacks, particularly with the fading of much-loved fabrics and paintings. In light-filled rooms such as glass cubes, it is worth considering UV filtering fabrics within discrete, automated blinds that can be dropped when the room is not in use. To protect those pieces of furniture that are subject to plenty of light, advances are also being made in the production of fade-resistant acrylics. One of our go-to resources for such materials is Perennials Fabrics; their range of textiles, rugs and trims are 100% solution-dyed, making them resist not just fading but also most stains. To help preserve artwork, we also use conservation glass when framing; this glazing offers a coating that blocks almost all UV transfer while still providing optical clarity.
Lower light levels affect not just a room’s ambience, but our own health and well-being
Lower light levels affect not just a room’s ambience but our own health and well-being. Exposure to bright light is believed to increase our levels of serotonin, a crucial hormone that steadies our mood and happiness as well as aiding sleep and digestion. There is unquestionably much incentive, both on a practical and personal level, in ensuring it really is all sweetness and light – not just in the heart but in the home too.
Featured image: a large rooflight and a transparent shower structure makes this bathroom feel bright and large | main body images moving clockwise: The large windows, dressed with Roman blinds and curtains enables full daylight when it suits or a more subdued light when it does not; the peachy apricot tones and soft greys increase the feeling of relaxation; this space has roof lights and French doors in the room beyond, and the glass lights and the white walls in the inner room helps to make the light bounce off the different surface; a large roof light and neutral colours ensure that available light bounces around the interior space