Making the most of natural light


Following our pick of the pendants last week, we’re taking a look at how to use, and how to mimic, natural light in your home to create a sense of well being as well as functionality.

Light adds a whole dimension to our living spaces - not only is it practical, a well thought out scheme can dynamically enhance mood and atmosphere, adding emphasis and shadow to spaces through multiple layers. It can often be neglected when we design our spaces - where we focus on textures and colours instead.


We can look to nature to inspire both natural and artificial lighting schemes, both inside and out. Think how energised we feel on a bright sunny day compared to a gloomy overcast one, and how the quality of light changes during any given day - from soft cool yellow toned sunrises to sharp and blue midday light and shadows to fading warm red and orange dappled light of the evening. Watch how the light changes on buildings throughout the day, bringing out different architectural details and textures and which elements are correspondingly shrouded in shadow.


Light is however taken for granted. Day to day urban living often doesn’t make the most of natural light sources - we are indoors for a lot of the day under harsh office or retail lighting, those that take public transport underground are deprived of natural light twice a day and when we get home, we are under artificial light at the beginning and end of the day.


The passage of the sun

We should plan how we use our inside and outside spaces depending on the position of the sun during the day. South facing rooms and gardens enjoy strong natural light throughout the day so are great for rooms that we use most frequently like living spaces, and are not ones we are trying to sleep in for example. All colours work well but cooler shades like blues and greens will balance the intensity of sunlight. Artificial light sources should still be incorporated into south facing rooms to illuminate on overcast days and give a cosy warm feel in the evenings.


Living in glass houses

The trend for incorporating more and more glass into residential buildings in recent years shows how we relish natural light. If we live in more traditional buildings, the spaces are broken up into smaller areas and we have more control over the amount of natural light coming in during the day. We can make the most of these smaller areas though by adapting and replanning space, moving walls and adding roof lights or dormers to increase the amount of natural light.


Roof lights might not require planning permission, depending on the size and property and whether Permitted Development rights exist on your home, and can be relatively easily added by builders to darker spaces to brighten them up. Similarly, the shape and size of windows affect the quality and amount of light they permit to enter a room, so consider making existing windows larger or changing them to French doors to maximise natural light. Remember that any new windows that are directly next to a neighbouring property will need to be frosted, patterned or decorative like stained glass to prevent overlooking.


Keep in mind that sunlight through vast expanses of glass will show up every flaw in an area, and may fade pieces of furniture and wall-coverings. Then there is the effect of the solar heat so some form of heat regulation may be necessary, along with the need for black-out blinds in sleeping areas. Some glazing options already have heat reflecting properties built in. It is advisable to consider blinds over roof lights to provide some shading from the constant natural light coming through. Beautiful diffused light can be created through layering different fabrics at windows and doors.


Creating internal illusions of light

If your space doesn’t allow for the moving of walls, the use of glass or translucent materials in internal doors and openings can give the illusion of more light. As do pale, light reflecting interior finishes, like tiles or rugs, which will reflect light back into the room. Consider using mirrors to similar effect, and including some ceramics or glassware also give the illusion of light. This tactic works with exterior treatments too - light will bounce off a small pond, or a brightly paved drive or pathway.


If you are feeling really adventurous, you could even consider sections of glass flooring or even a transparent staircase to give the illusion of space and light. If that’s a bit too much, a more cost effective option could be to open up the treads of your existing staircase, or just paint it in a paler light-reflecting colour has a similar effect.


Considerations for positioning furniture Whilst natural daylight is desirable, you should consider where certain items of furniture will best work with the light source. A few considerations we would recommend:

  • TVs should be set up in corners facing away from windows to prevent glare and reflections. Ideally both natural and ambient lighting should be either behind or beside the TV.

  • A roof light is great above a dining table whilst it is daylight, but on darker evenings, an artificial light source above, such as a pendant lamp, would be needed. Consider placing the table to one side of the roof light in order to allow space to have a hanging light fitting over the table.

  • Home offices benefit from as much natural light as possible, with desks in front of windows where possible. Consider how light would fall on computer screens though to prevent glare and shadows that might strain your eyes. Remember that natural light can boost productivity and enhance your mood!

source: George Home