These dreary winter mornings are quite testing. It seems harder to wake up, get out of bed and function in general. Do you ever notice just how much easier it is to spring out of bed on a sunny bright morning? The day seems so full of opportunity and you feel more optimistic and ready for action.
Natural light plays a big part in our lives, and in our homes it’s especially vital. Let’s have a look at how important natural light is, and how to incorporate more of it.
What is meant by natural light?
Natural sources of light come from the sun. The light enters a room via a large window or a small crack in a door, a well placed skylight, or bouncing off a mirrored surface. Natural light sources of course don’t have to be directly from the sun, but can emulate it. Whether it be the warm soft glow of a setting sun, or the bright light of dawn, the emphasis is on lightness not harshness.
Why is natural light important?
As mentioned earlier, natural light is very important in our lives. From a well-being point of view, we need light to help us wake from slumber. When natural sunlight hits the skin, it triggers the production of vitamin D in our bodies. We need vitamin D to keep inflammation at bay.
Recent clinical studies have looked into whether increased levels of vitamin D can help reduce heart disease, cancer and dementia, too. Undeniably, vitamin D is essential for improved brain function. In this respect, exposure to sunlight is vital in regulating our mood.
How natural light affects mood
It is not just the vitamin D production and subsequent brain function that improves our mood with sunlight. Natural light seems to have an immediate, calming effect on us. When we enter a bright space, we are instantly whisked away to warmer days, and the associated memories – be it a lovely relaxing beach holiday, or the carefree days of our youth.
How to increase natural light in a room
Everyone would love to float around a lofty home with floor to ceiling, south facing windows, like something straight out of an episode of Grand Designs… The reality for most of us though, is trying to make the most of the light we get through our moderately-sized windows and patio doors. If you’re lucky enough to have large windows, maximise them! Large windows can be dressed delicately, with light coloured, wispy voile curtains or blinds, or have etched patterned glass – privacy need not suffer.
The majority of us however, are likely to ask how to make a small window look bigger.
Smaller windows obviously let less light into a room, but how can we make them look bigger and make the room appear brighter? This is where your interior design skills come in, as lighting in interior design is just as important as paint or fabric:
- Curtain colour and fabric
Avoid big, dark coloured, heavy curtains – these will block light and make the room appear darker and the window appear smaller.
- Curtain rods
Frame the window with light and airy curtains that are longer than the frame. Hang them on rods that are set higher and wider than the window – make sure the curtains aren’t too transparent however, or you will be able to see the gaps.
If you want to go for blinds, use the plantation or venetian kind in a light colour. Set them in a frame that is wider and longer than the window it covers. Wooden blinds will look lighter than aluminium or plastic blinds, they’re also insulating, helping to prevent heat loss in the colder months.
You can make windows look even wider by layering curtains – have one set hung even wider than the first set. Layering gives a nice contemporary feel too.
Adding a wider frame around a window in a light colour, will give the impression that the window is larger.
- Wall colour
You may think that painting surrounding walls in white would make a window seem larger and brighter, but it actually has the opposite effect. Paint walls in a slightly darker, cool colour, and keep the window frames white to make them pop. On the wall opposite a window, a lighter colour is a good idea, as it will reflect the light back into the room.
Using vertical stripes on a blind or curtains will make a window look longer. Horizontal stripes will make windows look wider.
If you really want to make a feature out of a window and emphasise the size, make sure that furniture around it has a low profile. Think long coffee tables, occasional chairs and chaise longues. The difference in scale tricks the eye into thinking the window is much bigger.
A common trick in interior design, is to use reflection to create the illusion of space and light. Why not hang mirrors near the window to reflect the light around the room? Or, use mirrored surfaces in accessories or furniture? Don’t go overboard though, we don’t need to be blinded whilst watching TV or have a hole burned in the carpet!
Glass shelving, glass tables, glass accessories, glass balustrades. Glass used in place of materials that would ordinarily block out sunlight, is a great way of brightening up a space. Light will pass through these objects and give a lovely ethereal feel to a room. Like a scene out of Frozen…just less cold.
Can mirrors increase light?
As mentioned briefly above, mirrors and mirrored surfaces can do wonders when it comes to increasing light in a room. Natural light will bounce off of reflective surfaces and light up darker corners the light would not otherwise reach. Mirrors can also make spaces appear larger and lengthen whatever is reflected.
Having a mirror directly opposite a window could create the effect of having two windows in the room. Having a made-to-measure mirror is not the only way to get reflective surfaces into a room either – mirrored tabletops and drawers are always in fashion, and as well as reflecting the light, they add a touch of glamour, too.
Can you mimic natural light?
You’ve tried everything to accentuate the natural daylight coming into the room, and have made the windows look as big and open as possible. The only other way to make a room lighter is to mimic natural light, with artificial light.
Light yellows and orange tinted lights are best for our mood and health, so be sure to choose bulbs that give a soft, warm glow. Bright, white light from LED lighting has actually been found to suppress melatonin production upto 5 times more than that of their older lightbulb counterparts.
Melatonin is the compound that adjusts our biological clock and is known for its antioxidant and anti-cancerous properties. White light is actually blue on the spectrum, and is likened to staring at a phone or computer screen. Who wants that as the lighting source in their home?!
So, throw open your small-to-medium sized windows! Let the sunlight pour in – let it bounce off reflective surfaces, and pass through those glass shelves. Be generous when hanging your curtains, and clever when picking your colour schemes. Master the use of pattern from your tiny armchair. And remember, if you have to resort to artificial lighting – if it’s bright white, then it’s not right!