Real estate agents tend to use tried-and-true terms to describe a home in its best light (pardon the pun): charming, updated, cozy, priced to sell, open, and ... well lit. There are more, but you get the idea. A well-lit home is so popular; it's become a real estate buzzword. But what if your home is window challenged, or just dark? How can you increase the natural light in your home to make it bright, airy feeling, and well lit?
Choose your decor wisely
Picture the difference between a Victorian home replete with furnishings of the era and a home decked out with modern decor.
You'd probably find in a Victorian home the following:
- Ornately carved, and often massive, dark wooden furniture.
- Dark red, green, or purple velvet drapes.
- Busy wallpaper.
A home like this can be quite lovely, but unless there are floor-to-ceiling windows, a home furnished in this manner will probably look quite dark. In fact, even if there are lots of windows, a room furnished in this manner will probably still look dark.
Compare that home to one with sleek and minimalist modern decor or perhaps a farmhouse-chic design. You can achieve both looks by first choosing light-colored furniture, especially the large pieces, like a sofa. You can certainly have color in your home, but if your goal is to make the home lighter and brighter, it's best to limit color to accent pieces, pillows, throw rugs, or artwork. If you like modern decor, metallic accessories are good choices because they reflect light. So do translucent furniture and reflective coffee and end tables.
Wall space across from a window is prime real estate to create light. To double the natural light coming into your home, try hanging a mirror directly across from a window. You'll get twice the natural light by doing this. Never use this space in a manner that will decrease light, such as by putting bookshelves there, because that will obstruct light, making the home appear darker.
Select the right colors
Colors either absorb or reflect light.
Colorfully painted walls can be appealing, especially if you pick your favorite color or the trendy color of the year. But if you put a dark color on your walls, your home will be darker overall because dark colors absorb light.
If you want a light and bright home, choose wall colors that will reflect light. By choosing white, cream, gray, or tan walls, the light will reflect throughout the room. Keep in mind that the lighter the paint, the better for light. A shiny semi-gloss or gloss paint better reflects light as well, creating an even brighter room. And don't forget the ceiling. If you choose a gray or tan wall color, make sure the ceiling is at least a shade lighter, or even white, and use a matte finish for the ceiling to reduce glare.
The importance of windows
You already know that dark, heavy drapes will need to go if you want natural light in your home, but you don't have to leave your windows uncovered. For some windows you might choose to, but you might want to preserve your privacy, after all. Think about using translucent shades, shutters, blinds, or sheer single-panel draperies to maximize natural light coming into your home.
Think about the outside of your windows as well. If you have trees or bushes in front, trim them to allow more natural light to come in. And don't forget to clean your windows inside and out, which will also allow as much light to come in as possible.
If you live in a single-family house, consider painting the trim around the eaves and the soffit (the underside of the eave) white. That will let more natural light in through the windows.
And finally, if you are in a position to do so, think about increasing the size of your windows to get the most light into your home as possible.
Single-family homeowners might wish to install a strategically-placed skylight or two. There is probably no better way to achieve more natural light than to install a skylight, which gives you a bonus: a fantastic view of the sky. Because this project involves cutting a hole through the roof, it's best to consult a professional who can ensure the skylight installation will be done correctly, making sure that water won't come in when it rains. That can happen if the skylight is not installed or sealed properly.
A runner-up option would be a solar tube -- a reflective or metallic tube, between 10 and 21 inches in diameter, that can snake through up to 50 feet of attic space. The solar tube has a clear covering on the end that sticks out of your roof. You can also run a solar tube through the house if you need it to go to the first floor or basement. Note that you would need a way to get the tube from the roof to the lower level of the house, such as a closet where you can run the tube.
The bottom line
There's no need to live in a dark, dreary house if what you crave is natural light and a bright and airy space. You might not be able to implement every single idea shared here, but doing as much as possible to help increase the amount of natural light in your home should make a difference.