Natural light is only one piece of making your home a brighter place to live. Photo Credit: Clearly Ambiguous
Natural light tends to be a primary focus in new homes these days, in terms of both lighting and solar heating. Yet to concentrate solely on incorporating natural light into new and remodeled homes is to ignore a wealth of folks out there with inadequately lit homes and the frustration that often accompanies unwanted darkness.
In the spirit of making life a bit brighter, here are some tips for lightening up a dark home without plastering the walls in light fixtures.
Light reflects, bounces, and battles its way into nooks and crannies -- if we let it. Perhaps the worst thing for a house with a shortage of windows is dark walls and ceilings. Folks from the Midwest can probably remember being in a basement with wood paneling on the walls...how dark and dank it looked and felt. Dark paneling, paint, or plaster will suck a lot of light out of a room. That may be preferred in a den or winter cabin, but throughout a house it can get outright depressing.
Think about ways to brighten up the room. No, walls don't need to be white, but brighter and vibrant colors that will toss what natural light there is around the room are essential. As for artificial lighting, white lampshades could be a good move if others currently exist.
Also consider bright furniture and flooring (e.g., bright tile or carpet). If you're noticing a pattern, that's good. When natural light is a scarcity, it becomes vital to spread what light is available up, down, and around the living space. It can be amazing what even a single window's-worth of light can do when given surfaces to bounce off. Just look at what one Sun does with only one Moon. Or if you've ever walked through a snowy field under a full moon -- it can seem like daylight.
Even adding a single window in the right spot can make a big difference. Some homeowners walk about their dark house and feel a sense of frustration at the time and cost needed to gut those walls and insert windows. In today's economy that issue only intensified. Yet adding a window or sliding glass door is not as bad as one might think. It can often be done in just a day (minus drywall patching, painting, etc.).
If a new window won't work, how about a skylight? These are especially useful in brightening up bathrooms, hallways, or other isolated spaces. While there are ways to brighten up the home without natural light, at the same time there is no replacement for the warmth and brightness of the Sun.
In terms of adding new light fixtures, look into recessed lighting. They will add quality light in an unobtrusive way -- another great option for hallways, kitchens, anywhere. Also try compact fluorescent light bulbs in place of incandescent bulbs. CFLs are much more energy efficient and cast a warmer glow that is easier on the eyes. Place lights strategically to maximize their usefulness and buy shades or blinds that block out prying eyes yet allow some sunlight through so that even when privacy is tantamount, some natural light is getting through.
With bright surfaces and well-placed lighting, the darkest of homes can be lit to its highest potential, even while it waits for more natural light on the horizon.
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