When designing habitable spaces, light is one of the most important elements to consider. Adequate natural sunlight in a house reduces lighting and heating bills (helping the environment), brightens your mood, and enhances the quality of the spaces in which you live, work, and play. Here are some natural light home design tips to help you maximize the natural light in your home.
Work with the orientation of your home
The first step is being aware of how natural daylight enters your home. This allows you to create rooms that work effectively according to their position. Here are some tips:
In the northern hemisphere, a south-facing room means a sunny room. Check out the orientation of your home – notice the rooms and parts of the house that receive the most amount of light during the day. These are the spaces that should be occupied by rooms where daytime activities take place, e.g. the kitchen, living room, playroom, and study, which will all benefit from maximum sunlight. Remember that if you have a room with direct south light, you will need to consider extra shading elements during the hot summer months to avoid glare and overheating.
At the other end of the scale, we have north-facing rooms, which in the northern hemisphere means shade. These naturally darker spaces are ideal for bathrooms (which can get away with minimum natural light, making up for it with well-placed electric lighting), TV/home cinema rooms, which are suited to low-light levels, utility rooms, garages, and bedrooms.
East- and west-facing rooms
If you’d love your bedroom to be flooded with morning light as you awake, the best place is an east-facing room that catches the dawn. Similarly, if you only use your kitchen to eat breakfast in, an eastern orientation can also be great for you. West-facing rooms get heat and low-angle light in the afternoon and as the sun sets, so they can be good places for living rooms.
Open up your spaces
Open-plan spaces can be very light friendly, especially if you have a direct north orientation in part of the house that can be unified with an adjoining room that already enjoys a better orientation. This also goes for internal (deep plan) spaces, where walls can be appropriately removed or opened up to connect with brighter spaces that have windows in external walls. Ideal combinations for open-plan spaces are kitchen/living/dining rooms, bedroom/bathrooms, kids’ bedrooms/playrooms.
Use color to brighten shady rooms
If you live in a mostly north-facing house or apartment, a simple and effective way to immediately brighten your rooms is by selecting the correct paint color. In this natural light home design, north-facing rooms have a cooling effect on colors, so you’ll want to avoid already subdued tones such as blues, greens, and greys. Instead, choose colors with warm base notes, such as yellows and oranges (and all the peaches, ochres, and umbers in between) like this example:
Work your windows
Windows are key for controlling how much light enters your house. As a guide, the higher the top of your window, the more light will enter into the room. The depth to which this useful light enters the room is about 1.5 times that of the window head height. Increasing window heights will naturally increase the light penetrating a room, like this example:
Another great way to gain more natural illumination is to add a carefully positioned skylight, like this:
Increase light through reflection
In dull rooms, borrowed light from surface reflection can make all the difference. Placing mirrors on walls adjacent or opposite to windows will bounce and amplify that precious sunlight. So too will a light, reflective paint on the ceiling and additional glossy, reflective surfaces such as gloss painted cupboard doors, colored-glass backsplashes, metallic surfaces, and polished tiles.