Magnify Your Home’s Natural Light

by Blake Herzog

Getting more natural light into a home that doesn’t have much may not sound like an easy or affordable project to take on, but plenty of design tricks have been invented to maximize the brightness of the rays that do make it in.

Putting a few of them together will create a much brighter feel throughout your space, improve everyone’s mood and reduce energy costs from lighting, all without carving out new windows or skylights. And remember, natural light doesn’t necessarily add natural heat, especially if you’re not adding windows.

Here are some of the most effective changes you can make to your décor or surroundings:

  • Point your furniture that way — If you have only a small window to work with, try angling all furnishings toward it to concentrate all of the activity and energy into its path. This will work much better if you have pale sofas, chairs, or whatever else to work with, but tossing a few pillows and blankets on dark pieces can help out considerably.
  • A new coat of paint — If you have the time and money for the endeavor, consider a different color or type of paint to reflect the sun, at least in rooms that really don’t get much natural light. Lighter, cooler shades of white or off-white or pale pastels work best here, while anything darker will start to absorb the sunlight. And remember, flat finishes won’t do much to elevate the room’s sunniness, so find the color you want in satin, semi-gloss, or high-gloss to get some shine! You also can think about painting the exterior eaves angled toward your windows white to reflect more light in.
  • Decorate with a light touch — Whichever color paint and furniture you have, the wall art, pillows, throws, rugs, and knickknacks you display will play a part in the overall brightness of a room or home. Sweep out moody night scenes, heavy wooden carvings, and navy rugs if you can, no matter how stylish they are or were. Try to replace them with objects with shiny surfaces, and the old mirror trick does work as long as the mirror is angled to bounce light into the darkest part of the room.
  • Lighten window treatments — Dark curtains continue to block and absorb light even if they’re opened up every morning. It’s easier, in the end, to replace them with gauzy curtains, white shutters, or blinds that can be opened wide every morning. Pull-down window shades provide privacy when needed, and shades made from natural materials like bamboo and rattan let some light through even when closed without trapping heat. Solar shades can block heat and harmful UV rays while continuing to let light through.
  • Keep them clean — Don’t forget to clean the exterior-facing side of your windows regularly. They’re exposed to as much dust, soot, rain, snow, and other elements as the rest of your exterior so just wiping down the insides isn’t going to do too much. It can take extra effort or some professional help (especially if you have a second floor), but its brightening effect is worth the effort!