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How to make the most of the light in your home

An extension with a skylight.

Light is crucial when it comes to our daily lives. Without enough of it, we humans as a species generally suffer. The lack of natural light can cause our body clocks to become confused, depression in some and insomnia or lethargy in others. It’s fully acknowledged these days that those living in hotter countries with more natural light all the year round, are happier and more stable than those who live in virtual darkness for most of the year (like way way up near the North Pole). So, in other words, natural light is good for your health and well being. With this in mind, here’s a look at the subject of natural light in the home and how it can make a difference when it comes to living day to day.

Depending on which direction your house faces, either north, south, east or west could mean you either have an abundance of sunlight or a severe lack of it in your home. At certain times in the day, rooms become dingy or dark, making it difficult to work or read without the aid of traditional house lights. Natural light can affect the way you choose to decorate a particular room because light can change the whole atmosphere as it passes through the room; meaning that if you have lots of it you can afford to be more creative in your designs. However, if you suffer from a dearth, you’ll be more limited in your choice. Finally, anything that means you can delay turning on your house lights is good for those all-important energy bills as this can save you money in the long run.


Natural light obviously comes from the sun, so finding a way to increase light coming from above us is clearly a sensible idea. The best way you could do this is, would be by installing a skylight (but obviously you can’t take advantage of this in all your rooms). These are great for extensions and loft renovations and can make the atmosphere of the room feel like the sun is personally shining for your benefit. What is more, the light is spread out over a wider area and lasts for longer as there is nothing blocking it. You don’t have to spend a fortune on skylights as they can cost anywhere from £100 to £1,500, depending on which design you choose.

North, South, East or West?

yellow room facing north.

The choice of yellow paint in this room shows just how easy it can be to brighten up dull rooms.

Secondly, recognising what direction the room faces is crucial. Some rooms will have the best light in the morning and become bleak in the afternoons or vice versa.

North-facing rooms often suffer from an abundance of indirect light and this makes the whole room feel colder in contrast to south- facing rooms. This problem can be counteracted by using bolder brighter colours which offset the coolness of the blue light (yellow and bright white work well here). These rooms tend to be bathrooms or kitchens, so pick your colours wisely.

South-facing rooms have the opposite problem e.g. they attract direct sunlight meaning that bright colours and patterns can be a bit too overwhelming for the eye. To balance this out, try using cooler colours, tints and pastels such as blues and greens.

East-facing rooms tend to ablaze with light early in the morning and then lose light around lunchtime. To help fix this problem, try warmer tones. This means that the room will be inviting in the morning; but maintain a certain level of brightness throughout the day.

West-facing rooms are darker in the morning and get brighter as the day goes on – the reverse of east-facing rooms. This is because they receive indirect sunlight in the morning and direct sunlight in the afternoon/evening.   This means you should opt for cooler shades and patterns to offset the warmer tones in the room.

Extras and accessories

Large mirror reflecting light.

The use of this large mirror bounces natural light very effectively around the room.

Strategically placed mirrors can do wonders for a room. Not only can they enhance a space and make it look bigger; but light also bounces beautifully off them. Mirrors can act like an extra window, redirecting the natural light already coming from your window. When placed directly opposite the results can transform a previously dull looking room into a an inviting space awash with light.

This may seem obvious, but anything that can block out light is a big no no. Try to keep window spaces as clear as possible. Avoid overly heavy and dark-coloured material for your curtains particularly if the room is not very big – this can give the impression they are enveloping the window. In such cases, it may be better to opt for blinds as a room automatically feels lighter and more spacious without cumbersome curtains. You might also want to try including reflective surfaces in your design. In the same way as mirrors, these will bounce of natural light and spread it throughout the room. Finally, always keep your ceilings lighter than your walls. Darker ceilings will feel oppressive and dull out any room and can leave you with that “shut in feeling”. Ultimately, you want to keep it feeling light and airy so by choosing a brilliant matte white as a finish you will complete the look and bring the whole room together.

To conclude: light matters. How natural light is used in a room is very important, so make sure you take this into consideration when designing your home.