Have you ever walked into a room that’s flooded with light and felt immediately uplifted? Getting more natural light into your home can make us feel brighter and happier and increase feelings of well-being.
Letting more light into a room is also a great way to give the impression of more space, which is one of the most common reasons for moving or remodelling our homes.
Terrace houses and north-facing rooms are at a particular disadvantage, but there are few homes in the UK that couldn’t benefit from a little more natural light. There is something to suit most houses and pockets, and plenty of innovative and creative solutions.
The obvious way to brighten a dark room is by adding glass where possible. With advances in glazing technology, concerns about heat loss and overheating are less of an issue. Some options can even help save energy.
Add a skylight or roof light
While there are variations in terminology, skylights generally reflect the more traditional style and are usually positioned on a pitched roof. Rooflights are generally used on flat roofs. However, you will find companies offering various options for both types of roofs in all kinds of shapes, sizes and types of glass.
Both will bring in more light than a standard window because the angle of the light comes directly from above. The higher the angle of the light the more intense it will be. Think about the direction your room faces and where the daylight will come from.
Consider where you want the light to hit the room depending on the time of day.
Openings and finishes
Most roof lights and skylights can be opened for ventilation, with manual opening and electric versions operated by remote control. Some even have rain sensors that will close automatically. For a lower budget option choose a fixed, flat rooflight with no openings.
You can choose from double or triple-pane glass, reflective coatings, panels with gas-filled chambers in-between and even ‘self-cleaning’ glass designed to repel dirt and wash away in the rain.
You could say that a roof lantern is just a rooflight that wants to make a statement. While roof lights lie flatter and are more unobtrusive, a roof lantern projects beyond the roof line, so it’s more striking inside and out. It’s up to the individual homeowner to decide on aesthetics.
Roof lanterns have more glass panels positioned at various angles that cast light from all directions. However, they are usually more expensive than standard roof lights and will not be suitable for all roofs.
Installing roof lights is covered under permitted development providing
- they do not project more than 150 millimetres from the plane of the existing roof slope.
- do not exceed the height of the existing roof.
- if opening, are not more than 1.7 metres above the floor of the room in which they are installed.
For period properties or those in a conservation area, you may need to install conservation roof lights.
Also known as sun pipes and sun tubes, these new kids on the block are cheaper to install than a skylight, making them a relatively affordable option for more natural light. The tunnel or tube is reflective inside and channels light from a covered opening on the roof.
You won’t get a view of the sky or any ventilation, but they are surprisingly effective at lighting difficult-to-reach areas. Each solar tube casts about the same amount of light as three 15-watt LED bulbs.
No heat loss and minimal solar gain make them incredibly energy efficient. Some even come with a little solar light that charges in the daytime and creates some light at night-time. Inside they look sleek and stylish and the outside is well-sealed to prevent leaks and draughts.
A set of stylish glass doors will bring in loads of lovely light, link your interior and outside space
and provide access to the garden. And there are now so many options to choose from that the term ‘patio doors’ is now completely inadequate.
If you want a sleek wall of glass that glides seamlessly to one side, you can have it. You want bi-folds made to the exact width of your house? You can have it. If you want sliding panes, pivoting panes, timbered frames, coloured frames, heritage or French-style frames, it’s all available in just about any size you want.
It can be tempting to go crazy, but it pays to get the right balance and consider the type and amount of glazing. As with roof lights, glazing technology has come on leaps and bounds, but glass will never be a match for brick and plaster at keeping the heat in and the cold out.
Internal glass doors/partitions
Glass doors can be incredibly chic when used inside and allow natural light to flood from a well-lit room into a gloomy space. Use glass to divide an open-plan living spac
e into separate areas while sustaining the feeling of space and maximising light or creating an open-plan feel between two rooms.
Switching from solid doors to those with partial glazing will let light flow without the need to change the rest of the room. You could consider replacing an entire wall with a panel of Crittall-style doors and windows.
Steal some light by knocking through
This is a common procedure in older properties, such as Victorian terrace houses, where one room has an abundance of light while its immediate neighbour suffers from a gloomy aspect. Taking down a wall between two rooms allows light to flow through to the darker room and creates a larger space with more scope.
These once featured only in commercial properties. Now, indoor courtyards are making their way into people’s homes as a novel way to add light. If you love the natural world but have little or no garden, an indoor courtyard could be a compromise. It’s a space for plants, trees and even water features – even if you can’t recreate the one above!
What if you can’t get more natural light
If there’s absolutely no possibility of accessing more daylight, then there are various creative interior solutions:
- Light-reflecting flooring – choose light tiles or polished stone in the kitchen, white-washed boards in the bathroom and pale carpets upstairs.
- Paint the room a lighter colour – while darker colours absorb light, lighter shades, especially white, reflect light into the room. White also generates a feeling of space and calm. You don’t need to paint every wall white, but use it to bounce light coming in through a window.
- Choose shutters over curtains – curtains effectively reduce the exposed glass so opting for wide-slatted shutters can give a cleaner, more minimalist look.
- Add mirrors – reflective surfaces bounce the light around.
- Get creative with lighting – artificial light can never totally replace or replicate the light from outside, but if it’s your only option then here are some tips:
– create a warm cosy glow with recessed lights, shaded lamps and wall lights using soft glow light bulbs.
– use above or near a special picture or ornament or near a piece of distinctive décor.
– a sconce over a dining table, directional kitchen lights or desk and portable lamps for working, reading or sewing.
The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only, does not constitute professional advice and does not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any company or organisation. Readers should always seek professional advice before undertaking any action based on the information contained in this article. The author makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, or suitability of the information, products, services, or related graphics contained in the article for any purpose.