Light it up
So we’ve all walked into a gorgeous hotel lobby or event space and marveled at how beautiful those spaces are. All of that beauty would go unnoticed without the proper lighting to either illuminate for visibility or to highlight things like artwork or sculptures in a gallery. Lighting has always had the power to set the mood and tone for spaces and you don’t have to be an expert lighting engineer to make it work for your space. In this blog post, I’ll be sharing some tips on how to improve the lighting in your space but before that let’s talk a little bit about the sources of light and their benefits.
The main thing is that it comes in two forms, natural sources like sunlight or the light from the stars; and artificial sources thanks to electricity. We often need a mix of both types of light to make our spaces work and the experts agree that we should always aim to maximize our access to sunlight because of its numerous benefits which include helping our bodies make vitamin D, its healing capabilities and its ability to boost our mood and productivity (Source: Healthline.com). This is also why one of the most important features of our homes are windows and lately as we’ve had to battle the global pandemic and settle into a new normal, it’s even more important that our homes do more to positively impact our well-being. So let’s get cracking.
tip #1 … let only the light in
It’s tough to talk about sunlight without talking about the heat. They kind of come hand in hand, so this tip is going to be about identifying which windows will give you the most light without all the heat.
So let’s get to it. We all know that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west and that with the light, the sun also brings a special kind of heat for those of us living in the tropics. So as keen as I am to let the sunlight in, I also want to keep out all that heat and this is a pretty easy thing to do. First of all, you’ll have to figure out where your east and west-facing windows are and to do that you simply just need to look out your windows anytime between 2 pm and 5 pm. If you spot the sun shining straight through that window, that’s a west-facing window and the east-facing windows will be on the opposite side. You can also just download a compass app to your phone to help you identify which direction west is.
Now once you’ve located your west-facing windows, the goal is to avoid or limit bringing any heat through them especially in the hot afternoon hours and you’ve got several options. The most ideal option especially if most of your light comes from this west-facing windows is to plant a tree or high shrubs right outside those windows. Trees are great because they’ll keep out a lot of the heat by acting as a shading device, give you great views and you’ll still get some great light into your space.
If neither trees or shrubs are an option for you, another possibility would be to consult with a designer to create an external window shading device like awnings or shutters that can be fixed to your walls externally. The cool thing is you’ll still get some light in, keep out up to 70% of the heat from the sun out (Source: Energy.gov) and enhance your house’s curb appeal. Now while it’s better to keep the heat out of the house completely, if none of the previous options works for you and you’ve got most of your light coming in from non-west facing windows but have one pesky west-facing window, then you can go ahead and use drapes over that window. Also using thermal films over your windows are a great way of keeping out the heat from your space and letting just the light in. (Source: Building.com)
So to recap, when you’re looking to rent or buy a home or office space, look out for the positioning of windows in spaces where you’ll spend most of your daytime hours in; spaces like family rooms, kitchens and home offices.
tip #2 … light bulbs
The lighting design of a space is just as important as the interior design or architecture of it and while there are quite a bit of factors to consider there are some simple tips that can easily improve the quality of lighting in your space. One of the most important things is making sure you have enough lighting and the next is making sure it is as dispersed and even as possible. If you’re wondering how you find this out, simply turn on all the lights in your space, if you discover pockets of bright or dark spots that cause a strain on your eyes, then you may need to make some tweaks and improvements to your lighting. This may mean introducing more lighting points or changing out your existing fittings. Another cool way to do this is by exploring opportunities for indirect lighting within your space. If you’re wondering what this is, it’s placing or hiding lights behind furniture or other surfaces like in your ceiling or walls which allows the light to bounce onto those surfaces to light up the room. Running the light along the perimeter of your space within a cornice molding would definitely add a really nice touch to your space.
Another aspect of lighting is matching it to the specific task for your space and to do this let’s talk a little bit about light bulbs. Bulbs come in three main colour temperatures, soft/warm white, cool white and sunlight/daylight. Colour temperatures are measured in Kelvin degrees and range from 1,000 to 10,000. Light bulbs on the lower end of this range are soft/warm white bulbs, the kind restaurants usually use to create that nice cosy feeling we all like. They have a yellow/orange look to them and produce light similar to the kind of light we get from the sun at sunset. They’re best used in bedrooms and other living spaces during the night time. Cool white bulbs produce a whiter light and are best used in spaces that need high visibility like kitchens so you don’t cut yourself and bathrooms so you don’t slip. Sunlight/daylight bulbs mimic the sun’s light on a clear day and have a bluish appearance to them. They can also be used in bathrooms and kitchens as well as your home office or any space that doesn’t have much or any access to sunlight. Just be careful though because the higher you go in the kelvin degree range the more likely you’ll feel the heat emitted from the bulb (Source: Hunker.com). Also for visual comfort, avoid having varying colour temperature lights on at the same time. It’s usually jarring to have a chandelier with cool white bulbs overhead and then have warm white spotlights on too.
tip #3 … finishes
Dark colours have a knack for absorbing lots of light while light colours do a great job of reflecting the light that falls on them. This basic rule of thumb comes in handy when you’re choosing your paint colours, floor finishes and furniture. So if you’ve got a general preference for dark wood furniture or a fluffy chocolate brown rug or you’d like to have a navy blue or burgundy accent wall then make sure you do so in a space that has enough light to balance it out. A room with light wood furniture, soft neutral tones and lots of white elements will look brighter than a space with darker colours and furniture. Also, sometimes you don’t always want a bright space, the trick is to create a balance between your lighting and the items you used in your space.
To recap, when lighting your space, try to maximize your access to sunlight especially from non-west facing windows, then make sure your space is evenly lit while also creating a balance between your lighting and interior finishes. You’d be surprised how much it improves your space and quality of life. So if you’re thinking of renting or buying a house or maybe you’re doing a new build, bring these things up with your real estate consultant or designer.
If you enjoyed reading this, please share with friends. Also, let me know in the comments below if you’ve faced any challenges getting the lighting in your space just right.