If you’ve ever flipped through a magazine or pinned a photo on Pinterest, you’ve probably oogled over big, bright open rooms with sunlight streaming in and what seems like this incredible glow throughout the space. These are the rooms we all pine after and try to create in our own homes, but there’s one very important element you may not be accounting for — lighting. In most magazine spreads and virtually every image on Pinterest, each room has been professionally lit by a photographer to create that beautiful open, airiness. So what do you do if your home doesn’t have tons of natural light and you still want to capture that feel?
There are actually a few strategies that can create better lighting in your space, and while your room may never look like it’s straight off the pages of House Beautiful (and let’s face it, even those rooms don’t look as good in real life), great lighting can transform your home!
What’s The Problem?
The first thing to do is to step back and think about why your room or home isn’t getting great natural light. Are there enough windows? Is there too much shade from mature trees? Does your roof have deep eaves? Some of these might be structural characteristics in your home (like a Craftsman home with deep eaves) in which case it might be hard to change. Other challenges might be easier to fix (like too much shade from trees or foliage).
For example, if you have large shrubs outside your window or tons of trees, you can limb up your trees and trim hedges. This will help the natural light stream into your home. It’s an easy fix that can have a big impact!
Address Your Windows
Windows are a huge barrier to entry for lighting, and we don’t just mean the number of windows you have. Of course if you’re willing to tackle a large project and add more windows to your space, that’s a great way to increase natural lighting. But window treatments are a great thing to consider too. If it’s a room that doesn’t need privacy, consider skipping draperies to take advantage of every square inch of light that comes in.
For rooms where you need drapery panels, extend the curtain rod out from your window frame enough so that when pulled back the entire panel is behind the frame, allowing all of the light to come through your big, beautiful windows.
For rooms where you really want privacy, there are a few clever options that can provide privacy while still letting in natural light, like cafe curtains and bottom up shades. These shades raise from the bottom, meaning that the bottom of your window can be filtered and private, but the top of the window can still let in light. You get the best of both worlds this way!
Sheers are another great option. They allow plenty of light to come in, and still filter the light when you need it.
Paint colors can play a huge part in the amount of light that bounces around your room. We all learned in grade school that white reflects light and black absorbs it. Put this science lesson to good use, and use white paint to bounce light around your room where you’re really starved for natural lighting. Dark paint colors can work wonders on small rooms to make them feel cozy, but if you’re going for that open, airy look, white is the ticket.
Just be sure to test paint colors in your room. A white with too much gray in it can start to feel dingy, and too much yellow can skew dingy. Suzanne Kasler’s favorite white in Benjamin Moore’s White Dove.
Mirrors are another great way to bounce light around a room. Place them directly across from windows to double the amount of light coming into your space.
Look on the Bright Side
While we all love that bright, open look we see in magazines, consider embracing the amount of light your home gets. While it may not look magazine worthy, homes that don’t get a ton of natural light have their own advantages. First being that you won’t have to sell an organ to pay your electricity bill in the summer. Another great thing? No need to worry about the sun bleaching your upholstery, rugs, or weathering your wood furniture.
Embrace the style of your home rather than work against it. A Craftsman home with deep eaves or a Victorian home with deep porches will never be a contemporary, glass space. And that’s ok. There are plenty of fantastic qualities with each home style — simply focus on the positives and forget the desire to feel like you’re on the pages of Better Homes & Gardens (no matter how gorgeous those pages are).
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