For a very long time, I was convinced that I need to live in a rather large house to be happy. I’d dream of one day moving into somewhere palatial, with an enormous footprint, vast ceilings and many rooms. I’ve always had this feeling that I need a lot of space to be happy.
But then, not so long ago I had a realisation. It doesn’t matter about the size of the home. What it comes down to is light. Natural light is what makes me feel better. So what I actually need is a home that is flooded with natural light and has lots of big windows that provide views of nature.
Scientific studies have proven that regular exposure to daylight is essential to maintaining human health and well-being. Research also shows that I am not alone in preferring buildings with large windows. This is because they provide a connection to the outdoors, give us a better sense of the time of day and allow us to experience varying intensities of light and shadow throughout the day.
Again, it all comes down to biophilic design which I have written about extensively. In fact, it was a short stay at Wildwood Spa, a tiny biophilic retreat in the forest of North Devon, that made me realise how much of an impact natural light actually has and how important windows are.
So let’s take a better look at some of the best reasons to maximise natural light in your home.
1. To Save Energy & Money
This is quite an obvious reason to start with. By bringing as much natural daylight as possible into your home you need to use far less artificial lighting and therefore energy which saves you money in the long run. This is definitely something worth thinking about if you are designing and building a home, renovating or extending. And it is particularly pertinent given the explosion in energy prices this year.
2. To Increase the Value of Your Home
My Home Move Conveyancing recently conducted a survey asking Brits what features of a property will make them fall in love at first sight. Over 2000 British homeowners were surveyed and the results showed that the size of the windows ranked fourth out of 30 features.
Clearly, the size of the windows directly correlates to the amount of natural light that a home gets. This makes natural light one of the most sought-after features and a key priority homebuyers look for when purchasing a property. Experts also agree that properties with good natural light have a higher resale value.
3. To Improve Sleep Patterns
Another reason to maximise natural light at home is that our current lifestyle is really interrupting our circadian rhythm and affecting our sleep patterns. Circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock. They co-ordinate our mental and physical systems and make sure that our bodily processes occur at the right time during the 24hr period.
The sleep-wake cycle is one of the most important circadian rhythms. Exposure to daylight helps us to stay awake, feel alert and keep active. As night falls, it signals to our bodies to produce melatonin which is the sleep hormone that allows us to have a restful night’s sleep.
As we now tend to spend 90% of our time indoors it is easy to see why there is the need to maximise natural light at home. We need to ensure that our circadian rhythm and the sleep-wake cycle can continue to function properly and protect our sleep patterns.
Without good quality sleep, we begin to see all sorts of physical and mental consequences such as increased stress, emotional distress, mood disorders, memory problems and general poor performance.
4. To Prevent Seasonal Depression
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of seasonal depression. It often affects people during the winter months when a lack of daylight reduces our serotonin levels. It can result in low mood, irritability, lethargy and sleepiness. We can lose interest in the things that we normally love to do and can crave carbohydrates.
It is important to expose ourselves to as much daylight as possible during the winter months so that we don’t experience these drops in serotonin and the resulting side effects. Spending more time outside will help with this, but also finding ways to maximise natural light inside your home too.
5. To Keep Us Fit and Healthy
As we’ve seen natural light is absolutely necessary for keeping us fit and healthy, both physically and mentally. But it is more than our sleep and our mood that is affected by the amount of natural light that we are exposed to.
Our skin absorbs vitamin D from sunlight. Vitamin D helps to prevent bone loss and reduces the risk of heart disease, weight gain, and various cancers. And according to science, it doesn’t matter whether we get this sunlight outdoors or indoors.
Vitamin D is also important for our immune system. Scientists at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark found that Vitamin D is crucial for activating our T-Cells which enable us to fight off serious, life-threatening infections in the body.
Exposure to natural light as we have seen increases our serotonin levels. A side effect of this is that serotonin suppresses our appetite and helps us to lose weight or not gain weight. Makes sense if you’ve ever found it easier to diet in the Summer months.
How Can We Maximise Natural Light at Home?
This is much easier to do if you are designing and building your own home, planning an extension or undergoing a large renovation project.
1. Add Extra Doors and Windows
Plan in as many large windows and doors as you can. Unless your home is a listed building and has to abide by certain regulations, making your windows and doors as big as possible will allow more light to enter your home.
2. Replace External Walls with Glazing
Consider replacing walls with glazing like large bi-fold doors or minimalist sliding patio doors that can fully open up one side of your home. This will not only improve the airflow in your home but will also allow light to flood in.
3. Replace Internal Walls with Glazing
If you have a particularly dark room in your home, you may be able to knock through an internal wall and replace it with glazed panels. This will allow you to still have a defined boundary between the rooms but the light can flow between them uninterrupted.
4. Add a Rooflight
Another way to maximise natural light in your home is by adding a rooflight. You can choose from a flat rooflight which offers a minimalistic finish or a pitched rooflight which has the added benefit of adding height to the room and therefore creating a feeling of spaciousness.
If you aren’t able to make structural changes to your home there are a number of other ways that you can bring more daylight into your home without the building work.
5. Use Light Colours When Decorating
Decorating with lighter colours is generally accepted as making a space feel brighter. Light colours reflect and bounce light around whereas darker colours tend to absorb it.
6. Choose Lighter Furniture
Dark, heavy furniture can take up a lot of visual space as well as absorb light. Opting for lighter furniture that can reflect the natural light around the room is a much better choice.
7. Add Mirrored Surfaces
If you can’t add extra windows, try adding mirrors to your interiors instead. Mirrors can bounce light around the room creating the illusion that light is entering the space from different angles. Consider getting mirrors that look like windows to trick the eye into believing that there is more natural light coming in.
8. Choose Lighter Flooring
By choosing lighter and polished flooring you can reflect the natural light back up into the room. Something like polished stone tiles works well for this.