ARTICLE Stephanie Matheson
1. Bring in large mirrors
Mirrors are one of the easiest, quickest and most affordable ways to brighten up a room as they reflect back natural light. They look the part when installed above a fireplace and mantelpiece, and you could also consider covering an entire wall with mirrors, or using mirrors as a splashback in your kitchen. In bedrooms, cupboard and wardrobe surfaces could be completely mirror lined from top to bottom. Furniture such as side tables, bedside tables, chests of drawers and cabinets made from glass or mirrors are stylish, sparkling accessories that also help distribute natural light into every corner of your room.
2. Go for light, glossy surfaces
Light wall colours and flooring materials help to brighten up the space, whereas dark colours absorb the light. Polished wooden floors reflect back some light, as do light ceramic tiles. Wall paint comes in a glossy finish, which may be helpful in creating a more reflective wall surface that bounces all these precious sunrays back into the room. This approach is very popular in kitchens and bathrooms. Other surfaces to consider are kitchen benchtops, where polished stone and engineered stone are great light reflectors.
3. Install internal glass doors
Replacing solid internal doors with glass doors allows the light to flow on through into the next room. Overall, glass doors create a light and airy feel that works well with most modern interior design schemes. In terms of design there are many different options including French style doors and sliding doors with rollers that might add an industrial feel to your interior design.
4. Add decorative windows inside
Rather than having solid internal walls and a compartmentalised floor plan, consider installing glass walls or opening up some of the space by inserting glass panels into a wall. In terms of feature windows, you could opt for a top to bottom glass divider, or insert smaller glass panes. Frosted glass is a good option for bathrooms or other areas where privacy is a key concern, such as glass panes in the front doors, where light can still filter into the house.
5. Go open plan
Taking out complete walls or section of walls to create a light-flooded open plan space is a great way to transform a gloomy house or flat into a light and bright abode. Open spaces will not only brighten the place but also make it feel larger. Reworking the floor plan of your home can be quite an involved process and it pays to work with experienced architects and renovation specialists than can incorporate passive solar principles and design a layout that works for you and your family.
6. Open up stairways
Removing walls from hall spaces and stairways lets light stream in. Glass is a great option for staircase walls and balustrades alike. Spaced out timber beams or perforated steel walls are other interesting options that would still allow natural daylight to come through. In terms of the stairs as such, floating stairs break up the otherwise solid staircase and help to channel light into the core of the house. Another great way to lighten up dark staircases is by installing LED lights down the side of the stairs or under the lip of each individual stair.
7. Incorporate a skylight or light tunnel into your roof
A skylight is a classic option for letting light come in through your roof. It has the added advantage of allowing you to let fresh air into your home. Light tunnels, also called sun tunnels, sun pipes, solar tubes or tube skylights, channel light into dark spaces and can easily be retrofitted into roof spaces. They come in rigid and flexible versions, and the right product will depend on where and how you want to install a light tunnel.
8. Turn external windows into doors
French door or cavity sliders have the advantage of letting in more light while also allowing access to the outside. Where you are replacing windows on the upstairs levels, a glass balustrade or decorative barrier will provide a safety barrier.
9. Build a glass box extension
If you plan on extending your home and using a side return if your home has one, consider using glass walls and ceilings to maximise the amount of light that can stream into your home. A glass box extension may be more costly than a standard one, but it will provide extra light and passive solar heat. Don’t forget to include blinds or other ways to block out the sun during the warmer months. Switchable privacy glass allows you to change from clear to frosted glass in an instant, and other smart glass products can change their level of tinting automatically depending on the weather conditions.
10. Use artificial lighting to boost your natural light sources
A good lighting plan complements your home’s natural light, providing good task lighting at all times and adding to the ambience when the sun goes down. LED strip lighting under or above cupboards, or vanities in the bathroom for example, can add a natural or colourful glow depending on your mood. There are also recessed lighting systems available that imitate natural lighting scenarios such as sunsets and sunrises, or bright daylight.
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