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The Importance of Light in our Homes

April 1, 2024

Winter has passed and Spring is finally here. And with the change in season comes a new light, as the sun starts to move slightly higher in the sky, the days slowly becoming longer and the long-missed birdsong at dawn can be heard, creeping in through the windows at 6am. The seasons are changing once more, and light is returning.

I often hear the phrase ‘it feels like a very long winter’ and this year in particular, it really does. A winter of grey, stormy skies on repeat, with very little light. Day upon day of artificial light around me in the workroom, and even with the various daylight bulbs I use, I have missed nature’s light.

On a recent visit to Taunton for a new client project, I walked back to my car through the quiet side streets, mixed with residential homes, cafes and shops, watching how the light played with the architecture, casting shadows through the nooks and crannies of the wonderful old buildings. I grew up in this bustling town, and know the streets and buildings well, sadly not so bustling now and the old buildings looking worn and rougher around the edges. On a day of storms, strong winds and some sunshine thrown in to the mix, the light was beautiful to watch and the sunshine was very long overdue.

As I walked, I passed the old church and looked up at its enormity and felt pulled in through the doors. It has been many years, probably over two decades in reality, since I walked through those doors, once beautifully old heavy worn wooden doors, now replaced with modern glass instead. Yet inside, the architecture remains the same, wonderfully ornate carved wood, and the most beautiful stained-glass windows, wherever you cast your eye. I wondered quietly and slowly, memories returning of childhood visits. I found a quiet corner to just sit, listen and watch. After an incredibly stressful few weeks, I could feel my body relaxing at last.

Powerful shafts of light penetrated the darkness thought the windows, as the sun came and went, sparkling through the stained glass and casting light inside in multi-coloured droplets, sprinkling little diamonds of colour across the architecture. Sitting quietly, watching the sun play its games with the stained-glass windows, time passes. I emerged nearly an hour later, from the dark interiors to the sun outside, and lifted my face to its warmth. It has indeed felt like a very long winter, and light is finally returning.

Just as light gave the church a wonderful warm atmosphere, it also brings atmosphere to our homes. Light brings warmth, colour, emotion, comfort and character into a room. Light can play with shadows, cast reflections from outside, sprinkle droplets of colour in its wake, and most importantly, brings warmth. We are each drawn to different light and different times of the day. For me, the first quiet light, before the world wakes up, is my favourite and most creative time. Sat at my desk, with the early morning light, the windows open with the gentle cool early spring breeze making its presence known, and the sound of birdsong and… just silence.

Natural light is integral to our health and wellbeing. Sunlight stimulates our creativity and imagination. Light brings growth, adventure and possibilities. Where would we be without this?

The use of light in our homes should inform, encourage and orchestrate every decision and aspect of interior design. As it does with so many of our daily decisions, although we would rarely consider it this way. Light encourages us to do particular things in a particular way, the time we go to the beach for instance when the sun is at its highest and most warm. Photographers prefer the light just before the sun starts to rise, or when clouds cast incredible shadows across the landscape. Others prefer the nightlight, when the moon gives a very different ambience over the landscape. The position of the house is pivotal to our gardens and planting, we all prefer a south facing garden to a north facing one, don’t we?

So why would we not allow light to guide us in our interior design choices? I always believe that some of the most important guidance for interior design is not to rush. Take time to live in the house, watch how the light changes throughout the day, where the dark corners are and how the rooms flow around this. Which rooms are you drawn to? Which rooms are dark and cold and in need of light?

The popularity of bi-fold doors has increased over the past few years and they have certainly increased in size. It is not uncommon to have great expanses of glass, often over an entire side of the house, wall-to-wall doors that open us up to nature and most importantly, to light. The architect has designed them for a reason, to allow the outside to take centre stage and to draw in the light. The outside will always pull us to that window, to stand silently, to catch our breathe and to allow the light and sun to warm us.

As a photographer who refuses to shoot with a flash unit, I prefer to use the same principles in design. Natural light will always be one of the important deciding factors when buying a new home. Whether it is rooms filled with light or shafts of light moving around the room, filtering throughout the day, it should always be natural light.  Not every home is fortunate to have natural light in abundance, but we can help to create more light through careful choices of colour and design.  

Playing with light is an essential element, observe how dark fabrics and textures dull the light, and how clean rustic tones or colour lift the space and create warmth. Some fabrics and textures will bounce the light around the room, while others create dull or dark spaces. Mix some darker elements with lighter tones, polar opposites can work really well together. Make careful choices in rooms which need more light, than rooms where perhaps light is not as important, such as the bedroom for instance or dining rooms, where you would like to see more ambient lighting.

Lighting at night is a very different concept for many, reduced comfortable light, quite corners of seclusion, low side lights dimmed for cosy, welcoming living rooms.

But most importantly, natural light and lighting are personal, and no two families are the same.  We are all drawn to different homes and therefore different light, and our choices should always reflect our own style and our own personal choice for how much light we need, to live a happy and healthy life.

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If you would like help in designing your home or are interested in our interior design services in Somerset and the surrounding areas, please do contact me here. I look forward to working with you.