When spring has sprung, the warmer, brighter days call out to you. After months of being cooped up in the house with snowflakes flying and cold weather brewing, your heart longs for sunlight. And it’s worse when trees surround your home, and the home has few windows, meaning you have been holed up in a cave. So on that first day of spring, you take that step outdoors and realize what you’ve been missing.
If you’ll pardon the expression, a light bulb doesn’t hold a candle to sunlight.
Daylighting, or the process of adding natural light to home design, has many benefits – from energy savings to aesthetic touches and even health benefits. A single skylight in a hallway, a trio of tubular daylighting devices (TDDs) in a kitchen or even expanding west-facing windows in the living room brightens, uplifts and gives you a touch of the outdoors while in the comfort of home.
“Natural light, for all intents and purposes, is the soul of a home,” said Rick McAlexander, CEO of Associated Designs. “Its simple elegance adds warmth to the most cave-like rooms. And in the process, your home opens up to more possibilities.”
But if you live in a cave, or in a well-shaded house, or in a home with small windows and lots of walls, how do you successfully and simply bring natural light inside?
“There are, of course, many ways to add daylight into a living space,” said McAlexander. “What works for your home may not work for someone else’s. If your living room faces south, you’ll want to add big windows, which embraces that southern sunshine. But if your home has a wide but dark hallway, skylights are the answer.”
So whether you live in a townhouse, a ranch-style home, or a cave, here are five ways to trade those light bulbs for sunshine.
Winning with windows
Windows are an old standard, but in such a remodel, the goal is to maximize the home’s exposure to the sun. For instance, large floor-to-ceiling windows in a living room or family room can bring the light in without changing too much of the interior. Another ideal location for windows is the kitchen, as natural light is by far easier to cook and work in than electrical lighting. If your kitchen is in the corner of the house, make use of that corner with an expanded window above the sink or counter. While kitchens and living rooms are ideal places to add windows, don’t forget hallways and stairwells. Natural light in these spaces can be a unique lighting remodel.
Open up to glass doors
A dark or dim set of rooms can be harsh for some, and when solid panel doors keep things closed off and disconnected, the result is a bit dreary. But never fear! French doors are here! French doors spread the light in a home from one room to another without shutting the room off entirely. The home, in essence, opens up without actually being open. Consider a long hallway that ends in a solid door. Change that door to a French door, and the hall feels open and inviting.
Widen doorways and tear down those walls
At the heart of this remodel idea is the popular concept of great room living. Great rooms subtract the walls between spaces, and add in connectivity and open living. Fewer walls and more open or expansive doorways mean more natural light can move between rooms. If a wall separates the dining room and the kitchen, tear it down if you can and let the sunshine in. If a narrow doorway limits the western light, give it more space and take advantage of the setting sun.
The power of a three-season porch
Now here’s a remodel idea that combines natural lighting with a love of the outdoors. You don’t have to try hard to make a three-season porch a reality. Often called a sunroom, a three-season porch, unlike all-season porches, is not insulated nor does it have heating and air-conditioning. This makes them less expensive to build.
“A three-season porch brings the natural beauty of the outdoors into the home,” said McAlexander. “They are built for the express purpose of extensive use even during chilly days. With the right location and the right design, it can be an expansive way to brighten a home.”
Make sure the three-season porch faces south to capture the sun’s rays for heat during the cooler months. The southern sun, in turn, brightens the rest of the home with strategically placed large interior windows.
Face the front porch
Similar to a three-season porch, a front porch can be an endearing daylighting tool for a remodel. Combine the front porch concept with expansive front-facing windows, and light should flow in naturally. But if it’s a covered porch (as most porches are), sunlight is blocked or limited from entering the house. So, if you have a front porch already or if you’re adding one on, include TDDs or skylights on the front porch. If the front porch faces east or west, it will maximize the daylight hours for a complete natural light makeover of the home.
So don’t despair about the darkness; brighter days are just around the corner. Look at your home as it is now and remember that adding windows, tearing down walls, and embracing natural light in all its glory can be a bright new beginning.
Associated Designs is located in Eugene, Oregon and designs custom house plans for developers, builders and homeowners. Plans are created by talented designers with more than 65 years of combined home design experience. Weekly columns featuring Associated Designs house plans are published in newspapers around the country. Since the company was founded in 1990, it has sold more than 60,000 home plans.