You saved up your money and survived the rigors of mortgage underwriting, packed up your apartment, loaded the truck and moved into your new home. After several urgent days of unpacking, rearranging furniture and filling cupboards, you settle into your new place, ready to enjoy the pleasures of home-ownership.
You wake up on about day ten to the realization that your new home is a cave—literally! There is no light coming into your house. You know you have more space, but it feels like less.
Now what do you do?
Many older homes, especially those built in warmer climates, do not have the expanses of glass that newer homes boast. Some just have tall, narrow windows and other have small windows up near the ceiling. In times past, these smaller windows acted as a conservation measure. Less light into the home means a cooler home and therefore, a lower air conditioning bill. In winter climates, smaller windows translate into less heat loss and lower winter heating bills.
While your long-term plans may include enlarging window openings and installing high-efficiency windows, in the meantime, you need to lighten up your home so that you can enjoy it now.
Use a light hand when decorating
When the goal is to bring more light into a dark space, reflective surfaces are your friends.
- Lighten up your paint.
Interior paint colors come rated by light reflective value (LRV). The LRV scale goes from zero percent—no reflective value— to 100%, which translates to a completely reflective “white” value. In the real world, neither zero percent (black), or one hundred percent (white) reflectivity exists, but other colors fall in the spectrum between the two extremes. For example, an average black (think chalkboard paint) may range about five percent while basic very white wall paint is nearer to 85 percent. Dominantly yellow colors may fall into the higher ranges as well.
You may find the LRV code on the back of a paint swatch, or in the “fanbook” that your paint retailer should have. The higher the code value, the more light the color reflects and the brighter your room will seem.
When choosing paint with light reflection in mind, you can maximize the daylight entering your smaller windows with a ceiling paint with a higher LRV, and complementary wall colors with slightly lower values to visually warm up your room.
- Add reflective surfaces.
Use mirrors, glass and metallic surfaces to bounce the existing light around the room. Setting mirrors on opposing walls allows light to reflect into infinity. A mirror at the end of a narrow entryway allows it to appear more spacious and open. Use mirrors to balance walls with off-centered or asymmetric windows.
Adding metallic or glass tiles to a backsplash or shower increases the reflected light in a room. Or, simply add reflective touches to your décor such as silver or shiny brass sconces, metallic frames or crystal vases.
- Avoid dark surfaces.
Dark window coverings, furnishings and area rugs absorb light too. When choosing Venetian blinds, pick white or anther light color rather than wood-grain or faux-wood styles. Blinds tilted toward the ceiling reflect light upwards, offering both light and privacy. You may achieve a similar effect with Panama shutters, but remember that the shutter frame may reduce the window opening, therefore diminishing the reflected light.
After you’ve saved up for renovations, consider skylights and solar tubes to increase your interior light without changing the historic design of your home.
Your real estate professional can direct you toward contractors to help you achieve the home of your dreams.