DeAnna Radaj -- Is your home dark and dreary? Let this be the year that you let the sunshine in. Natural lighting in any space is key to reducing the impact of SAD (Seasonal Affect Disorder) which affects many people, especially during winter. The lack of sunlight reduces the melatonin that is produced in our bodies, and it also decreases the production of vitamin D which ward off depression.
So what can you do in the new year to lighten things up? Here are the best ways you can remodel your home to let Mother Nature and natural light into your indoor spaces: skylights, French doors, patio and deck doors, and more and/or larger windows.
Artificial light is a poor substitute for the sun's rays, and a lack of sunlight can mess with our bodies' natural timing. Remember that lighting in your house, if it's not natural lighting, also consumer energy and increases your living costs. So be energy smart and follow some of these decorating tips that will help you maximize the natural light in your home.
- The finishes you use will impact your energy use. Avoid dark finishes, or keep them for punchy accents rather than whole-room schemes. Dark granites, dark paints, dark finishes in cabinets, dark flooring, and dark walls will all soak up light. That will cause you to turn up the artificial lights so you and your family can see better. It's a viscious cycle you can easily break.
- Add mirrors to your rooms. They'll reflect light and add depth to your decorating scheme.
- Use metallic color washes on your walls to reflect light back into your rooms.
- Use metal or glossy tiles to help reflect light back into your spaces.
- Refinish dark walls with lighter colored paints that add brightness.
- Some homeowners have inherited dining room, bedroom, or living room sets that consist of heavy, dark wood furniture. If possible, have dark finishes restained to lighten up the look (and stop soaking up the light). Refinishing and painting furniture white or a lighter color will also give old furnishings a bright new look.
- Dark wood floors should be lightened up. Bleaching and pickling is a great lightening process for dark hardwood floors, and it will make your rooms feel "younger" and brighter.
- Your window treatments should maximize the natural light, yet give you the privacy you need. Roller shades will help let in sunlight while at the same time reduce glare and provide some visual screening. Sheers will dress up your windows while also inviting the sun to shine in, even when they're closed. You'll get a nice dappled sunlight effect which is lovely.
- In your bedrooms and guest rooms, it's great to have blackout shades for sleeping comfort. That's a good example of an excellent time to keep your interior absolutely dark. But add tiebacks and other hardware to keep blackout drapes and shades up and open to welcome sunlight during the waking hours.
DeAnna Radaj, owner of Bante Design LLC and its production division Eden Place Productions, is a designer who specializes in Integrative Lifestyle Design (the fusion of Eastern and Western interior design philosophies incorporating feng shui and healthy home principles). She is an author/columnist, design consultant, and national speaker on topics like Healthy Home Design, Feng Shui, Design Tips & Trends, and Clutter (Why We Have It and How to Get Rid of It!).
DeAnna is the former editor of the WI ASID newsletter which featured her column, "The Business of Design," and she's been featured in print, radio, and TV. She has authored Designing the Life of Your Dreams from the Outside In and Feng Shui for Teens, and is a contributor to Design2Share, casaGURU, and the Diva Toolbox.