In homes where tricky locations or close neighbors limit window space, you can still find opportunities to implement innovative solutions that will help bring the outdoors in. This is particularly important in the darker months of winter when that seasonal funk sets in. In an effort to bring light into your dimmest spaces, we’ve rounded up ten effective strategies.
Design your home around a central courtyard
In this residence among tall apartment buildings in the dense city of São Paulo, Brazil, the only opportunity for sunlight is through a double-height indoor courtyard. The lush garden visually connects the two floors, while ceramic screens filter the light into the rooms.
Be bold with white
The liberal use of white in this Beijing home creates a seemingly larger, brighter space. Lit with only one top skylight, the zen-like tranquility of cool white encapsulates everything in the same hue. As a result, the natural sunlight bathes every surface equally.
Lighten up your stairs
The Beijing White House also utilizes another trick designed to bring light deep into the home, creating an airy stairway out of perforated steel. The skylight placed directly above this stairwell makes the space glow. Throughout the day, as the sun passes overhead, the banisters create dynamic shadows on both the upper and lower levels.
Shade the light
A graphic screen, such as the one used in this Istanbul home, provides privacy and filters light to the lower levels. A screen can benefit the interior, as well as the exterior, by breaking up solid walls and adding an intriguing element—which hints at the use inside.
Go straight to the source—glass floors
Sometimes, a more direct approach may be necessary to bring light to a lower level. In this instance, glass floors are your answer. In this renovation of a medieval monastery in Italy, the architect used glass floors to not only visually connect two levels, but also to reveal the history that’s evident in the building’s structure.
Visually eliminating the railing components of a stairwell by installing glass railings or slender, vertical pieces, can be a successful strategy when it comes to minimizing what could be a bulky element. It allows the stairway to read as a singular sculptural element in the room. Without the visual clutter of its components, light from above is direct and accessible.
Consider channel glass walls
While using frosted or etched glass in standard windows can be a strategy for limiting views, channel glass is a more innovative and sustainable, bird-friendly approach. The self-supporting, cast-glass channels can be used to create seamless walls of obscured glass with minimal framing—even curves. Plus, certain manufacturers offer channel glass that’s certified Bird-Smart by the American Bird Conservancy. This means it’s been tested to limit bird strikes, a common hazard that kills upwards to a billion birds a year in the U.S. alone.
Embrace reflective surfaces
Utilizing reflective finishes and materials, such as mirrors and metals, not only visually doubles the space, but also scatters light in the process. In this example, the walls are made with mirrored metal ribs that are paired with stainless-clad stair risers and glass banisters. If this is a bit too disco ball for your taste, consider one significant wall of mirrors or a gilded wall covering for a similar effect.
Add a skylight
When designing your home, consider the benefit of a strategically located skylight. Placed at the corner of a wall, such as in this example, it allows the light to reflect off the wall and bounce deep into the space. Also, when rain splashes on the skylight, it reflects dramatic patterns on this double-height wall, creating a one-of-a-kind art mural.
Simulate your light
If all else fails, consider a state-of-the-art "skylight" that’s guaranteed to simulate natural daylight. Crafted by a group of Italian scientists, this artificial skylight works by filtering a light source through a layer of nanoparticles that mimic the Earth’s atmosphere. Sayonara, winter blues!
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