Here are my easy tips for keeping your home feeling on the bright side this winter, or indeed any time of year. And if like me, you have a house that isn’t flooded with oodles of natural light, I share my design hacks for ramping up the brightness.
Now the clocks have gone back, and the evenings are dark, they can really begin to affect our mood. I’m committed to batting away the blue’s in every way I can because arguably things are looking gloomy enough! With many parts of the world still in some form of lockdown, we could kind of cope during the sunnier months, but how do we keep our peckers up during these dark times spent indoors?
Well, I’m happy to report that the feel-good vibes are just around the corner, read on…
This is never a bad idea but at this time of year upping the ambient light is where it’s at. I’ve just popped a decorative lamp in my kitchen worktop and its cheered things up immeasurably, bringing a golden glow in the dark corner next to the window. Other places where I’ve seen lighting used cleverly in kitchens is above the wall units, a strip of rope lights for example (maybe in the Xmas decorations box) plugged in and thrown up onto the top of wall units can instantly throw light up onto the ceiling which is a real room brightener. I’ve got occasional lamps everywhere in my home. You’ll find them on my hallway table, on my desk and even on the linen cupboard on the landing, as well as in the usual places like next to the bed and sofa. Think about creating lovely pockets of warm light throughout your home- it’s such a mood booster. And I’ve not tried them yet, but you can get smart bulbs, Ikea and Philips Hue do them amongst others which means to can control the light intensity and even turn them all off from your smart device before you go to bed.
I invested in a Lumie daylight lamp last year, after being recommended it wellness expert and designer, Oliver Heath. I have a Lumie Glow clock and can set it in the morning to wake me up with light that mimics the sunrise. Strong, regular light signals keep our circadian rhythms, such as metabolism and sleep, on track. However, most of us don’t get enough bright light in the winter and the shorter darker days can trigger ‘winter blues’ symptoms, like lack of energy, wanting to sleep more and socialise less. Even a well-lit office only provides around 500 lux compared with 100,000 lux in natural daylight. Bright light therapy is a convenient and natural solution, so I’m considering using my glow clock lamp in the day too for the ultimate mood boost. Failing that always try and have your desk next to the window during the day, with a view of the outdoors to boot.
During the day I have my lamps and lights on, as my house is dark, but I make sure they are energy saving. However there are some things you can do to harness the natural sunlight throughout the day. First of all, don’t underestimate a good window clean! And as this is the time of year for cutting back in the garden, prune any shrubs or trees that are blocking the daylight outside. Also, consider your window treatments. As my home has titchy windows, I need to maximise the light all year round. I’ve done this with extra wide curtain poles at the windows so I can fully draw the curtains, otherwise, you can lose up to a third of the light accessing the room. Another solution is to opt for neat tailored Roam blinds, hung outside the recess so they can be drawn all the way up.
Groan…it’s my nemesis! That old chestnut again, but over the last two weeks, I’ve had a massive clear out of the house, taking bags of clothes to the charity shop and passing a few unwanted house items on via eBay or Facebook marketplace. As many of us have discovered when you spend more time at home, too much stuff that constantly needs moving from surface to surface or from room to room can quickly feel oppressive and exhausting. Having less stuff choking up shelves and floor space instantly makes a home feel and appear brighter and more spacious. On a decorative front, you can also declutter visually by avoiding clashing colours and patterns. A more minimal approach to styling can also appear brighter and airier too. Not that I’ve mastered that particular style!
If you are looking to redecorate you might like to consider painting the walls a light inducing colour. First up though consider if your room is already dark, maybe due to the aspect or small windows. If this is the case I always argue that you should embrace the darkness and go for a bold or only hue as you’re just fighting a losing battle otherwise. But if light is the way you want to go be wary of pure brilliant white. It’s a hard and stark colour and without the warmth of glowing sunshine to warm it up can just look flat and uninspiring, or worse still, depressing. Instead, pick a pale shade with some warmth to it and avoid any cool blue tones. Lilac, grey, and of course blue fall into this category. Pale pink is a personal favourite of mine as its soft too, but pale pebble colours are a warm neutral or pale green have the feel-good factor. Just don’t go grey. Far too chilly for a mood-boosting interior!
These two surfaces make up such a large surface area of any room and are so often ignored. I recently bought a massive pale cream Beni Ourain rug for my living room to replace the old Persian and the transformation was incredible. Floors offer a great way to bounce light back up and into the room. Aside from rugs, pale timber floors, tiles and even painted floorboards are all great ways to achieve a lighter look.
While ceilings are largely painted white to reflect light back down into the room, I have seen small rooms with low ceilings cleverly painted in gloss paint. Now you have to prep your surface within an inch of its life, but it can look really effective and light inducing. Also consider painting your window frames and window sills in a light gloss paint, again really harnessing the natural light and amplifying it.
Once you have the light streaming into your room, think of ways to enhance it and reflect it all around. A large wall mirror is an obvious one but even a gallery wall of prints with glass frames can help reflect light back into the room. Consider glass, mirror or polished marble for occasional tables and coffee tables for their light reflective qualities. Smaller touches like metallic frames, lamp bases, fixtures and fittings can all add a light and bright highlight.
With all this lightness and brightness being pumped into the room a word of warning to keep things cosy. While hard shiny surfaces are idea light enhancers too much can leave a room feeling cold to the touch and stark. So, make sure you balance the look with plenty of cosy textures like deep pile rugs, rattan, velvet and wool.
Heavy, lumpy and dark furniture can help to create a cosy vibe, but it kills the light and bright vibe! Consider switching heavy lumpen sofas and coffee tables for something finer lined and that stands up on legs, thereby showing more of that light inducing floor! If you have a dark coloured sofa, break it up with light coloured scatter cushions. A round dining table on one central pedestal look lighter than a heavy wooden one with chunky legs and similarly fine legged chairs are visually less dark and heavy than solid upholstered ones. If you already own dark wood furniture, consider giving it a lick of paint in a brighter hue.
It may seem extreme but one of the most effective ways to get more light into your home is to knock down some of the walls! Opening up small rooms into larger ones allows more light to move around as does changing small windows for larger ones or switching solid doors for glazed ones. However knocking rooms together isn’t always the most practical so consider internal windows to ‘borrow’ light from an adjoining bright room.
Image at top: Walls in Pink Slip by Little Greene.