Think about your home, from the outside-in, as a sunlit object sitting in the landscape. Where does the sun rise and fall around you?
Does it illuminate the house and its rooms differently in winter than summer — a time when the sun arcs higher through the sky?
Are there buildings or overhanging trees raking away light from principal rooms?
How are your living spaces arranged to take advantage of the primal, uplifting presence of the sun?
Taking walls and floors to pearlescent pale colours or completely white will maximise available daylight, but there’s plenty more you can do to share out those free, health-giving, available lumens to an artificial lighting plan.
Laying windows bare
Blinds trump curtains in terms of getting the treatment up and off the window, so add versatility to those window dressings and change them with the weather.
* Choose a deliberately longer length of curtain pole to pull the curtains completely back and away from the reveal in summer.
* Choose a pale colour to let light bounce up and off around this area.
* Where privacy is not at issue, dispense with heavy lined or interlined curtains in place of sheers or pale lightweight cotton, swapping back to heftier materials when the days grow cooler and darker.
* Hillary’s Blinds include a Top Down Bottom Up varieties, pull up from the base of the window allowing the brightest light available into the room, but obscuring say a busy road, and is the equivalent in fabric of a cafe style shutter to the bottom of a casement window. http://www.hillarys.ie/
* Cut back overhanging climbing plants, and see if your neighbours would allow you to pay to thin out large trees darkening principal downstairs rooms.
Use a trained arborist with full public indemnity insurance for specimen sized monsters.
* Must I say it — clean the windows!
A classical means to conjure and play with light since ancient times, mirrors can bounce light, reflect a gorgeous view and generally play up the illuminating role of windows, implying a glinting three dimensional opening where there is none.
Place a very large mirror beside a window or opposite to a window, on the wall or on the floor — it’s up to you.
Beside the window, it fools our eye into cheerfully accepting the window is bigger.
Opposite the window, the mirror throws maximum light directly back into the room from its primary natural source.
* Mirrors on any wall, penetrate the surface visually as voids. Punch out the end wall of a corridor by placing an oversized mirror at the end of your principal journey. It mimics a window.
* Before you hang or prop the piece in place, move the mirror around with someone to support it as you consider the dynamic ‘picture’ it makes composed with a particular reflection.
A few centimetres to the right or left can steal light from a bright adjoining room when the door is open.
* As well as fixed elements of architecture and views, you can add to what you see, with a regularly renewed staging in front of the mirror — a quick cheat to inflate an armful of flowers to sexy Rococo volumes.
Access all areas
Dark, lumpen furniture skirted right to the floor, can act as light crushing obstacles when placed across light sources even if you enjoy the gift of a dual aspect.
Alternative seating and storage design could provide more travel for light entering through windows and even entering via doors to adjacent better lit rooms.
* For tables choose skeletal lines, such as Caroline Donnelly’s nice hairpin legged side tables and consoles for Dunnes Stores,
* Glass and mirror finishes and pale colours of course reflect and amplify a sense of space and light — but balance this with richer accents to prevent a look that just floats away.
* Low-backed seating furniture with flip up head-rests is another chic compromise clearing a fuller path from the windows.
The Iconica Napoleone three seater with inset rests and a high platform base on kicked out chrome legs invites just this kind of low flow if your sofa has to be in front of the window. €1.739, chairs €1229, DFS.
* Restrict rugs on polished hard flooring letting it act as a generous reflector. Even dark floors can perform well.
* Would re-orientating some rooms with complete swaps of role let the sunshine into your daily round more effectively?
Watch where the family gravitate, and see if you can rise with the sun for breakfast and set your evening roles to the west.
Invest in shine
Keeping in line with the accepted architectural wisdom 10% of the floor area of any room should be represented in window volumes, but increasingly, 25% can be made acceptable by the inclusion of glazing qualities with such low ‘U’ values they read little more in terms of heat loss that a full insulated wall.
Which way these windows face will keenly influence the quality and duration of the light they admit, with west facing rooms warming up to a gold glow on a summer’s evening.
* Adding square footage to your house? Take time to reappoint existing adjoining spaces, refreshing them with added light to flood beyond the extension, where possible.
* The piercing of a wall with an internal window to a sunnier room beyond can make a single dramatic difference to north facing spaces. What about taking back even part of a blinding wall?
* If you are taking advantage of the Home Renovation Incentive Scheme to extend or to just change your windows, go for frame-less areas of glass where you can, losing glazing bars that dice up the sunlight.
* External and internal glazed doors can steal light from sundrenched aspects on the west and south of the house, gifting it to gloomy corridors and dim rooms. There is considerable fall off in light intensity over even a few metres from the light-source. Ensure the result is worth the changes.
* Bi-fold doors take up less room than conventional French doors, when open. Taken back on a warm evening or bright day, a whole wall just vanishes.
* Since July 2013 all new windows sold in Ireland must be CE registered. If you are using a local joinery, ensure their windows are up to standard.
HYBRID LIGHT SOURCES
Roof windows that open and roof lights, can bring a superb pillar of light down from the brightest part of the sky.
The intensity and quality of the light will depend on the aspect in which it collects the sunshine, its size, and the number of lights used.
Expect a cooler, bluer more diffuse drink of light from a north roof, pitched or flat.
Photo-catalytic (self cleaning) glass is well worth considering for any windows that’s out of easy reach.
Where a roof window won’t work, a sun tunnel or pipe can slink right down from the roof through the attic to a box room — or be set in multiples to light a corridor, lifting the whole atmosphere.
The exterior ray grabbing lens can be polycarbonate or even glass such as the Lightway Crystal line in sun pipes.
Glass has the advantage of not yellowing over time, preserving the colour and quality of the light delivered to the rooms below.
Glass also is said to cause less problematic condensation inside the unit.
Also recently launched to market, the Sunpipe LuxLoop by Monodraught of Denmark is a hybrid LED/sunpipe system.
During the day the unit delivers daylight via a diamond dome and silvered finished aluminium tube to a ceiling diffuser.
Later in the evening, biologically optimised LED lighting, housed in the same unit takes over in colour balanced LED system with a working life of 50,000 hours.
For choices in size and pricing go to www.monodraught.com
Light, even indoor daylight, can be aggressive and overbearing, inflicting the twin discomfort of glare to the delicate macula at the back of our eyes and uncomfortable passive heat gain in poorly detailed windows.
I still remember an agony of one very hot, ugly afternoon skewered to a cane chair in a neighbour’s single-glazed, south-facing conservatory, squinting into the sun like Clint Eastwood in a Sergio Leone western.
Fabulous walls of glass like sunrooms, atriums and circulations spaces should be very carefully managed.
The iconic German Huf-Haus buildings, which tailor out chic cells of privacy within an otherwise aquarium like steel frame — would be impossible to stand psychologically and visually without the shading of well placed trees, UV treatment to the window glass and mechanical blinds to climb the cliff face of vaunting glazing.
There are two forms of glare: discomfort glare- a blinking nuisance which enters out vision from the side, and disability glare — which generally comes from overhead and obscures what you are doing, for example reading.
Some modern architecture deliberately plays up this exciting contrast of natural light and sharp shadows, thrusting our windows two stories up in bold slices of the sky.
However the brightness of even an unclouded Irish sky, together with the contrast of shaded areas and stark unfiltered sunlight hitting polished pale surfaces, can interfere with everyday life as the eyes struggle to adjust to the dramatic variety in luminance.
Rather than running for cover, glare should be challenged with translucent sheers, diffusing window blinds, light sensitive glass choices and exterior motorised louvres — or brises soleil.
Take specialist advice before retro-fitting reflective window film as it can overheat and damage glass.
Setting your Velux style roof lights on a north pitch or angled into an interior wall, can bounce a wash of light back into a room, rather than pouring a searing spotlight down on your task area.
Exterior awnings may solve annual problems for a southerly aspect when the sun is assaulting any area indoors.
Your architect should consider the practical seasonal subtleties of solar orientation in their design of your window ratio and placement in a new build or extension.
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