Light is amazing. Besides all the cool scientific stuff it has going for it, it also has magical properties. Light draws people in. It can make a huge house feel cozy and a small space expansive. A tangle of tiny lights can turn a plain backyard into party central or transform a stark evergreen into something whimsical. Most importantly, light has the power to lift your spirits and your mood. Below, find out how you can light up your life.
If, like me, you live in an area where winter doesn’t hit hard until January or February, you still have time to get outside and clean those windows. A lot of people consider windows part of their spring cleaning routine, but you’ll be stuck inside a lot during the short, cold days this season. Get outside now and make those windows sparkle to maximize the natural light coming into your home.
Evaluate your draperies. Properly hung curtains will magically raise your ceiling height, make a window larger, and brighten a room. Instead of mounting the rod just above the window box, hang it an inch or two below the ceiling or crown molding. Select a rod twice as long as your window is wide. When your drapes are open the inside edge of each panel should just graze the outer boundary of the window.
If you have the means to add skylights or solar tubes, do it! Natural light bathing a space from directly above is an amazing mood booster. Placing such an aperture in the room in which you spend the most time getting ready will allow you to start the day with a natural surge of serotonin and you’ll see yourself in the best light. Can I get an amen from the ladies tired of putting on makeup in a groggy, dimly-lit state?
It might be common knowledge that crisp white walls make instant room brighteners, but there are other wall treatments that have the same effect.
One of the primary differences comes from the paint finish, or sheen, itself. Shiny surfaces, because they reflect light, make small spaces feel bigger. If you prefer to stick with your white or neutral wall color, add a fresh coat of paint. Ditch light-absorbing finishes such as matte and eggshell in favor of satin and semi-gloss.
Alternatively, treat your walls — and your eyes — to light and bright colors. Cool sky blues or light sage greens lend space serenity. Give any room a wake up call by throwing eye-popping citrus onto your walls. Think tangerine, lemon sherbet, and limeade. Because it is reminiscent of a glowing hearth-fire, adding red to the mix instantly infuses a space with warmth and light. A major change to every wall may be overwhelming for the color-shy, so instead of nixing the idea of color all together, revitalize a single wall to provide your room with a focal point.
To further bounce light around a space, add a mirror or two. Or three. Ideally, you want to spread natural light to as many nooks and crannies as possible. Hanging a mirror at eye level directly across from a window essentially creates a second window and doubles a room’s natural light.
But don’t stop there! You can find no end of mirrored objects, even furniture! Don’t worry about feeling a bit vain with all those looking glasses about; go for a mercury finish to tone things down without losing any of your new light sources.
Light fixtures also lend warmth and visual movement to a space. A room with a single overhead fixture limits that movement and draws our gaze up and away from where we live. A well-lit room has at least three unique points of light that vary in height and intensity.
Bright, overhead light creates harsh shadows under a person’s eyes and chin — not a good look for anybody. This is not to say you should toss your ceiling lights entirely; just take them out of the starring role by installing a dimmer switch. It is funny how dimming the lights can lighten one’s mood, and the reduction in glare and an enveloping glow will make your home that much more inviting.
Once you are happy with your overhead light, it is time to face the wall(s). Think of these large swaths of vertical space as giant diffusers. When you direct light at a wall it spreads along the surface, creating a soft glow. Use picture lights or directional spotlights to draw the eye around a room and highlight favorite objects such as artwork or display shelves. Personally, I love the romance and drama created by strategically placed uplights.
Every space in your home should have a function and the right lighting to complete that function, typically referred to as task lighting. Your ceiling and wall lights create ambience, but a room won’t feel right without a few lamps lighting your everyday activities. These workhorses can do so much, especially if you use a three-way bulb that offers bright light when you are reading and dimmer lights for board games and parties. Think of table and floor lamps as one part light and one part sculpture. They should be lovely to look at whether on or off.
Just adding a few touches of warm, inviting, sculptural light and your house can become a home. Pretty magical stuff.
It might take some tweaking to get just the right glow for every room, but don’t get discouraged. There’s no need to be kept in the dark when you can stop by Plum Deluxe for tips on illumination and other decorating conundrums. I’ll leave a light on for you.
Photo credits: House and Home, HGTV, Graham and Green, Wall to Wall Stencils, and Rockett St. George.