As you know by now, I remodel older homes – always built before 1970 and often built around the beginning of the 20th century. Among the most frequent request from my clients is for more daylight. Here are 5 tips for adding daylight to your home.
1. Light every room from at least 2 sides. We feel more comfortable when we have daylight from 2 sides – it reduces glare and increases exposure. When the room you’re daylighting isn’t on a corner with windows on 2 adjacent walls, you can borrow daylight from other areas of the home. See Borrowing Light.
2. Bounce Lights off surfaces. You’ll get more daylight if you bounce the light off adjacent surfaces – walls and ceilings. So I’ll place windows adjacent to a sidewall or close to the ceiling rather than in the middle of a room. If you have windows in the middle of a room, add painted built-ins on either side to bounce the existing light further into the room.
3. Doors vs. Windows. Whenever I’m remodeling to connect a home to the outdoors, I’ll use glass doors instead of windows. This gives you the sense that the outdoor garden room is an extension of the home rather than being outdoors.
4. Consider Exposure. If you’re in the south or other areas where cooling is a greater expense than heating, you’ll want to limit southern and western exposures or at least include overhangs that block intense summer sun. However, in northern climates, where heating is a bigger cost and concern, you want greater southern exposure. Of course, in a remodeling situation you have a lot less choice than in building new. In my own home in Washington DC where cooling is a big expense, I only have good access to the outdoors on my western exposure. I’ll still use extensive windows but I’ve already planted trees to block intense afternoon summer daylight and will include wide roof overhangs to let in winter light but blocks intense summer sun.
5. Light from above. Light from skylights can be nice but I resist putting them in western and southern facing roofs. The daylight is too intense and much less controllable than are windows. However, in a very shaded lot, skylights can make what was previously a dark room wonderfully comfortable. And I usually, again, place skylights at the room edge to bounce light off the wall and help brighten and diffuse the light in the room.