Designing a Home with Natural Light

A house filled with natural light has an indescribable sense of warmth and comfort that simply can't be matched by artificial lighting. That's why whenever we design a custom home for our clients, we always take into account the home siting on the lot so that we can analyze the natural lighting patterns through a sun study. In this post we'll talk about the key elements of designing with natural light and some tips and tricks we've discovered that allow us to maximize this awesome resource.

Windows for Capturing Natural Light:

  1. Skylights: The best windows for capturing natural light are skylights, but they can be problematic. They're often the first source of leaks in a roof and are a huge source of heat loss during the winter. 
  2. Light Tubes / Tubular Skylights: Similar to traditional skylights, these are placed on the roof but reflect light down through a mirrored tube, to provide light below. 
  3. Clerestory Windows: These fixed pane windows are typically wide but short and are placed up high on a wall or vaulted room to capture unblocked natural light but retain privacy. We're huge fans of using this kind of window in our designs because it really allows you to capture a ton of natural light without sacrificing the building envelope. 
  4. Transom Windows: These windows are packaged as a smaller window on top of a regular window separated by a mullion. The extra height allows more light inside. These windows work best in a room with raised ceilings. 

Day Timing:

In the Northern hemisphere, most of your daylight is going to come from the South, followed by the East and West. It's important to think about when and where you want your natural light to come in. In the video below, we ran a simulated light study on one of our stock home plans so that you can get a sense of how the light accentuates the exterior and fills the interior as time passes during the day.
Designing for Seasonality:
During the heat of summer, excessive natural light can be a bit too much. Conversely, during the winter it's hard to get enough of it. Luckily, nature provides an useful way to manage seasonal light: tree cover. Strategically planting shade trees will both help control lighting but also frame and beautify your home's curb appeal. 
There are also non-natural means of controlling natural light. Interior shades, exterior shutters and awnings can be fit to match any home style and provide adjustable cover during the sunniest parts of the day. 

Interior Design Tips:

  1. Use Mirrors Strategically: Mirrors are a great tool to reflect the natural light from the outer rooms of your home towards the interior. A room with mirrors on the walls perpendicular to the exterior wall will reflect the light as it passes throughout the day so that it covers the room mor evenly. 
  2. Light Colors: By definition, lighter colors reflect more light than darker ones so err on the side of choosing lighter flooring and wall paints and limit darker colors to accent areas. 
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