We live in an age when mundane aspects of domestic life are increasingly managed by computers, giving us more and more control over our environment. This creates opportunities for us to improve our day-to-day quality of life. Light makes more of a difference than you might think to energy levels, mood and general health, and it can help you do beautiful things with your home.
We have a very close relationship with light, which has developed throughout our evolutionary history. This has led to the development of two natural cycles: a daily one and a seasonal one.
Sunlight is a mixture of multiple colors – or wavelengths – of light. In the mornings, more blue light filters through the atmosphere than at any other time, so we have developed to feel more alert when we see a lot of blue light. This is why looking at computer screens last thing at night can make it difficult to get to sleep. In the evenings, more red light is available, so reddish or pinkish light has a relaxing effect.
When there’s less sunlight available in winter, it’s natural for us to feel tired more. In prehistoric times, this would have been an advantage, encouraging us to stay where we could keep warm and use less energy at times when resources were harder to find. Now, it’s a disadvantage – but fortunately, there are tricks that we can use to cheat the system. Morning lamps that simulate blue-tinted sunlight can help us to wake up. Being outside more during the day can help us get more light exposure altogether and reduce the risk of us developing fatigue or seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Setting the mood
As well as affecting us at a biological level, particular kinds of light alter our moods. The exact mechanisms behind this are not yet fully known and it appears to be partly cultural. Soft light can make a room feel romantic. Gently flickering light such as that produced by candles can help us to relax. Clear, bright light can help us to concentrate. It’s not all good news though – fluorescent strip lights can make us feel fatigued and have a damaging effect on concentration and mood. Employers are increasingly alert to the difference that lighting makes in the workplace, and you can incorporate these tricks into your home.
Light from windows
Exercising more control over the light from your windows lets you get the effects that you want in different rooms at different times of day. Fitting tier on tier shutters means that you can let in just the right amount of light on bright days to provide the necessary illumination and make you feel good without being dazzling or bouncing off computer or television screens that you’re trying to see. Alternatively, filtering the daylight through gauze or voile can soften it and add a colored tint that contributes to the atmosphere in a room. You might also choose to use transfers that attach to the window panes themselves, either to refract the light and create interesting dappled effects on walls and floors or to add patches of bold color, such as stained glass.
Gone are the days when artificial light meant a single incandescent bulb hanging from the ceiling. LED-based bulbs are now better than they’ve ever been, and although they cost a bit more, they can last more than ten times as long. Even the most basic bulbs are now designed to admit a carefully color-balanced light that won’t disrupt your metabolism. You can also buy color-changing bulbs, and not just for fun. Adjusting them at different times of the day helps you to become alert, or relax, when you necessary. Smart lighting systems can do this automatically on your behalf. Using multiple sources of light means that you can get a subtler, more varied effect within each room.
As well as controlling how light comes into your home, you can control how it moves around. This is done through the use of paints and mirrors that reflect light and glass objects that refract it, scattering it in different directions. By positioning mirrors and glass objects strategically, you can increase the amount of natural light that gets into areas such as hallways that don’t have windows of their own. When it comes to paint, limit your use of glass and metallics, which don’t actually reflect very much, and opt instead for light-colored emulsions, which do.
Taking control of the light in your home lets you take control of a great deal more, and it’s easily within your reach.