Architectural glazing for natural light
We’ve recently worked with Cantifix who provide architectural and structural glazing. In this guest blog, Cantifix’s Simon McAuliffe explores how to get natural light in to a home and the benefits natural light brings.
Over the years, humanity hasn’t evolved nearly as quickly as the environment we’ve built around us. According to one of the most-cited studies on the subject, the average person now spends around 87% of our time indoors (a figure that’s bound to have gone up in light of recent events). Yet our biology hasn’t caught up – sequestering ourselves away in our homes with extensive artificial light and reduced access to natural sunlight has alarmingly negative effects on everything from cognitive performance to mood to our physical health. We’ve known the importance of natural light for decades, but the design community is only just catching up on the science.
Luckily, living in doors isn’t all doom and gloom (no pun intended!). There are ways in which you can increase the amount of natural light in your home, boosting your physical and mental health and allowing those long days working at home to be that bit more productive. We’ve compiled a guide to help you make the most of your home and make it work for, rather than against you.
“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else”, so said legendary New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra. Without proper planning and consideration, making the most of your home is going to be a tall order.
Before drawing up their plans for public spaces, architects often carry out extensive research as to how the space is currently used and how to maximise the utility and comfort of the new space. Obviously, for a small home renovation this would be overkill, but it’s still worth taking time to consider how you use spaces and how to get the most out of them.
On a sunny day, throw open the curtains and blinds, turn off all your lights and make a note of areas where you’re not getting enough sunlight, and indeed areas where there’s too much. Once you’ve identified these problem areas, consider why there’s a problem – is your garden getting a bit out of hand and overgrown, are your drapes blocking out half the window? This will help you identify the appropriate solution much more quickly and easily than if you don’t take this simple step, and knowing is half the battle.
While it’s lovely to bathe in warmth as you work in front of a large south-facing window on a sunny winter morning, come the afternoon you’ll be fighting to see your screen against the glare of the sun. This is just one example amongst a myriad of factors to consider – heating, ventilation and noise are also important factors in how healthy and productive you will be in your new space. An architect can help with this, but you know your home intimately and you know what conditions you need to be at your best, so before talking to an architect, it’s a good idea to get your ideas together.
For small renovations, an architect probably won’t be necessary, but their knowledge can be invaluable. Luckily, we’ve worked with plenty of architects over the years and we’ve picked up some useful knowledge.
Glass is hugely important for increasing natural light in your home. Simple windows, glass walls, and even more elaborate choices like extensions and rooflights are all excellent ways to let the light in. Glass specialists, particularly bespoke companies such as Cantifix can work with you to work out the best way to maximise natural light in your home.
Where you do have glass in the form of windows, doors, rooflights and the like, it’s vital to ensure they’re operating at maximum efficiency by moving or indeed removing anything that’s likely to obscure them. While a deep red velvet drape might look gorgeous, if you’re not able to pull it right away from the window, it’s going to be drinking in all that lovely sunlight streaming through the window. So ensure blinds, curtains and the like are all able to be pulled right back away from any glass.
It’s not just the interior you need to keep an eye on either. There are plenty of objects outside the home that might block light getting through your glass and into your home. The obvious culprits are trees and other foliage. Where you own the land they’re on, you can do your bit for your health and happiness by keeping these trimmed back away from windows and other sources of natural light. If it’s a neighbour’s greenery, consider letting them know that you’re having problems and asking if they wouldn’t mind trimming things back a bit (as long as you’re on good terms!) Fences, sheds and poor landscaping can also present problems, so be aware where you site these, or consider placing glazing in locations where this won’t be a problem.
It goes without saying that your glass should be kept clean and free from dirt and detritus (a particular problem with rooflights when the leaves start falling). For small ground-floor windows, this is an easy job, but consider hydrophobic glass coatings for areas that are harder to reach. Such coatings will repel dirt and water and keep your windows cleaner for longer.
After glass, the second most important consideration is your colour scheme. Bright, airy colours (whites, creams, pale greens, etc.) will reflect and accentuate any natural light in a space. It’s particularly worth considering using light paint or wall coverings around windows to increase the perception of light. This is just as important as the actual amount of light particles reaching your retina, particularly in boosting your mood. Dark colours actively absorb and trap light, meaning if you’ve painted your walls a brooding, moody black (we’re not here to judge!), the majority of the natural light coming in through your windows isn’t reaching your eyes and giving you all those amazing health and wellbeing benefits.
Having said that, dark colours, when used correctly for contrast, can boost the perception of brightness in a space. Contrast dark spaces where functionality is more important than atmosphere with lighter spaces in order to accentuate the brightness of the latter. So if you have a dingy boot room or utility space adjacent to your light-filled, open-plan kitchen, don’t be too keen to spruce it up and bring some lighter colours in. The smaller, darker room will accentuate how light and airy the kitchen is, enlivening family meals and making you more productive if you choose to sit down at the kitchen table to catch up on emails.
Reflective surfaces can also be hugely beneficial. When used correctly, they will cascade natural light through your home away from windows and other sources of light and into those hard-to-reach nooks and crannies. An obvious choice for creating this cascade of light would be a large mirror placed opposite or adjacent to a window – you’re effectively doubling the light. Mirrors are a great option because they’re simple and they will fit in with virtually any style, from sleek, modern frameless mirrors to a more traditional framed option, you won’t need to compromise on style.
Other great options are reflective wall coverings. Used as features, these will act in a broadly similar fashion to mirrors, reflecting natural light away from your windows and around a space. Again, there are options to suit all styles and budgets, from mirrored tiling to reflective wallpaper and for the more adventurous, indoor water features. Highly polished wood or stone walls and work surfaces will also do the heavy lifting where you don’t want to be wholly reliant on artificial light, bouncing light into spaces that otherwise wouldn’t see the sun.
Finally, don’t forget the little touches, as good use of accessories and small fixtures can give you that extra boost of light that could make a huge difference to the feel of a room. Polished brass door handles, silver light fixtures or gold clock faces will all add slivers of light to a space, bathing a space in light during the day and keeping the dark at bay that little longer in the evenings.
It’s all too easy in our hectic, modern lives to sequester yourself away for an evening after work and not go outside until the following morning. In and of itself, this isn’t necessarily a problem. However, when your home is working against you, a few relatively minor adjustments (or a complete overhaul if you have the luxury of time and budget!) will really make a huge difference.
Home renovation is never something to be taken lightly, but the advice above is a good starting point when considering how to best utilise the most abundant natural resource we have at our disposal to improve the health and wellbeing of yourself and your family. With that said, it’s time to grab a cuppa, sit down think about whether you could benefit from more natural light – and then start planning how to get it!
Author: Simon McAuliff of Cantifix