How to Increase Light in Your Home If You Live in an Overcast City

How to Increase Light in Your Home If You Live in an Overcast City

Lighting
How To
By Dikran Seferian May 19, 2022

If you live anywhere in Portland, Seattle, Cleveland, London, or just about any one of the cloudiest cities in the world, you’ll probably do anything for a modicum of sunlight. These overwhelmingly overcast cities can be rather dreadful to live in; even those who enjoy gloomy weather would eventually get tired of it. Portland, for instance, gets only 144 days of sunlight a year on average — compared to a whopping 266 days for San Diego. Seattle, on the other hand, notoriously averages 201 cloudy days a year.

Fortunately, both interior design and architecture provide several ways in which you can maximize what little sunlight diffuses through those ever-present clouds. By adapting your color schemes, reflective surfaces, and fenestration to your city’s weather conditions, you can forget you even live there. Besides maximizing the natural light in your home, these measures also allow for an eco-friendly — and wallet-friendly — lifestyle. Read on to learn more about how to increase light at home in cloudy cities.

Stick to a Bright Color Palette

While darker colors are known to absorb light, lighter colors tend to reflect it. A room with dark blue walls, for instance, will appear gloomy even with an adequate amount of windows. Lighter-colored walls, on the other hand, will allow natural light to bounce around the room. To maximize the little amount of natural illumination you receive, consider a light color scheme for your walls. While white may seem the obvious choice, you could also go for a very light shade of gray or beige. Should you go for one of the latter colors, consider painting the ceiling an even lighter shade. This will not only increase lighting in a room but also make it appear taller and larger.

The light color palette applies to your furniture as well. Remember that the more bright colors you have all around, the more you’ll allow for natural light to be reflected. This applies to several elements of interior design — furniture included. Try creating a slight contrast with the wall by going for a different yet still a light shade. A light gray sectional, for instance, will perfectly complement an eggshell white wall. You can introduce a little splash of color with pastel or light muted colors for the accents — perhaps a set of patterned blue or yellow pillows. Another brilliant way to add color is by bringing in a few houseplants.

As for drapery, the best color you could go for is white. With white curtains, natural light will be reflected inwards where it matters most.

Tip: Keeping your white curtains closed will allow the diffused natural light to glow through while concealing the cloudy skies outside. Although it may seem counterintuitive, this would essentially create the impression of clear weather.

Choosing the right color scheme to increase indoor brightness will give your home the fresh airiness it needs.

Choosing the right color scheme to increase indoor brightness will give your home the fresh airiness it needs.

Consider Skylights and Solar Tubes

A brilliant way to increase light entering your living space is through skylights. Available in a variety of layouts and sizes, skylights are quite the light magnets. Not only do they let in as much sunlight as available, but also moonlight on nights when there is a full moon — that’s when it is at its brightest. Consider adding skylights to rooms where you’d normally spend the most time such as family rooms and bedrooms.

Getting familiar with the advantages of skylights will help you with your decision-making processes.

Getting familiar with the advantages of skylights will help you with your decision-making processes.

If your house does not allow for the installation of skylights, an ideal alternative is a series of solar tubes. These clever lighting solutions involve reflective pipes that extend from the roof to the ceiling, carrying the natural light with them. Solar tubes are relatively easier to install than skylights. In addition, the smallest ones provide the same amount of light as three 100-watt bulbs — but not as much as skylights obviously. Consider adding solar tubes in hallways, bathrooms, a home office, and other spaces that could use natural light.

Skylights and solar tubes are excellent at bringing natural light into your living spaces.

Skylights and solar tubes are excellent at bringing natural light into your living spaces.

Go for a Scandinavian Design

If you’re looking to design your home in a way that natural light is maximized, take it from the Scandinavians. Overcast weather aside, Nordic countries don’t get much sunlight to begin with as their days are considerably shorter due to their geographic location. This is where the Scandinavian interior design comes in. With minimalist elements and a light color palette, this design style allows for natural light to strategically fill up the interior spaces — and is ideal for cloudy cities. Scandi interiors also use a lot of wood to create a much-needed contrast and to incorporate a sense of nature into the living spaces.

Consider trendy interior design styles such as Scandi to create a bright indoor atmosphere.

Consider trendy interior design styles such as Scandi to create a bright indoor atmosphere.

Upgrade Your Light Fixtures

If you have outdated lighting such as incandescent bulbs, consider upgrading them to LED lights. Warm white LEDs, for instance, are great at mimicking natural light; both your room and your electric bill would look less dreadful, especially if you have a shortage of windows. Moreover, you’ll find that LED lights are available in a huge variety of sleek shapes and sizes. Since every bit of lighting is precious in overcast weather conditions, make sure to replace any burnt bulbs in your home on the spot.

LED fixtures provide both style and brightness.

LED fixtures provide both style and brightness.

Mind the Windows

You may want to make the most of what windows you already have; that includes regularly cleaning them on both sides. You’ll be surprised at how much difference in brightness a clean window or a glass door makes compared to a dusty one. As for window treatments, opt for light, single panel draperies, or blinds. The latter allows you to control the amount and angle of the light that enters the room. Another option is to forgo the treatments altogether, especially if you’re not getting any sunlight either way — you could make up for the insulation in other ways such as double-glazing your windows.

If the option seems feasible for you, consider getting larger windows or adding a few more to your existing ones. What better way to increase light in a room than maximizing its point of entry? A clerestory, for example, is a clever option for the fenestration of interior spaces.

Use window layouts to maximize the brightness in your home.

Use window layouts to maximize the brightness in your home.

Add More Mirrors

Mirrors are known to make a room appear larger than it is. Placing one across a window can effectively double the amount of natural light that enters your house. The placement of the window also allows it to reflect the outside view instead of, for instance, a blank wall. You can also consider replacing a darkly colored painting that would otherwise absorb light with a large mirror that reflects it instead.

Taking advantage of mirrors is an effective way to reflect natural light in your room.

Taking advantage of mirrors is an effective way to reflect natural light in your room.

Make Use of Reflective Surfaces

Besides mirrors, natural light can bounce off several other reflective surfaces. Anything from high gloss flooring to metallic cabinetry can help in reflecting natural as well as artificial light. Consider highly reflective backsplashes for your kitchen and bathroom. Recycled glass tiles are an ideal choice as they not only reflect light but also make for an eco-friendly option. For the living room, go for silk or semi-gloss paint job coupled with chrome accents and metallic light fixtures. If you’re a fan of the Art Deco style, you could cover a wall space with glass blocks. This would effectively boost the amount of natural light in a room while serving as a unique style choice.

As for the flooring, go for hardwood, ceramic, or stone with a polished finish. Stick to light shades or neutral tones for the color. You could add a touch of texture and contrast with a light-colored area rug that would also accentuate the interior design style.

Make use of interior design elements such as glass tiles to maximize brightness.

Make use of interior design elements such as glass tiles to maximize brightness.

Trim Trees That Block Windows

As beautiful as that portion of the tree looks waving around just outside your window, it’s most probably blocking a precious amount of natural light from entering your home. While you don’t have to cut down the whole tree, trimming it just enough will make way for natural light to pour in. Plus, you’d get a better view of the rest of your backyard.

Written by
Dikran Seferian

Written by Dikran Seferian