Tips for the Slow Home: Making Use of Daylight

One of the primary tenets of Slow Home living is that a home should have good natural daylight. Regardless of where you are in your home, the living spaces should be day-lit and have access to natural ventilation and outdoor views. Any of these attributes would make a home better, slow or not, and while we don't always have control over this, there are ways to make the most of the daylight you do have — read on to find out how.According to the Slow Home Movement, a well-designed house is "properly oriented to the sun, prevailing winds, and immediate surroundings in order to facilitate natural heating and cooling." An abundance of natural light is useful for a number of reasons: reduced energy bills, improved comfort inside the home, increased personal energy and access to the earth's natural rhythms and cycles. Here are tips to make the most of the daylight in your home to reap the sun's benefits:

  1. Orient your home along the east-west axis so that the long side of your house faces south. If you're building new, and have the option, this is one of the best design decisions you can make for your house. This will provide the most surface area for properly designed windows that will allow an abundance of natural light to enter your house, which for cold climates will be most beneficial during the winter months. The most used living spaces should be located along the south side of the house, while less used spaces, utility rooms, garages and bathrooms should be located along the north side.
  2. If you don't have control over you home's orientation, but do have some flexibility in the layout, locate your most used rooms on the south-side (or most daylit) of the home. Locate your least used rooms and private spaces, such as storage rooms, closets and bathrooms, on the dark side of the house. Make sure all your plants, especially those that need full sun, are put in rooms that recieve the most daylight, and even better regularly put them on your window sills to give them a concentrated dose of sun.
  3. Choose your window shades carefully. If your home has little access to daylight, consider sheers to provide some level of privacy, but still allow sunlight to filter through. At my home, we've opted for no window shades because while all our windows face south, they also face a building only five feet away that has filtered the sunlight (no privacy worries because the adjacent building has no windows facing that face us). If your windows face south or west, make sure you do have either properly designed exterior sunscreens, awnings or some type of interior window shade to block out the hot summer sun. Dark, heavy drapes will be useful for blocking out hot unwanted daylight, and insulating the house from a cold exterior during the winter.
  4. Install more windows. It may seem like a big deal, but installing a couple more windows can make a huge improvement on your home's daylighting. Don't forget to consider skylights and solartubes, which can easily be retrofitted without much work and are great for bringing in extra light the upper levels of homes and attics, as well as areas that aren't along the perimeters of homes such as hallways, bathrooms and closets.
  5. Use bright, light and reflected surfaces, especially for an otherwise dark house. This will give the feeling of a brighter space and reflect any light that does enter. Mirrored surfaces will give the feeling of a larger space and reflect light around a room.
  6. Use exterior elements to your advantage. Plant deciduous trees and shrubs in key areas outside the house. These types of plants will shade the house during the summer, and allow sunlight to come through when they've lost their leaves in the winter. Also, exterior spaces such as patios and decks should be located on the south or west sides of the house in cold climates, or on east or north sides in warm climates.
  7. Lastly, don't forget to clean your windows! A little vinegar and water on you glass will shockingly go a long way to increasing the amount of light coming through your windows.

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(Image: Sk├Âna Hem | Apartment Therapy)

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