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The Portland House

My New Interior Design Secret Weapon + Win a Room Refresh by Me With Velux Skylights


I learned very early on in my career as a prop stylist that for photography, natural light truly is the #1 element that you need for a room (or shot) to look alive. Before the wonders that is of Photoshop, photographers used to get booked and paid based on their ability to replicate natural light with strobes, etc. It simply makes a room. Before we get into today’s FREE “Brighten Up Any Room” MAKEOVER GIVEAWAY with Velux Skylights, we need to talk natural light—all the whys and hows. You might already be convinced about the benefits of natural light in your home, but I was, too, and I still missed opportunities during renovations of our current house. So really, this isn’t just a post talking about why I love natural light and how it’s a key element of design, but rather all the places you can bring in that sweet sweet sunlight that maybe you’re overlooking (hint: it involves looking up). Perk up if you are currently—or are going to soon—renovate to ensure you maximize your best friend, natural light, before you close up the walls.

Here’s a weird secret: a lot of the most “successful” bloggers and Instagrammers live in SoCal…did you know that? It’s not because “Hollywood.” It’s because of the light. We have beautiful light all year for more hours of the day. The winter light is even more beautiful here than the summer light. We don’t have to chase it or find it, it’s normally outside and full of blue (sky) and green (tree) accents. I’ve literally met people who moved here because “there is so much more daylight here” which of course makes sense but even three years ago, I was shocked by the fact that people relocate from New York or Portland for the use of natural light in their work.

But we aren’t talking about taking selfies. Who cares. What I care about is how natural light affects the interior of your home. Now obviously, windows are a big factor, but what happens when you have windows that face close buildings or with big overhangs outside (or mature trees) or can’t have windows because it’s an interior room? Is your room fated to forever be selfie-less? How will your room grow its Instagram following? 🙂

Last year, I discovered skylights and it seriously changed the Portland house and now I want them everywhere. My brother originally brought it up, saying that Portland houses can be dark due to the weather so “hey do you want to add skylights?” My first reaction was “ooh, yes yes. But with all the rain do they leak?” and my contractor said, “Not if they are Velux.” No joke. He didn’t want us to install any other skylights. So we reached out and partnered with them on the Portland house and I’m not joking when I say it absolutely upped the value of the house by so much because it made it simply happier to be in all day long.

TRUE STORY. But let’s get into some specifics about the whens and whys to choose skylights.


Emily Henderson Velux Skylights

One of the most “duh” places to use a skylight is in the bathroom, but let me tell you why. Skylights tend to provide more even light throughout the day which is great for anyone who applies makeup in a bathroom. With traditional windows, you might get full-on sun or full-on shade depending on the direction of sun/time of day. Now, you might be asking “but what about when it’s directly overhead and it’s a full block of sun?” Well, sure, when the sun lines up with the placement of your skylight, you will get direct light, but that’s what remote control shades are for—light control that still gives you a lot of soft light. In addition to having shades (yay soft diffused light + privacy), the skylights of today can be opened via remote control to let in fresh air and keep your bathroom dry and limit lingering humidity.

One of the BIGGEST pluses for me and my new found love of skylights is the fact that you can put them in places where windows can’t (or shouldn’t) go, like in showers (in Portland, we used Velux’s No Leak Solar Powered Fresh Air Skylight). Now you can put some windows in bathrooms and showers, certainly but based on privacy and where your plumbing is, it’s not as easy. But showering with a skylight overhead is MAGIC.

Emily Henderson Velux Skylights

I opted for one in the upstairs guest bathroom of Portland because it was an interior space (i.e. no windows) and the only opportunity we had to bring in natural light was through the ceiling. You can’t see it in this angle because it’s way up there, but there is indeed a skylight here, hence how light and bright the shower room is. I didn’t do this in some of the bathrooms of my LA house and I’m kicking myself for it (and honestly, might eventually add some, but more on that in a bit).

Hallways & Stairwells

Emily Henderson Velux Skylights

Interior rooms (like bathrooms, laundry rooms, even bedrooms with no windows…yes these exist) or hallways are a GREAT place to add natural light as they can really be the dead zone of homes. Maybe that’s why staircases can feel dark and creepy? Because there is rarely any natural light source? For the Portland project, we worked with Velux to integrate skylights in many rooms, but they made SUCH a difference in the staircase landing and stairwell. Had we accepted the fact that there were no accessible windows upstairs beyond what trickled in from the surrounding bedrooms, it would have definitely felt more cave-like and not as grand.


Emily Henderson Velux Skylights

Oh how I wish I had known all of this before I renovated our LA house. We could have bumped up our master bedroom ceilings to vault them and add skylights and man, that would have been my happy place. The master in the Portland project (which was just flooded with natural light due in part to the skylights we used in there) is honestly heavenly, and I wish I could wake up there every morning. Your eyes are drawn upward, which makes the room feel SO much taller and BIGGER, and this is always what you want. A space to feel bigger and airier. Truthfully, I’d even forego an attic space if you have it to vault a ceiling and bring in more light from overhead. Plus, it’s another way to amplify the brightness of the space while still keeping things private.

Now, for anyone who needs total darkness to sleep and concerned about early morning light creeping in at 5 a.m., there’s always the option of remote-controlled room darkening shades to make sure your precious ZZzz are not forfeited unnecessarily.


Emily Henderson Velux Skylights

A kitchen awash in light is the stuff of Nancy Meyers movie home dreams, but sacrificing wall space (i.e. cabinetry) to put in more windows can feel like Sophie’s Choice. Sunlight vs. storage…truly a conundrum, except as I discovered, it really doesn’t have to be if it works for the architecture of your home. Skylights are a no brainer for spaces where you desperately need wall space for functionality but don’t want to give up nature’s gift to design.

And just like in a bathroom, “smells” and moisture need to go somewhere, so a quick open of the skylight is ideal for releasing cooking odors, steam and, for the budding chef that hasn’t quite figured it out yet, accidental smoke.

SO ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT SKYLIGHTS YET? Can you tell that I am? Honestly, I’ll probably never design another home without them if I can help it, which is why I’m so happy to have Velux as a partner (for both the Portland house and now the mountain house). Which brings me to the part of this post where I announce a very exciting giveaway.

Introducing the…

Brighten Up Any Room Giveaway

This girl here LOVES her natural light and fresh air, and I’m so pumped to be partnering with Velux to give away the chance to transform one room in one of your homes with a custom design refresh from me, including the installation of up to two Velux No Leak Solar Powered “Fresh Air” Skylights. So maybe your bathroom needs some love, or your living room is in need of new furniture and color (and natural light). Have a dark dreary room in your home that you avoid stepping foot into? If you win, YOU CAN STOP IGNORING IT. I’ll be here to help realize the potential of one of your spaces with the added benefit of letting what we come up with and execute be awash in sweet, sweet sunlight from overhead.

So, what do you have to do to win this super fun giveaway? Head on over to Velux’s site by April 11 for details and all contest rules. Be ready to tell us why you need an EHD natural light makeover, share some Pinterest boards that show your dream style, a few photos of the room you want me to refresh and just basic contact information. Please note that you do need to own your home to enter and win. Good luck, and can’t wait to see your spaces.



Fin Mark


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I cannot decide what I prefer: your outfit or taht bathroom 😉

Every room in pictures is gorgeous


Me too! Please tell us where those pants are from!


Hi Emily. Would love to see some photos of the skylights from outside. I love how they look inside, but sometimes I feel like they make exteriors/rooflines look weird. Can you possibly show us some exterior shots from Portland where the skylights are visible? That would be amazing!! Checking out Velux now.

Alexis Carrasquel

Yes, I was just going to ask for the same thing. I live in a one story and you would definitely see the from the outside. Can we see what they look like on the exterior?

the VELUX skylights actually have flat glass and a low-profile design so they are pretty flush with the roof! You can see what it looks like here:


I have a skylight in my bathroom and it always looks dirty from leaves and outside dirt sticking to it. Do you have any tips for dealing with that?


I think that’s definitely a downside of having large trees around the home. But just as you’d have to clear off dirt and debris from the roof for general maintenance to prevent problems, you’d have to clean the sky light up there manually – there’s just no way around it.


Oh man, I entered. This would be amazing, thank you for the opportunity. 🙂


I love you & I love skylights but grrrrrrr. Again, another giveaway only open to U.S residents.


I work in building material sales and 100% agree that Velux is the only skylight I would ever recommend! One caution on using in the bedroom is the noise factor. When it rains they are LOUD. I would be very interested to know if this was at all a concern with the Portland climate.


I live in an apartment building (NYC!) so this is unlikely to be something I’d ever worry about, but I’ve always been curious when people have skylights in their bedroom if it wakes them up/changes their sleep patterns, since it lets light in in the morning (I like to sleep in total darkness)? I imagine it’s hard to get shades for them?

Yes VELUX skylights can be ordered with room darkening blinds. The Portland home’s
master bedroom skylights have this type of blinds and I slept in there without any problem!
These skylights and the blinds can even be programmed to have the blinds close and open at
certain times, so you could wake up with sunlight if you wanted 🙂


We have a lot of Velux windows in the UK. I have 5 in my house. Yes you do hear rain if you have them in a bedroom but you get used to it, it’s nature! Blinds are available from Velux ( and copyists !) and are easy to retrofit. If you can reach them easily from inside , mine are very easy to clean from inside as they tilt right round. Otherwise you just make sure your window cleaning service uses those long reach brushes and water delivery systems.


I’m sure my landlord wouldn’t mind me doing a skylight install on my rental….right?

Julie S

Yes, they are a game changer! We have two in our kitchen (vaulted ceiling, north side of the house’s open plan living space) and it adds so much to that corner of things. I like to hear the rain on them too 🙂 I would LOVE a skylight in our master bath which also faces north, but that’s down the road a ways as it’s 80s ugly with a bizarre layout and needs a total renovation before we figure out which part of the ceiling to cut a hole in. I have had the chance to shower/primp in a bathroom with a skylight overhead and it is THE BEST. Here to agree if you can do it, do it!

Natalie Bodenhamer

Skylights are to me what unicorns are to my five year old. Want one SO bad!


Upstairs guest bathroom?!?
Have y’all been holding out on us?
I’d love to know more about that wall tile, please.

the upstairs guest bath is from the Portland Project 🙂

You can get all the info on the tiles in that post xx


Amazingly gorgeous giveaway, Emily and team! Maybe this question is covered somewhere and I’m not seeing it, but are vaulted ceilings required for the install of this specific Velux skylight? All examples show a high/close to roof skylight.


Yes, I am also unclear on whether the ceiling needs to already be vaulted or if the giveaway includes the work to vault them for installation of the skylight.

Nope you do not need to have a vaulted ceiling to have skylights. We spoke with Velux about this, and they said for flat ceilings, the
space between the skylights and the ceiling is enclosed by installing drywall/sheetrock on each
side of the skylight. It’s called a light well, and it directs the light into the room below. Here’s an
example of a flat ceiling installation:
light-from-skylights-brings-harmony-to-living-room-decor xx


Woo! Thanks for clearing that up.


I love skylights! I wanted to add a mention for “solar tube” type skylights. They are so great for smaller areas, like bathrooms, hallways, and closets. We added one to our last house in the master closet and it was magical! Getting ready to add them in our new house, in a hallway and kids bathroom that has no exterior wall. They’re not as big as a full skylight, but for their small size they let in a surprising amount of light. Plus installation is easy, and the tube can go through attic space, eliminating the need for raising ceilings. Not to take anything away from skylights, which are dreamy, but the tubes can be a great solution for people who think they can’t have a skylight!


I’m with Shalene. We have 4 Sola-Tubes in our house from a remodel 10 years ago — 1 in a tiny interior bathroom, 2 in the stair hall, 1 in a bedroom. They are game-changers!! Guests get confused in that bathroom when they can’t figure out where the switch is to turn “that light” off. The tubes can bend and still reflect light so you can even put them in interior rooms in a basement.

And I’m definitley pro-skylight, too! We have a (Velux) skylight in our kitchen (north side of the house, hidden behind the two-story part of our house). It would definitely be dark and dreary without our skylight, and I absolutely love watching the sky and trees through it, as well as watching the sun trace across our kitchen throughout the day.


I would love a design refresh for sure, but my house is just too small for skylights to make any sense without a total house renovation 🙁


What if we own a condo, but live on the second floor with a floor above? Can we only enter the giveaway if we can install a skylight? 🙁


Emily these photos are all gorgeous. So much inso and beauty. Can I please ask you where you got that stunning glass pendant over the stairwell? Thanks Emily… Elizabeth @elizabethbeardesigns


Awesome! Heads up that if your photos are named the same thing as someone else’s (like…Bathroom 1, for example) they won’t save and you’ll get an internal server error. So pop your name in those files names or something!


Thanks for giving us the chance to win the skylights! I love your work and follow you in the daily email. Your style has improved my own and I am grateful.


what a great articule ;)my opinion on


BEAUTIFUL Lighting! You are right on about the lighting as secret weapon, you should see the photo I painstakingly uploaded to this amazing opportunity with Velux. I had to crop it (which defeated the purpose of showing the entire space) and also only one was able to attach even though they were both under 2 mb. I have another photo I would have like to attach from the oppose angle of the room. I would be happy to submit, please advise. Also do they do greenhouse glass…that is another project we need to give attention to.


I just entered to win! Our bedroom is in the converted attic of our house, and it could definitely be improved with skylights – it’s always dark up there. Plus, Emily could turn it into a WAY less awkward space. It could be magical. Right now it’s just dreary. I dream of light, bright spaces with tons of natural light. I could even have a real PLANT up there!


I am SO entering this contest! I live in Minnesota and when I’m done commenting I’m going to head to our basement to wet vac some water that just started coming in. Evidently a lot of Minnesotans are dealing with this same issue since we had a lot of snow this winter and now rain. Anyway, we’ll most likely need to spend some money putting the basement back together and our *very small* master bathroom refresh will once again have to be pushed back. When I initially saw the post about the skylight in the bathroom at the Portland house I knew our bathroom would be the perfect place for one as well. However, I don’t think it’s in our budget, and unfortunately definitely not now that we’ll be dealing water damage to get to first.


It’s so interesting to me that your contractor, as well as several people in the comments, all say Velux is the brand that doesn’t leak! My husband is in scaffolding, and he makes a lot of money off of building scaffolding to provide access so that leaking skylights can be fixed or replaced – often over stairwells or in entryways of office buildings, some of them practically brand new. One particularly memorable one was in a multi-million dollar office building of a local engineering firm, where they installed a very cool steel staircase and had to crane it in through a hole in the roof, and they decided rather than covering the hole back up they would just make it a skylight to illuminate the new staircase. He had barely had the scaffolding used for install down for 6 months when he got a call to go put it back up because they needed to fix a leak. He’s adamant that no house he ever owns will have a skylight because they can be such a chronic and expensive problem. He always says it’s when, not if, a skylight starts to leak. Makes me wonder if a bunch of architects… Read more »

Hi Jessie, we asked VELUX about this and here’s what they shared: Proper installation is the key to weather tight skylights. The VELUX residential skylight installation method includes three layers of weather protection – the deck seal, all weather underlayment and VELUX engineered flashing. With all three installed correctly VELUX skylights won’t leak, a promise we back with a 10-year warranty on product and installation. Here’s a video showing each step of the installation:

Dorothy Lee

Emily, Love the skylights – thanks – May I bother you to ask where you got the windows for this house? I know you covered this in another blog awhile ago, but I didn’t write it down.


Just a unrelated suggestion on the email. You have got to reduce the size of the image. I have to scroll down a lot to get to the content. Also, sometimes it doesn’t render properly.

Noted! Working on potentially redesign/rethinking the daily email, so this is helpful feedback. Thanks!

Casey Sloate

OMG I’m so excited about this!!! I just tried to enter but it keeps saying “all fields required” even though I have filled all the fields. I’m just having a mini panic attack over here because I don’t think I’ve wanted something so bad in my whole life. Wasn’t sure if anyone else was having the same issue? xo

Roberta Davis

I have a townhome in the Seattle area. We renovated 11 years ago and put in 6 Velux skylights, 3 of which open, at the high point of the house. One is in the stairwell. Now we not only have great light, but the house cools down beautifully at night. We don’t even have air conditioning! I want to put another one in my master bath when we reno it soon- would love to win one! ? they have never leaked.


This room is amazing love the skylight


UMMM! As a “everything I’ve learned is from EHD” kind of gal this is basically giving me hope to a dream come true. My house is soooo dark and I’ve been dreaming of skylights. We have a sunroom off our living room and it makes it so the living room has no light of its own. Thank you for this opportunity. Already dreaming of what this space would/could be with your magical vision❤️

[…] в блоге […]


Ok. I entered. We are wrapping up a kitchen remodel and need skylights anyway. However, what I really want to say is, how can I possibly win when my kitchen isn’t done. Because it’s gonna be amazing.

Clearly we should reschedule the giveaway by like…ehh June? I need countertops and marble subway tile. Cabinets are in. Making a custom butcher block cutting board doohickie to go across from my Mongo 8 burner 1930s Wedgewood stove.

Yes, this is clearly a shameless attempt. I know. Blame it on those low VOC paint fumes.


Pant source please (so cute)….


We don’t have Velux skylights, but I did have Velux Solar Tubes installed in our master bedroom closet and our kids windowless bathroom. They are 14″ diameter tubes and actually let in a decent amount of light, working well in a small space. I have been pretty happy with them!

Stacy Hyatt

Wow, what timing! Just had quotes done with our roofer about potentially adding TWO very-much-needed skylights when we get our roof replaced early this summer, and my husband and I were pretty bummed to determine it just wasn’t in our budget because our stairwell and bonus room next to it are CAVERNS. There isn’t even a LIGHT above our stairs OR overhead in the bonus room, which makes no sense! >.< We moved into our new house in October 2018 and the winter has been so dark, plus the bonus room so cavernous, we've basically just thrown random furniture, kids toys, storage items, and bookshelves in there to get everything out of the way. I have such big dreams for that space — so much potential to be a dream kids space! But goodness, the darkness is such a bummer and with a new baby on the way, it's just gonna have to wait!


I love your blog, read it regularly, and have learned a lot from it. I swear I am not easily offended, but saying that choosing between windows and cabinets is like “Sophie’s Choice” is in extremely poor taste. As I’m sure you’ll recall, the choice that the movie’s title refers to is when the Nazis ask a Jewish woman to choose which of her children will be killed. I hope you’ll consider editing that out.


YASS plz. My house is so dark. NEED MORE LIGH newly divorce and letting all the ligh tin.


Yes. I have a ton of Velux skylights all over my house. They are magical.

Stella David

You did such an amazing job and this is actually an attainable solution for many people’s not-quite-right home. I preffer all thinngs for my Company…
( Rachit Company )


The velux skylights in my rented appartment are over 20 years old and still not leaking. Good durability, I can recommend them.


I’m from Las Vegas and my husband is from California (read: tons of sunshine) and we now live in Buffalo, NY — the third grayest city in America (behind Portland and Seattle). While Buffalo has it’s charms, the never-ending gray skies are painful. Windows were high on my must-have list while house hunting, but skylights would take it to a whole new level!

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