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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.