Living in a dark house can be mood altering

  • Skylights add dimension to this narrow and potentially dark bathroom.

    Skylights add dimension to this narrow and potentially dark bathroom. Courtesy of Velux USA

By Christine Brun
Posted5/18/2014 12:01 AM

Your mood is decidedly affected by natural light. Though we are hurdling toward summer, those living in parts of the nation that see little sun are familiar with seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD.

Folks from the Northwest understand exactly what I'm talking about -- from October to April, the sun can stay hidden for weeks at a time. When you live in a house that is dark, due to a lack of windows or shady orientation, you might feel the ill effects of too little light all of the time. There are changes to improve your enjoyment of your home and reduce SAD.


We can use artificial light in our homes to perk up our mood. One of the first treatment standards for SAD is phototherapy, where a patient sits in front of a specialized light box. The classic incandescent light bulb was intended to be most like sunlight. With the changes in light bulbs, you might make an effort to use full spectrum light bulbs that best mimic natural daylight. Expect to pay a little more for these, but they can produce better quality light.

Another simple homeowner remedy is to trim back overhanging trees and bushes at your windows so that available light is able to stream into your home. Also, wash your windows often. In addition to the emotional response to natural and artificial light, you can use light to create an improved impression of space.

Light creates the illusion of space, even when it is limited. A long, dark hallway can be dramatically changed by the introduction of a series of wall washers. The arcs of light that roll along the wall create pattern and expand space. Artificial light allows you to choose from a very narrow cone of light to a wide cone that floods a wall or the floor.

Other ways to create dimension are by using light valances or concealed light ropes. This was extremely popular in the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1980s, skylights became the rage and most also included some type of hidden lights that illuminated the area well in the evening hours.

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Besides artificial light, remember your selection of window and door types determine how natural light will flood a room. In some areas of the nation, local building codes control the number of windows that one can use; energy calculations take into account air conditioning and heating usage. For example, in Southern California energy use is high when the sun-drenched landscape generates huge demand for air conditioning in the hotter months. Architects are not allowed to plan windows without governance regarding the overall energy usage.

Still, certain lot orientations or architectural details might demand more creative methods of introducing natural light on the interior. Consider skylights, as shown in this narrow and potentially dark bathroom.

Another extremely popular devise is the solar tube. The Velux Sun Tunnel uses a rigid tunnel that can adapt to use as it perforates a pitched or flat rooftop.

The tube captures daylight and delivers a relatively inexpensive skylight alternative. These tubes are widely used in hallways of older homes, laundry rooms and bathrooms. Because of their relatively small diameter on the ceiling, they are a good solution in tight, small areas and perfect for remodels. These petite skylights fit almost anywhere.


Finally, avoid bulky draperies or valances that succeed in blocking the light. While heavy window treatments are traditional in frigid countries like Sweden or Norway, and in the eastern U.S., they also block sunlight.

Traditionally, fine draperies are made with a felt lining as well as a cotton lining sewn to the back of the decorative fabric. Today, there are multiple options that block cold and heat without also preventing sunlight from entering your room.

• Christine Brun is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at

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