Natural House Lighting From Only One Side

#5 of 10 Home Design Mistakes

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Having all of your natural house lighting coming from only one window is the inside effect of large blank walls, although other design issues can cause this problem. Every room which people will actually use should have light from at least two sides.

This is pattern 159 “Light on Two Sides of Every Room” in Christopher Alexander’s “A Pattern Language”. A room with one window has a steep light gradient. There are places that are very dark and places that are very light. The wall around the window becomes lost in shadow as the glare of the window overwhelms those areas only indirectly lit. 

Pattern 159 - House Lighting from only Direction
A far too common sight. Rooms unnecessarily kept in the dark.

Light from two sources means fewer dark places and more reflections providing secondary light. Even if one of the windows is small it can still smooth out the shadows.

Socially light from one direction makes it difficult to comprehend the subtlety of people’s expressions. It inhibits communication. Given a choice most people prefer a room with multiple sources of light, so that those rooms with only one window are shunned. People naturally vote with their feet for light from multiple angles. In these rooms they are more comfortable and more comfortable to be around.

House lighting is something that all architects should understand, but evidently it is either not universally taught, or it is well-down the list of priorities. In too many situations it seems that the light gets compromised right out of the house.

So what do you do if you are in a situation where you cannot add a window? Lightly colored walls will help, but I also recommend a good-sized mirror along a side wall, and perhaps one on the back wall. You can certainly overdo the mirror thing, but it will provide a lot of secondary lighting and reduce the heavy shadows.

However the best option is to add a window. It is not an easy task, and you may want the advice of an architect, but it will greatly improve the livability of your room.

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