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The Design Edit | Natural Lighting

Talk to any Interior designer and they will say that the single most important element of a successful interior is lighting. Designers always seem to talk about lighting, and natural lighting in particular. And it seems a lot of people are somewhat confused by all this. I get plenty of questions from clients asking me to explain what I mean by natural lighting.

I have been sitting on this topic for a while now, and it is something that always pops up on my Q&A sessions on Instagram. Before I proceed I would like to make it clear that natural lighting differs from country to country and I am coming from an angle specific to the UK and some parts of the Northern Hemisphere.

Image by Camylla Battani, styel and form interior design blog
Image by Camylla Battani

Here in the UK, we usually associate North and South facing with gardens. Estate agents usually pick up on this when making a sales pitch, because a South facing garden is very desirable, I mean who does not want copious amounts of sun in the garden during the summer.

But for as a designer, for me it is all about the natural lighting in the rooms. It is pretty easy to find out which direction your room is. Just take a compass, stand in the middle of the room and look to see which direction the main window comes in at and that is the direction in which the room is facing.

Image: English Blinds - Faux Wood Style and form interior design blog
Image By English Blinds - Faux Wood

South facing rooms are some of the best rooms to design and work with. There is plenty of natural light coming through south facing windows throughout the year. As we move into the winter months, light does get slightly darker but south facing still is lighter than north facing. These rooms can take darker colours and do not require a complex layered artificial lighting plan.

North facing rooms are darker throughout the year and can get particularly dark in the winter. A north facing window will get natural sunlight through, just not as intensely as south facing. Because of this these rooms are slightly difficult to design with, but light colours and carefully designed artificial lighting plans will solve the problem. These rooms are also naturally cosy and intimate.

Image By Sven Brandsma, Style and form interior design blog
Image By Sven Brandsma

We then have east and west facing rooms which are slightly different than the other two. With these rooms, natural lighting changes throughout the day, as the sun moves across from the east to the west.

East facing rooms generally have a high natural light quotient in the mornings and tend to shade over after noon. Natural light will still come through in the afternoon and evening but again not as intensely. These rooms require the same design process as north facing rooms.

A light to mid range colour palette will be perfect for these spaces. Darker colours can be used but it will need to a careful application, as too much of it will really darken the natural light in the room. Especially during the winter months when the days are already shorter.

West facing rooms are as desirable as south facing rooms. Natural light comes flooding in after noon and remains there until sunset. The mornings are slightly shaded over but natural light remains until late hours of the day, especially during the summer months as the days are longer. Again like with South facing rooms, darker colours will work wonders and the rooms will not feel dark and closed in. Light colours can also be used to really max out on the natural light quotient.

Image By Minh Pham

These are the four main factors which affect the flow of natural light into a room. Other factors such as how open or built up the surrounding area is also affects natural light. But these are the main one that I look for when starting to design a room. Once I have gauged the direction of natural light, the design process naturally becomes easier and it allows me to create a lighting plan and colour palette best suited to get the most out of the natural light coming in.

In the next installment of this series we will be looking into north facing rooms here in the UK, and how design them and pick the perfect colour palette. Got a question about natural light? Drop me a message or check out my design assistance package for more in depth help and advice.


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