Using Light to Brighten Decor and Add Dimension to Rooms
Natural light streaming in the windows of your Bed and Breakfast or Inn can be your greatest remodeling tool. Who knew interior design involved the sunshine! Sunshine can literally take your Inn from drab to fabulous with a few added touches. This marvelous gift from nature can be used to light up dark spaces, warm up chilly rooms, cheer up the breakfast table in the morning, and provide an overall sense of spaciousness.
There are many benefits that both you and your guests can not only enjoy, but enhance your overall health. Natural sunlight is known to enhance mood and make a person feel energized. This is the reason individuals who spend long winters where there is little direct sunlight with short daytime hours begin to suffer from a form of depression. The sun is also a great source of vitamin D.
Other health benefits actually come from indoor plants. Plants are not only pleasing used as decor, they are a great reason to open the curtains and bring in the light. Plants use the carbon dioxide we breathe for respiration and release healthy oxygen. In turn, plants absorb many toxins in our environment.
Natural light should become part of your decor. Add a splash here, and a splash there to create an inviting ambiance. You don’t want to seat a guest at breakfast with a sunbeam right in their eyes. However, a bright sunny breakfast room or sunny porch is invigorating when served with coffee!
You can create the illusion of different room sizes, and work with problem area of your Inn just by changing heavy drapes and top treatments to lightweight scarf valances and swags, that will light up a small room, changing the feel of the room.
Working with Natural Light
I will discuss how we can use natural light, well-placed artificial lighting, and a few decor adjustments, to create bright open spaces for your guests to enjoy.
1. Identify Your Rooms that Benefit from Light
Take a couple of hours out of your day to walk through your business, and try to identify those areas where the ambiance would improve with added light. Allow yourself time to really soak up the room, and observe these following elements of the room (I suggest having a notebook to write down your answers)
- Where does the natural light come from?
- Explain the natural light quality or amount of light in the room (ex. filtered light, bright light in morning only, hazy…)
- How large is the room?
- How much furniture is in the room, what is the style and size of furniture? (ex. large overstuffed easy chair, coffee table, canopy bed…)
- How is the room decorated? (ex. sparingly with a few well-placed decor matching room, needs mirrors…)
- Is there additional artificial lighting in the room? (we will discuss light layering)
- If artificial lighting is used, how many hours each day? (this will help determine if more natural light might help)
- Where is artificial light placed, and what is the quality of the fixtures, and type of light (Incandescent, LED, CFL)
2. Window Plan and Action
Now that you have identified areas in your business that would benefit from extra light, it’s time to do something about it!
Start with easiest and cheapest option
- Replace dark, old, or heavy window treatments.
- Will you need to have blinds that can be pulled to block out mid-afternoon sun on hot days, or a room darkening curtain that can be pulled down at night on extremely cold days?
- Overall the goal is to have the ability to maximize the natural light into the room, whatever that means for a particular room. Consider adding a lightweight valance or swag swapped out for heavy dark top treatments. If you can not remove heavier drapes, consider adding a sheer under the drape, to allow the drape to be pulled back during the day.
On to the Window
Once you have maximized window treatment improvements, the next step is to examine windows. Are the windows beyond repair, small, old or detracting from the decor? Purchasing windows can be a huge investment, but note I emphasize “investment”.
You should also determine the exposure of the window and your year-round weather. This will impact the brand and type of window you may choose for the area. Enlist a window consultant to help you with these big decisions.
Upgrading windows can pay off in big dividends:
- Replace a smaller window with a larger brighter window. New windows come with less frame and more glass and insulation. This will bring a room to life by letting maximum light in a room.
- Remove old, poorly functioning patio sliding doors with new french doors. French doors can light up an entire room, and make a room beautiful, bright, and functional.
- Take out an old solid oak front door, and change it out for a new natural stained wood and leaded glass front door. A new door will let in loads of light, and greet your guests with the sunshine instead of a dim foyer.
- As pictured, working creatively with glass blocks and windows can create light and privacy within a reasonable budget. It also gives an older space an updated look and feel.
- There are many styles of bay windows, that can replace a flat pane window. Again, your budget will dictate what you can do to maximize your window space.
3. Furniture and Decor
How happy are you with the furniture and decor of your rooms?
If you answer was an unequivocal “No”, there may be more you can do than toss it to the curb.
- First, you need to ask yourself, “what is it about this decor that is unappealing, or makes the room dark?”
- Second, is this decor salvageable, or has it truly seen it’s better days and is in need of replacement?
- Finally, does your furniture meet your goals for your room? Does it get the job done? Sometimes it is like trying to fit the square peg into the round hole.
Don’t despair, there are solutions for some decor quandaries, including dark, dated, and older pieces of furniture. There are times an older piece can be paired with one or two newer modern pieces of furniture and this can give the room an entirely new look.
Dark furniture and decor can be manipulated in a room that is designed well and still contributes to a beautiful, bright, and inviting gathering area. All that is needed is a light background and the correct amount of natural and artificial lighting. Notice the picture below, the dark furniture fits well and the room has an open and airy feel.
However, furniture and decor that looks old, scuffed, dusty, used, and uninviting will detract from a room, no matter how much light you put on it. Unfortunately, many antiques are lumped into this category, instead of spending the money to refurbish them properly. For antiquities to work, they must be in excellent condition and add to the beauty of a room. Likewise, decorating with distressed furniture requires care as it can be overdone. One or two pieces of distressed furniture per room can look classy but more than that can give a room the feeling you have shopped at the local junkyard.
Dark furniture must be in good repair and of good quality. The surrounding decor should be light and bright and enhance the dark furniture. Layer light around your furniture to brighten it and showcase it. If the dark furniture is leather, ensure that you condition it to prevent cracking and give it luster. Glass and chrome decor will brighten the look of dark furniture when placed in conjunction with it.
4. Artificial Light
Yes, life would not be complete without the lightbulb!
Today, we have so many options to choose from when picking out lighting that we don’t have to opt for the impersonal glare of the old yellow incandescent bulb. You also do not have to break the bank. This is an area you can let your imagination run wild. Think about layering your artificial lighting so that it does not feel… well…. so artificial.
Consider indirect ceiling light that provides an overall ambient glow and warmth in the room. This gives the room a romantic and peaceful feel, inviting guests to relax. Indirect ceiling light can also be supplemented with mid or low-level lighting and comes with energy efficient fixtures. Direct ceiling light should be strategically placed, with the use of recessed lighting, in areas of the room where more light is required for larger tasks such as eating, dressing, reading, bathing, etc., and can be independently adjusted from the indirect lighting. This can add a lot of lighting to a room and is energy efficient to operate, resulting in real cost savings.
Mid-level and low-level lighting can actually add to the decor and can be fun and functional to work with. You can consider wall sconce light fixtures and decorative table lamps.
Click on the Picture: See more LED Decor Light Options.
There are also interesting built-in stair lights that can add functional light and decor and will create a real “wow” factor to your room. Build in decor and lighting to “kill two birds with one stone”. Using timers for lighting in common areas will save you time going around turning lights on. Proper lighting is the difference between common areas saying, “Come on in and relax or go away, nothing inviting here.” Lighted stairways not only look fashionable, they also provide a huge safety factor for nighttime use.