Baby It’s Dark Outside: 5 Ways To Maximize Light Now & Year-Round

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You call feel the negative effects of lower quality light during standard time. Even in a residence with glass window walls, you can feel the negative effects of lower quality light during standard time. (Image: Jessica Lagrange Interiors)

It’s that time of the year again: thanks to the shift back to standard time, we have way less daylight—not to mention the onslaught of colder temperatures. The upside—it’s lighter when we rise—pales in comparison to living with less light. Research shows that light works wonders for our bodies, souls and homes.

And as interior designers, we know that both natural and manmade light have such a powerful effect in our homes that both should be maximized year-round. With that in mind, here are our five best tips on how to do so (and a reminder to download the JLI Lighting Guide for full-fledged advice).

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Images: YSL, Dear Drew

1. Let the sunshine in: Trade out heavy window treatments for translucent options that afford privacy but don’t block out natural light. Our favorite options are custom sheers with a touch of shimmer, all the better to turn plain rays of sun into luminous light swells, but they’re an investment. Instead, try this strategy first using ready-made options such as Light Filtering Cellular Shades from; Solar Shades that come in a range of densities at The Shade Store; or Seamless Sheers in a range of fabrics and five different types of pleats (Single, Pinch, Parisian, X and Modern) at Smith & Noble.

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Mirrors can increase the quantity and quality of light in a room. (Image: Jessica Lagrange Interiors)

2. Mirrors mirrors on the wall: Use them alone, in pairs or to literally “paper” an entire wall. Next to a window, a mirror will mimic that window and look and act like a second one in the room. Opposite a window, it will reflect light and the window’s views. But our favorite strategy is to layer a flat mirror in a fabulous frame on top of a mirrored panel, or hang it opposite that panel to create a never-ending reflection.


Like mirrors, a reflective surface magnifies light. It can also “raise” the ceiling visually, which makes a room feel loftier and brighter. (Image: SR Gambrel).

3. Get reflective: Mirrors are a mere subset of an entire light-boosting decorative genre—namely reflective surfaces. So if mirrors aren’t your thing or there’s not enough wall space in a room, focus on shine. It comes in iterations that range from semi-gloss or glossy paint, shiny tiles or gleaming wall treatments to glass or metal surfaces that can bounce light around and make it look more plentiful in a room where windows are limited.

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Do as the Danes do and make the mood in your home warm and mellow with candles. Images: Broste Copenhagen

4. Paint the place light: This is elementary color science: Dark hues absorb light and light hues reflect it, but all colors except pure white absorb some wavelengths. So the closer you get to pure white, the more light the hue will reflect. But most whites are not pure. There are hundreds of different “whites” (seriously, we counted 157 versions by Benjamin Moore alone); they all have different undertones; and sunlight changes the way color is perceived in a room throughout the day. So it’s important to take the undertones of a hue and the quality of light in a room into account before painting it a light color. To avoid mistakes, we recommend getting large color swatches, setting them down by in various parts of a room and looking at them periodically throughout the day for a week before choosing a hue.


A light color on the ceiling will brighten, lighten and lift the height of a room while it reflects and increases light. Add a touch of shine to heighten these effects even further. (Image: SR Gambrel).

5. Raise the ceiling: When it’s not possible to paint walls, focus on the ceiling. Go lighter (keeping the advice above in mind) or add some shine with glossy finishes or mirrors (see # 3 above). White is often the default color of choice for ceilings because it visually brightens, lightens and lifts a space as it reflects light. But many light hues or even wall treatments can achieve the same effect, and as mentioned earlier, finishes count. If pure white is too plain, choose a color that is lighter than a room’s walls or get glamorous and paper a ceiling with silver or gold tea paper à la Sister Parish.

16 Nov 2018

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