Building more light into your home

Saturday June 15, 2002

Windows and skylights cover your home’s perimeter, each room sports a high ceiling, the walls and floor coverings are all pleasingly light-colored — yet you’re still wondering how you can work more natural light into your home. 

Consider the design of your stairs. Heavy staircases covered with a dark wood or carpet will dim a room before you can say “lights out.” Stairs tend to block light, making it difficult to travel unimpeded across an entire room. 

An open staircase might be the solution. Even an angled or curved staircase, which would normally absorb any natural light, can become a room’s beacon when the vertical slats are absent because this condition allows backlighting and sidelighting from the surrounding windows. 

The stairs pictured here lead straight up from a two-story room to a loft overlook. The area is so bright that the sole artificial light comes from a few well-placed recessed fixtures. Slim rails in a light-colored wood placed relatively far apart enhance the effect, as does a monochromatic color scheme. The stairs leading to the basement echo the stairs running between the main and upper floors. A nearly full wall of glass behind the stairs illuminates the area and creates an interesting play of light and shadow, which would be impossible without an open staircase. The bare walls show off the geometric shadows, eliminating the need for other wall decorations and thereby opening the space even more. (Photo/Mark Englund) 


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