Living Room Series: Natural Lighting

In one of my previous posts, I covered some aspects of artificial lighting in the home, so now it’s time to talk about natural lighting, i.e. windows! This may not seem like the most exciting element of decorating, but lately I have been realizing just how important windows are to the overall look and feel of a room. Once again, I’m going to focus on my living room as an example, but first of all, let’s consider the issue of windows a little more generally. Here are some important points to keep in mind:

·     Style. Pay attention to the overall design of your windows. Are they stark and modern-looking with clean lines? Or are they traditional with more elaborate molding? Is the glass separated into smaller panes divided by mullions, or do you have a picture window with a large single pane of glass? How do the windows open? And most importantly, does the existing style of the windows fit with your décor, or is it something you want to try and conceal through window treatments?

·     Size and Number.How large are your windows? Do you have several small windows or one large one? The size and number of windows will obviously be a huge factor in terms of how much light they let into the room.

·     Placement and View.Where are the windows located in the room? Are they symmetrically placed or off-center? And what do they look out onto? In other words, do your windows face onto a lovely view of your backyard, or even a picturesque vista of rolling hills? Or do they face right onto your neighbor’s house, in which case, perhaps you want to conceal the view while still letting in light by using sheer curtains. 

·     Direction of Light.This aspect is key—determine whether your windows are facing north, south, east, or west or some combination of those options. The direction that your windows face will have a huge impact on how the light in the room will appear during different times of the day. An east facing room may glow with warm light in the morning but have a much cooler softer cast in the afternoon.

Our living room, before we moved in. With no furniture or window treatments, you can clearly see the stark modern style of the window frame. You can also see how bland the room looked before we furnished it!

Our living room, before we moved in. With no furniture or window treatments, you can clearly see the stark modern style of the window frame. You can also see how bland the room looked before we furnished it!

Now to examine my window situation in light of these four elements (hehe, no pun intended)! Looking more closely at the living room, there are essentially two windows: one very large window (about 4 x 5 feet), centered on the far wall of the room and a sliding glass door (about 5 x 6 feet) leading out onto our patio. The large window faces west, and the patio door faces north, so the room gets some constant light as well as a strong glow of light in the evening. Fortunately, the view from both windows is not bad. The view from the sliding glass doors looks onto our patio (which gives us some extra motivation to keep it well maintained!), and the view from the large window looks out onto a row of pine trees at the end of the development, which makes for a nice screen of greenery (also getting to watch the sun set from that window is an added bonus, in my opinion!). 

Stylistically, however, I’m not crazy about them—and since we live in a condo, we aren’t allowed to alter the design. The window frame has a pretty modern and “minimalist” style; basically, the windows are framed in black metal, and the large picture window is divided into three vertical panes, with the black metal mullions between each pane of glass. The window is set into the wall with almost no decorative molding around it, except for a relatively plain sill along the bottom. 

A similar view of our living room, with window treatments and furniture. Doesn’t it make a HUGE difference?

A similar view of our living room, with window treatments and furniture. Doesn’t it make a HUGE difference?

Thank goodness for window treatments! One of the very first things I did when I moved in was to buy curtains and curtain hardware for all of the windows in the home, and it made a huge difference! The curtains soften the stark design of the windows and distract from the less attractive aspects of the frame. Because our living room ceilings are unusually tall and the windows are unusually large, I ended up needing to buy extra-long and extra-wide curtains for the window, and one super extra-wide curtain panel for the sliding glass doors. It’s not easy to find unusually sized curtains without having them custom-made which would be very expensive, but I managed to find them at Wayfair. They came in a pretty wide selection of colors, including a very neutral sage which coordinated perfectly with my living room color palette (sadly, they no longer carry the specific ones which I purchased). They are also black-out curtains, which is a plus, especially in the late afternoon when the light from the setting sun can be a little too strong. 

Lastly, I wanted to mention our modest window renovation project. When we moved in, most of our windows had some issues. As in most modern homes, our windows have double-pane glass, however the seal had broken on a lot of the panes so that the window appeared very foggy (see the “before” photo on the left below). In addition, one of the glass panes in an upstairs window was also badly cracked. We briefly looked into replacing all of the window units in our condo (both the frame and glass); the estimate for all that work was around $7,000. That was way beyond our budget at this time, however, we discovered that a local glass company could replace just the glass (leaving the original frame intact) for only $1,000. We decided to go for it, and we are so thrilled with the difference that it’s made (see the “after” photo on the right below showing the new glass)! Now instead of wanting to keep our curtains closed to hide the damaged panes of glass, we can fling the curtains wide open and let in all the beautiful natural light! 

Living room Double-Pane Window with the Seal Broken, Before We replaced the Glass.

Living room Double-Pane Window with the Seal Broken, Before We replaced the Glass.

The Same Window, After the Glass was Replaced. Finally, we have a Clear View!

The Same Window, After the Glass was Replaced. Finally, we have a Clear View!