Lighten Up – House Proud, Sun Media

I recently asked for ideas for my House Proud newspaper column and reader and commenter Allan came up with a few.  My Editor is a tough cookie – which is what I love and respect about her – and she is picky about offering something new and fresh in her publication.  But one of Allan’s ideas made the cut!  So read on for what I did with it.  It was published in this weekend’s Homes Extra in Sun Media. Thanks Allan! 

It seems to happen overnight, and even though it’s an annual event, it’s somehow still a shock to the system. One morning in late summer you wake up at the usual time and it’s not light out anymore. We Canadians are well acquainted with the change of seasons, but it doesn’t make the darkness of fall any more pleasant to acknowledge.

Designers have bags full of tricks for making your surroundings appear brighter even if Mother Nature has hit the dimmer switch.

Effective use of room lighting is an obvious place to start. Recessed or pot lighting can improve the overall effect, while lamps light up bleak corners.

Our post-war-era home has so many dark pockets I seriously considered putting on a mining helmet while searching for something to wear in the depths of my closet. However, a couple of inexpensive battery-operated lights installed in there have helped.

Next, make the most of natural light. Interior Designer Mary Bannett of Just the Thing in Toronto says window coverings can zap a lot of light out of a space. “Keep the drapes to the side to maximize the amount of natural light that enters a room.”

French doors, sliding glass doors and entry doors with window panes are helpful for letting in the sunshine. There are scads of designs and types for every budget.

Colour and design expert Margarida Oliveira, of Oakville’s Chic Decor, suggests using reflective accessories. “Mirrored, metal, crystal and glazed candlesticks, bowls and … anything, really … will bounce light. You can really go hog-wild depending on how much or how little light you want. Put a glass or mirrored-finish table in the room, and that will reflect more light, too. If you capitalize on these types of items, you’ll need sunglasses in no time.”

Mary Bannett agrees that mirrors are also a great way to toss light around a room.

“A mirror opposite a window or behind a chandelier or lamp will be most effective in multiplying the light that enters the room.”

Lighter wall colours can assist in maximizing light. Oliveira has had great success in lightening north-facing rooms, dark hallways and stairways by decorating the spaces with yellow walls — but she cautions that it has to be the “right” yellow.

“It can be difficult to choose a shade from a tiny chip — before you know it, you have lemon walls. People can get yellow wrong more than any other colour. This is why I advocate hiring someone experienced with colour to help with the selection.”

The yellow she’s talking about is “creamier and augments light all year round. In a dark stairway, this shade can make it look like you’ve left a light on.”

Besides the shade of paint you choose, Bannett also suggests paying attention to its finish. “Using paint with a gloss finish, even as little as an eggshell sheen instead of flat, will reflect light off the walls.”

And don’t forget about the floors. Carpets absorb light, while shiny floors reflect it. If you remove a carpet, consider replacing it with something that has a nice sheen. A little buff and polish on an old, worn and dull hardwood floor could make a world of difference in the brightness of the room.

The possibilities for bringing in the light are as limitless as your imagination, budget and tolerance for renovations. There are more drastic options, such as installing skylights and larger windows, but my vote goes to shopping for a few shiny accessories and perhaps putting up some fresh paint. And if my walls turn out looking like lemons, I know just who to call.