Here’s one of those interesting but useless facts. Over 300 years ago in England, the reigning King William III brought in a tax on windows. The bigger the building, the more windows it needed and therefore the more revenue there was to be generated. He quite literally taxed light and air. Hence the term, ‘daylight robbery’. As a way of dodging this tax, people blocked up various windows in their homes that they felt they could just about do without in order to pay lower taxes. There are still many buildings from this era with blocked-up windows.
It’s hard to imagine our government getting away with this today. (Although at the rate things are going, never say never). But with winter’s short days and dark evenings, the more windows we have the better, especially when you consider the fact that double and triple glazing can keep the warmth in rather than let it seep out. Light affects our moods and our personalities and is therefore one of the many things that people need to think about when renovating their homes with the intention of bringing the outside in.
So, how do you do it? How does one bring the outside in? Here are some ideas on how to achieve it.
Internal sun rooms: I came across this form of sun room in a project undertaken by architects Dermot McCabe and Orla Murphy of Westport- and Galway-based Simon J Kelly + Partners Architects (www.skj.ie). Dermot and Orla quite literally introduced a court yard into the middle of a long narrow relatively dark, single-story house. The outside space which was created in the middle of the house brought light into the living area at the front as well as into the kitchen at the rear of the property, while at the same time giving a quirky design feature to the overall property. Genius!
Roof windows: Hardly innovative, but nonetheless never ceases to surprise me at just how much light they can bring into a room. If you’ve got an internal room with no windows in it whatsoever, try to keep the roof windows as close to this area as you can in order to distribute the light as evenly as possible. This avoids overloading of sunlight in one area of the house and instead disperses it so that a large space benefits from it.
Patios: When building patios onto your house, deck them out so that they are level with the inside. When patio doors are opened, being able to step directly onto the wood, rather than step down to it, will create a flow from outside to inside giving the feeling that the back garden is an extension of your home rather than a separate space altogether.
Window dressing: If you’re not being overlooked, then you can get away with nothing at all on your windows, which is the optimum choice when looking for clean open spaces with as little clutter as possible. If some sort of covering is needed, then opt for something that’s as inconspicuous as possible but still provides you the privacy you need. Blinds are best suited to areas where privacy is needed in order to allow for maximum light penetration during the day while also giving coverage at night.
Plants: Such a simple way to bring the outside in, is to quite literally do just that. Filling your house with plants isn’t just good for the soul, but is a cheap and cheerful way to balance the interiors of your house with the exterior. Try not to go too mad on it though, or you’ll feel like you’re living in a jungle.