6 ways to bring light into your home
By Ballast Point managing director Mat Wilk and architect Peter Maxwell
In Sydney’s inner-west, many houses were built during the Victorian era, when architectural design was a lot different than it is today. They often had small windows and the bedrooms were at the rear of the home, which blocked your living space. The modern aesthetic has changed. In Victorian times, steel was expensive and the technology for large windows didn’t exist. Wealthy people often had a conservatory – a glass-covered room attached to the side or the rear of a house to bring light into a room. These days, people like to have a bigger space and be able to see the garden from their kitchen, for example. We evolved outside; it’s something that’s programmed into us. At Ballast Point, we believe bringing light into a home to create that outdoors feeling inside is extremely important. Here are six ways you can do it.
- Internal courtyard
On narrow blocks in particular – of which there are many in the inner west – incorporating a courtyard in the middle of the house can be a great way to increase natural light. They also allow for cross ventilation. You can place doors facing each other leading out. They are great if you have a busy floorplan and you’re building boundary to boundary, enabling you to build more densely.
A light well by definition is a well designed to allow light into the inner rooms of a building. A staircase, for example, spreads across two levels, so it can function as a light well. Our recent development in Llewellyn St, Balmain is a great example of this. We also incorporated perforated aluminium balustrades to further enhance the natural light flow.
- Doors and windows
Large windows and floor-to-ceiling glass doors are a fantastic way to bring light into your home. Sliding stacking doors are my personal favourite. In the property we developed at 20 North St, Balmain, the doors stack behind louvres that can be left open when the house is locked to increase air flow. When designing doors and windows, it’s important to have seamless thresholds and even frames. You don’t want chunky frames; you want it to feel like it was meant to be there. It’s worth recruiting the best window installer you can find, in my opinion. The choice of windows and how they open is also important, and the door track has to be aligned. You should be able to keep doors open when it rains without worrying about water getting in. If done well, large glass doors can connect the indoors area to the garden or courtyard, making the feeling of space much bigger than it actually is. Subtle thresholds to glazing can take this idea further, by making the line between inside and outside nearly imperceptible.
Having an opening in a roof or ceiling, fitted with glass or other such translucent material to admit natural daylight, is another great strategy. They are a regular feature in the homes we build and renovate.
Sometimes you can use plants to filter light. They soften the experience of being indoors and can make you feel like you’re outside. People respond well to greenery. Plants can totally change the mood and feel of a place. The environmental impact of having the right tree in a courtyard can be incredible, they can make the whole house feel more comfortable.
If you use them right, mirrors can be a magical way of making a space feel twice as big and bouncing light around a room. In the house we developed in Llewellyn St, Balmain, a full-width mirror at the end of pantry made you feel like there was another house in there.