Next to air and water, light is the most powerful ally to the human mind and body. Natural sunlight is the source of power that moves the wind, waves and Earth itself. Sunlight provides heat and energy to keep the delicate balance of all living things in check.
We are the beneficiaries of the life and movement of the Earth.
Our individual circadian rhythms are set to this 24-hour clock,
ordering a time for everything required for a balanced, healthful
life: a time to eat, to sleep, to work, to play, to study, to exercise,
to socialize, to pray, to love and be loved, and to strive to reach
our fullest potentials. If every day were that perfect, how wonderful
life would be.
Yet there are days that are less than perfect, when things go wrong;
when fear, anger, hurt, disappointment, miscommunication or exhaustion
mar the outlook, deplete the soul and lower the body’s immunity
to disease. At times like these, there is a need for healing and
rejuvenation. One effective way healing takes place is through exposure
to natural sunlight. A few minutes of stress-free basking, working
or exercising in the sun can do wonders for one’s attitude.
The milder the climate, the longer we can stay outdoors to soak
up Vitamin D, enhance the immune system and increase the determination
to treat others more kindly.
As technological advances have complicated our lives and kept us
indoors at the computer workstation or in front of the television
and away from nature, more homeowners have turned to expansive windows
to encourage sunlight to penetrate their residences, thus reclaiming
some of the nature missing in the lives of so many people.
While some clients desire privacy at home, others, particularly
the younger generation, want all the light and view possible. These
clients want access to their world, to connect with it and to incorporate
the outdoors into their interior spaces, expanding the living space
and feeling the mental and emotional freedom that untreated windows
seem to offer.
Interestingly, just as exposure to too many hours of sunlight puts
us as risk of dangers such as skin cancer, too much light in the
interior has negative consequences. For furnishings, heat and ultraviolet
(UV) rays combine to cause irreparable damage as sunlight permanently
fades colors and dries furnishings, splitting wood and weakening
• Glare: For the user, glare—excessive luminance in
the field of vision—can also be a problem. Glare, so often
combined with heat, causes fatigue, irritation, headaches and a
general feeling of malaise. And even though glare is relatively
simple to control through quality window film and wisely selected
window coverings, about half of the interiors featured in consumer
shelter magazines have no window treatments whatsoever. This lack
of light control works against the person who desires view, but
also those who experience problems with heat, UV damage and glare.
• Convection Air Loop: The flip side of this dilemma
is, where there is a lack of window coverings there are some opposite
but equally serious problems, especially during the nighttime.
A window that gains too much heat in the day will allow too much
heat to escape at night. The glass becomes cold and uncomfortable.
Downdrafts result from the natural convection air movement. This
is where warm air rises, meets the ceiling, then travels laterally
toward the glass where it is cooled via contact with cold glass,
then drops to the floor and moves along until it meets a warmer
wall where the air heats and rises again. This also can be avoided
through textile window coverings that keep the convection air loop
from reaching the glass.
• Fearsome Darkness: Additionally, the view that might
be relished by day becomes a dark, foreboding void at night. Even
with exterior landscape lighting, an interior well lighted at night
becomes vulnerable as do the people inside. This is a nightmare
no thinking person invites, yet many do just that. No window treatments
means a home and its occupants are decidedly “at risk.”
Privacy window treatments should not allow any view indoors, even
pinholes whereby a potential intruder could gather information.
Remember, we see toward the light. Interiors lit at night are surprisingly
clear to view from outside.
The insecurity in not knowing who might be out there is a terrible
price to pay for the “clean look” of no window treatments
during the day.
• Light Control: Blinds, shades, shutters, draperies
and window film are the tools we use to diminish glare, to control
light and to eliminate the dreaded ultraviolet and heat damage.
Window coverings that filter direct sunshine and allow a glow of
light are successful at screening UV rays. Where better sleep is
enhanced through room-darkening treatments, light control is a must.
There are other reasons to control light: to elevate mood and encourage
good mental and physical health.
• Rejuvenation: Window coverings that diffuse and screen
excessive glare allow the healthful aspects of sunlight for the
occupants. Light still enters the eyes and stimulates the production
of mood elevating body chemistry, but without the negative consequences.
Treatments that allow the user to manipulate the exact amount of
light are even more desirable. They provide not only light control,
but also a sense of “being in control”—something
many people sense they lack in their complex contemporary lives.
• Treating the Winter Blues: Treatments that give daytime
and nighttime privacy while still allowing light to enter are especially
helpful to encourage the entry of natural sunlight. During winter,
in locations where that season is cold and daytime light is shortened,
sheer materials during the day will allow a maximum of natural sunlight
and still ensure daytime privacy. This helps in treating the condition
known as Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of winter
depression experienced because too little light causes an imbalance
in the hypothalamus. For this segment of the population, warm, light
colors on the walls and in furnishings will augment limited natural
light and will help treat depression.
• Summer Control: In the summer, and in climates with
year-round high temperatures, heat and glare can cause a different
kind of discomfort in the glare problems accompanied by heat build-up.
Insulating treatments such as fabric shades or draperies with pockets
of air between the layers will keep interiors cooler in the summer.
Bamboo shades and woven woods also diminish light and filter excessive
brightness. These have an added advantage of being natural and environmentally
friendly materials. Bamboo is one of the most sustainable materials
on Earth. Its rapid growth and proliferation make it a highly renewable
Shutters and blinds that control the amount of light that enter
the room are especially useful. Window film also decreases heat
gain while eliminating nearly 100 percent of the glare. Draperies
are also insulating, particularly if they are lined, and are beneficial
both summer and winter.
One of the trends for 2005 and 2006 is a visual and tactile softening
of interiors. This trend serves the need many feel to heal and rejuvenate,
to feel safer and become physically, mentally and emotionally healthier.
After the attack on America and its war involvement, many people
want to recover and to mend emotionally. There is a consensus desire
for optimism and for safety.
With 2006 color names to watch for such as Fresh, Smiley, Sweet
and Bliss, America is hopeful for an emotional recovery. At the
same time, blues have darkened and brightened; and warm, browned
greens have proliferated, partly in honor of our military war heroes.
Textures and colors can augment softness.
Light control has much to do with creating this desirable healing-spa
effect in today’s interiors. There are times when a wide opened
window treatment is glorious as sunlight and view lift the spirit.
Other times, screened and diffused light is warm and glowing. Directed
light can produce shafts of brightness dramatically contrasted with
shadow that is handsome and stimulating. Customers who have these
options and understand how to use them to their benefit will be
happier in their interiors. And happy, satisfied customers are very
good for business.
Karla J. Nielson, Allied ASID, WCAA, is assistant professor of
design at Brigham Young University. She is a practicing interior designer
and has authored several books including Window Treatments and Understanding
Fabrics. Nielson is a regular correspondent for Draperies & Window
Coverings addressing the areas of fashion, education and merchandising.