Let the Light In: 9 Home Improvement Projects That Infuse Your Space with Natural Light

Brian Hogan
Feb 20, 2021 8:30:00 AM

February may be the shortest month of the year, but here in the Midwest, it often feels like the longest: temps are still subarctic, snow remains piled high, and overcast skies are the norm. 

But even if sunlight is relatively scarce, the days have been growing longer, bit by bit, for the past two months. And finally, the first day of spring really is right around the corner.

Snow covered ground and trees with a starburst of sun peeking just above the horizon

Brighter days draw you out of hibernation, boost your energy levels, and flood your body with feel-good hormones like serotonin, so why not bring as much natural light into your home as possible? 

Here are nine home improvement projects — from simple to structural — that help you do just that: 

Quick and Easy Fixes

There are two basic ways to increase the amount of natural light in any space: find a way to let more light in, or amplify the light that’s already there. As luck would have it, three of the most effective ways of doing either also happen to be pretty quick and easy: 

1. Keep your windows clean 

It’s a chore that no one covets, but it’s one that should be done at least once a year if you want to maximize the amount of natural light in your home. Plainly put, clean windows let more light in than dirty windows. 

Wash your windows inside and out, including storms and screens, at the start of every spring. If possible, wash them on an overcast day to achieve maximum shine with minimal streaking.    

2. Lighten your window treatments

Window treatments may provide privacy and help define the look of your space, but if they’re too heavy, they also block natural light. Not to worry; there are plenty of light-filtering window treatments that offer privacy without darkening your rooms.  

Sheer cotton or light-colored linen panels are a simple way to achieve relative privacy without sacrificing natural light. Light-filtering cellular fabric shades are another great option, especially if you choose the kind that opens from both ends: lower them half-way down for a bright, airy room that’s still completely private to the outside world.

Install a layer of thicker, heavier panels over light-filtering window treatments in the bedroom, family room, or any other space where privacy and darkness are important at night.  

3. Hang mirrors strategically 

It may be a simple strategy, but that doesn’t make it any less effective — mirrors reflect and amplify light, so hanging them in places where they’ll reflect the most light can make a space feel brighter and bigger.

Try putting a mirror on a wall that’s adjacent to a bright window to catch the light and bounce it back into the room. Mirrors can also work wonders in dark corners or at the end of a long hall. 

Cosmetic Improvements

Some light-enhancing home improvement projects require a little more planning and work, but their results make them well worth the effort. You may be able to tackle these projects on your own if you’ve got the time, inclination, and skill, but don’t be afraid to ask for help from a pro if you need it.  

Modern open floor plan living room spanning into kitchen with a monochromatic tonal white-gray color scheme with natural wood beams in the ceiling and accents of metal and black with a pop of blue.

4. Brighten your interior walls 

While there’s nothing wrong with dark hues and cozy spaces, lighter interior wall colors are the only way to go when you’re aiming to amplify natural light. Simply put, the right wall color can make a room feel brighter and bigger; the wrong color, on the other hand, can make a space feel drab and compact.    

Pure white has a light reflectance value (LRV) of 100%, meaning it reflects back all of a room’s natural light; with an LRV of 0%, matte black is on the opposite end of the spectrum. 

White walls and ceilings may make for the brightest interior spaces, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle for a sterile environment — instead, go for tonal whites that carry a subtle hint of color, and use vibrant furnishings, artwork, and accents to infuse your space with color.    

5. Install shiny, reflective tiling  

When it comes to reflecting and dispersing natural light, glass or high-gloss ceramic tiling can be just as effective as a mirror. Create a gleaming kitchen backsplash with glass tiles, white subway ceramic tiles, or shiny metallic tiles; make your bathroom feel brighter with a reflective “feature wall” of glossy tiling. 

6. Paint your eaves white

Did you know that your home’s eaves, or the area of overhang created by your roof, can affect the brightness of the interior spaces they extend over? If an eave’s underside is dark, it can have a dimming effect near exterior windows; if it’s light, it can have a brightening effect.    

Painting eaves white is a simple yet highly effective way to increase the amount of natural light that enters your home. And no need to worry about curb appeal if the rest of your house is a different color; since they’re angled toward your house, eaves are barely visible from the street.   

Pro Renovation Projects

Significant remodeling projects or structural changes aren’t always feasible, but when they’re in the budget and they make sense, they’re almost always the right way to go. And when it comes to increasing the amount of natural light in your home, nothing beats new windows.  

Does this mean you should replace all your windows? Maybe, but not necessarily. From total window upgrades and new skylights to reconfigured entryway doors, you have endless options.

7. Upgrade your windows

Full-frame window replacement, or the total replacement of a window and its supporting frame, is a labor-intensive project that can transform your home inside and out.  

When upgrading your windows, you don’t necessarily have to stick with the same window size; it’s often possible to expand existing openings and install bigger, brighter windows. You may even be able to add new windows where they didn’t previously exist. 

Replacing old windows may be costly, but new windows come with a wide range of benefits, including easier maintenance, improved energy efficiency, and a high return on investment (ROI) — you can expect to recoup about 70% of your upfront cost in added market value.   

8. Install skylights

Also known as “windows of the roof,” skylights are a lovely way to draw more natural light into a space, especially during the winter when the sun is at a lower angle and there are fewer hours of daylight.  

Skylights tend to be brighter than regular windows because they’re less likely to be shadowed or obscured; they also offer a straight path of entry for sunlight as it reflects off of clouds. 

In addition to infusing a space with natural light and energy-efficient warmth, skylights can function as a major design feature. Still, it’s important to harness their potential wisely — in the wrong space, a skylight can make a room feel uncomfortably bright and overly warm. 

9. Brighten your front door

A solid front door may be traditional, but it can also make your entryway feel too dark. Luckily, there are several ways to remedy this problem. If you have a wooden door, it may be possible to simply add a glass insert (think frosted or stained art glass, not plain glass).  

You can also add vertical windows (also known as sidelights) along either side of your door or an arch window that spans the top. Some homeowners swap their solid front door for one with window panels, while others expand the opening to accommodate two windowed French doors.

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