Dining room with open doors natural light

Yes to Natural Light

Yes to Natural Light

Welcome to Second Nature, a Q+A series with Jute founder, Ali Davin, that explores all things healthy living, with a fond emphasis on that thing she does best—interior design.

The Scandinavian concept of Hygge has been all the rage for awhile. Who doesn’t love feeling cozy, comfy, and content? But Hygge is more than a cup of tea and a thick blanket. It’s part of a greater design movement that embraces simplicity, function, and connection to the natural world.

There is purpose behind that classic Nordic combination of lighter colors. The key to surviving a long, dark winter—and feeling good year-round—is maximizing natural light.


Why is it important to have natural light in your home?

Natural light improves the quality of your life. From a health perspective, it helps regulate your Vitamin D levels—and basically all people in industrialized nations are deficient in Vitamin D—which impacts your immune system, weight, and brain function. It can help with Seasonal Affect Disorder and depression. It causes less eye strain. Natural light can even prevent mold and mildew growth.


Does light affect the aesthetics of a space?

Absolutely, yes. It’s the most important thing for me as a designer. I design spaces to maximize light, and it reflects and changes from room to room based on the exposures. Clients I work with have to be open to repurposing space, like moving a bedroom to where it’s dark or moving your kitchen to where it’s brighter.


How do you enhance natural light in a space?

Basically, we determine where the best light is and work backwards. You want living and entertaining areas in brighter spots, like the south and east, and bedrooms in darker areas like the north and west, because you don’t want light when you’re sleeping. There’s a lot of thinking outside of the box—if there are codes and we can’t add windows where we want them, we’ll use skylights instead. Or we’ll engineer a space to be a great room so we don’t have to put up walls.


Can you maximize light without a full renovation?

Painting is a quick way to refresh a space. You can get samples and throw them up on the wall to see where the light is reflecting. Universal whites like Benjamin Moore White Dove make a space feel neutral, warm, and light. They look good no matter what the exposure. I prefer tones that have a neutral warm base.


What about furniture and linens?

Unlined linen panels on the windows allow light to come in, but filter it in a warm, bright way. I always use natural fibers, and on upholstery, they absorb light rather than reflect it, which is a good thing because it brings warmth to your space. You want the light to reflect off the windows and floors and bounce through a space without getting stuck on stuff and clutter.


How does artificial lighting factor in?

My philosophy is that lighting is done well when it’s sparse. It should complement what nature is doing versus you having to rely on it. I use table lamps, floor lamps, sconces, maybe a chandelier—any type of warmer light that’s shielded with a shade or cover. Think of how the sun diffuses light and gives you a glow; that’s the type of lighting you want in your home. I tend to not rely on recessed lighting.


Are there any other benefits to designing a space this way?

Yes, the lighter your space, the bigger it looks. And in winter especially, the more natural light you have, the lower your energy bill will be. Natural light is good for the health of your family, your home, and the planet.


Think of your space as a blank slate and rearrange it to maximize light.

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