Bringing Natural Light Into Your Home: 6 Bright Ideas from a Residential Architect

Here in Chicago, we endure our famous, never-ending winters, and enjoy all of they sunny days we are fortunate to have set upon us. As fall approaches, we’re reminded yet again how important it is to bring the outdoors into your home, especially in terms of natural light. At Morgante Wilson Architects, devising unique ways to flood interior spaces with natural light is one of our specialties. Here are some of our most innovative ideas for welcoming natural light into your own home:

Create a courtyard.

One of the most exciting projects we’ve completed lately is a LEED-certified home in Glenview, Illinois. Not only is the building eco-friendly, its floor plan is designed around an interior courtyard that literally brings outdoor views – and light – into nearly every room in the house. Lounging in the family room, stretched out on the couch with a good book, is like living in a terrarium. Surrounded by glass, plants, and plenty of sunshine, it’s hard to distinguish indoors from out – which is precisely the point of our design. It’s like sitting in a snow globe as icy flakes drift gently downward, or being outdoors in a thunderstorm as the sky booms and the drops fall. Inside, though, things are warm, dry, and toasty, thanks to insulated glass.

Line your kitchen cabinets with windows.

Kitchen cabinets placed along an exterior wall offer an ideal – and unexpected – opportunity to usher light into your home. Instead of backing those cabinets with drywall, back them with glass. Glaze the cabinet doors, too, and you’ll essentially end up with kitchen cabinets that allow light to pour through those cabinets and into your kitchen. It’s a subtle, yet exciting treatment anyone can employ.

Place a ribbon of glass above your cabinets.

When you want to invite light into your kitchen, a window is probably going to be your first thought. But what do you do when privacy is an issue? Here you can see an ingenious solution: run a line of windows above your cabinets in the dead space edging your ceiling. This is a terrific way to gain light without sacrificing privacy.  

Place French doors throughout your home.

The French knew what they were doing when they developed windows that function as doors – fling them open wide, and the light pours in. (So does a uniquely European vibe of opening your living space to the hustle and bustle of the environment outside, like all those Parisian townhouses do. Or to the quiet of the Provencal countryside. But that’s another story.) French doors are appropriate to nearly every room in a house, from kitchen to dining room to library to bedroom. Their newest incarnation is something called NanaWalls, which are essentially removable walls. They recess into wall pockets to give the effect of a house without boundaries. They’re expensive, I’ll admit, but they’re very exciting new products and we’re thrilled to be working with them.

Skip the window mullions.

(Insert image from any project of large sheet of glass functioning as window without mullions.)

Simply put, a large sheet of glass brings in far more light – and more open views – than glass divided by mullions. While mullions can be charming, they don’t allow for the same sort of wide open feel a big expanse of glass does. Large sheets of glass can be tricky to incorporate into a house as they require some sophisticated engineering, so the services of a qualified professional are essential.

Skip the skylights, too.

Hugely popular in the 1970s and 1980s, skylights have become a rather dated means of bringing light indoors. We like to incorporate cupolas to bring in light from above, instead. Much more poetic than a skylight – and as charming from the outside as the inside – cupolas are like lanterns in the landscape. They’re more classic than trendy, which is always a plus in architectural design.

All of these are interesting, innovative, soul-pleasing ways to welcome natural light into your home. Most aren’t do-it-yourself projects, but are certainly worth keeping in mind as you design your dream home, or plan your renovation. For more bright ideas, give us a call!

Fred Wilson
Morgante-Wilson Architects
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Award-winning Morgante-Wilson Architects provides residential architectural services in Chicago, Evanston, Winnetka, Glencoe, Glenview, Highland Park, Kenilworth, Wilmette, Northbrook, Deerfield, Northfield, and Ravinia

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