Catching the Light
Disclaimer – I am not a scientist, medical doctor, or psychologist. But I know intrinsically that light is incredibly essential to my well-being in so many ways. At the most basic level, it allows me to physically see. It lifts and stabilizes my mood, supports my productivity, and boosts my drive to be social, and to take care of my mind, body and spirit.
As much as I complain about the early sunsets brought on by daylight savings time, I gratefully awoke this morning to glorious sunshine. According to Stanford Professor
Dr. Andrew Huberman (one of my favorite podcasters), bombarding oneself with as much light as possible first thing in the morning has been scientifically proven to boost productivity and well-being. https://youtu.be/nm1TxQj9IsQ.
I’ve known for some time that I experience seasonal changes first through the reduction of daylight. According to one online source, day length starts to shorten in June - from an average of 15 hours, 21 minutes - until it reaches an average low of 9 hours, 0 minutes in December. According to the Farmers’ Almanac, “… the shortest day of the year, in terms of daylight, is December 21, the winter solstice. But the days will actually begin to feel a bit longer two weeks before the solstice. That's because the earliest sunset of the year happens before the solstice, and in 2022, it occurs on Wednesday, December 7”. https://www.farmersalmanac.com/days-will-feel-longer-from-here-on-out-16565#:~:text=After%20all%2C%20the%20shortest%20day, occurs%20on%20Wednesday%2C%20December%207. This supports my internal sense that from mid-June until we “spring ahead” the following March, managing light is a constant adjustment. And I don’t’ suffer with seasonal affect disorder, like so many of you do.
What does this have to do with Interior Design? Short answer: EVERYTHING!
According to the IIDA (International Interior Design Association), “Interior Design is defined at the professional and comprehensive practice of creating an interior environment that addresses, protects, and responds to human need(s). It is the art, science, and business planning of …….interior solution that corresponds to the architecture of a space, while incorporating…………. a mandate for well-being, safety, and health." https://iida.org/about/what-is-interior-design.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “The average American spends 93% of their life indoors. 87% of their life is inside buildings, then another 6% of their life is in automobiles. That's only 7% of your entire life outdoors. That's only one half of one day per week outdoors”.
If we are spending an average 93% of our time indoors, how can the design of our spaces NOT affect and contribute to our well-being? Interior design has been my passion for the past 20 plus years. It is a complex, art and science-based field that basically supports life. We live in built environments. And, consciously or not, by intention or lack of it, we create them.
This time of year, I start thinking about ways to maximize light in my interior spaces. I am privileged to winter in Arizona. But even in that sun-soaked desert, maximizing light is an intentional choice. When I embarked on my search for a winter home, I viewed several charming and remarkably inexpensive places. I ultimately chose a lovely place with 9-1/2-foot-high ceilings, upper transom windows and skylights. I paid a bit more for it, but I know that psychological advantages of the additional light will far outweigh the cost.
I’m in Minnesota for five more weeks. You can bet that I will be chasing the light for every minute of every day I’m here. I office in my dining room. Sitting in front of a 3-wide window isn’t ideal for Zoom meetings, but the southern exposure and large expanse of glass keeps me awake and engaged. As the daylight wanes, I try to “stay ahead of the curve”. I ramp up the indoor light as the day progresses. Starting around 3 PM, I turn on floor and table lamps, and my kitchen undercabinet and front porch lights. I bring out my warm (in color as well as insulative value) winter bedding, and cozy colorful rugs. In Minnesota, I get outside and walk until the wind chill triumphs. In Arizona, daily walks are non-negotiable. My multi-colored porch string lights are lit all year long.
How do you chase the light? I encourage you to be your own Interior Designer – to implement small to large changes in your built environments that will maximize light.
You might add lamps and light filtering window treatments. You can change over to warm
LED lightbulbs (3000 Kelvin is the “sweet spot”), and add warm interior décor and accessories – red, coral, orange and yellow dishtowels, rugs and pillows. These small things may sound trivial, but for me, they are essential elements that affect how I live from moment to moment when daylight is at a premium.
Wishing you have a BRIGHT and LIGHT winter!