I'm obsessed with light. How it affects our mood and can make a room seem warm and cozy or elegantly dramatic or brightly invigorating. It's the first thing I think about when designing a space -- does the room need to be livened up, toned down, made to appear larger than it is?
All of these things can be accomplished with the smart use of light. And not just the light that comes from the sun and electrical fixtures, but also with paints, fabrics, and textures. Getting these elements right is the first step in creating a welcoming space, whether designing a whole home or just sprucing up one room.
Of course, the entryway is the natural place to start setting the mood. It's a great space to use super-saturated hues or colors that may be too overwhelming for larger spaces. Painting -- or papering -- the entry in a dark color creates a kind of womb-like space that draws you toward the main room, making it seem bigger and lighter. Lacquers and high-gloss paints help reflect and multiply light -- something to consider for walls as well as furniture.
Consider using one color throughout the home and playing with the tone of it in various rooms. Pick from the same color family -- or same page in a paint color fan deck -- and use the lightest in the main room, a darker shade in the hallway, and then the very darkest, or color-drenched, in the foyer or entryway. This creates a harmonious space with a natural flow from room to room, one that draws you into the main rooms.
Naturally, windows have a big effect on the brightness of a room. And clever window covers can help set the room's mood by controlling the quantity and quality of sun. Sheers will maximize lightness while open weave fabrics will add texture as light passes through them. Adding films to windows, particularly in small spaces like bathrooms and closets, creates a nicely filtered softness.
Lastly, consider the sources of electric light in the room. Take the edge off the harshness provided by using only overhead fixtures, or by adding other light sources to the room -- table lamps, wall sconces, a hanging light (such as a pendant or chandelier), floor lamps, and even uplighting, which is so nice for highlighting art and plants and creating drama in a room.
Using a mixture of all of these will even out dark shadows, add a soft hue to rooms, and, most importantly, provide a complimentary, and even forgiving, light for faces. Dimmers can provide additional control.
Changing out lampshades is a quick and easy way to manipulate the mood. Options include parchment, which provides a soft glow, and fabrics, which will impart various intensities and hues of light based on their color and thickness. Natural colored shades are generally the best at providing the most flattering light.
All in all, the manipulation of light, through the use of paints, fabrics, and lighting, should always be one of the first considerations when designing a room or a home.