In the dark? 5 ways to get more light into your home

Architects Laura Jane Clark and Robert Jamison from Your Home Made Perfect have shared their neat architectural tricks to turn gloomy rooms into happy, light-filled spaces.

Not everyone is blessed with a home that benefits from south-facing rooms that are flooded with natural light. Yet there are clever ways to draw light into your home, which will completely transform the space you live in.  

The good news is there are ways to do it without too much upheaval – and no extension needed – as architects Laura Jane Clark and Robert Jamison reveal. 

light filled kitchen with side window and sliding doorsCredit: Searle & Taylor Kitchens
Large sliding doors and a side window allow light to flood into this kitchen from different sides, capturing sunlight as it passes over the house

Dark rooms are brought into the light

On a recent repeat episode of Your Home Made Perfect, which aired on September 20, we met a couple living in a 1970s home that just wasn’t working for them.

One of the main drawbacks was the lack of light downstairs. A south-facing, light-filled entrance hallway was housing a drab circulation space that tried to cater for too many things; while at the back of the house, the disjointed living rooms and kitchen were resigned to the north-facing side. The result? A ground floor that suffered from dark rooms with no connection. Yet the floorplan had potential.  

Clark and Jamison were entrusted with coming up with a design each, to encourage more natural light into the home while also creating a cohesive space that functioned for everyone in the family.  

Both designs focused on ways to do it, and both opted for an open-plan layout to dissolve the walls that stood in the way of natural light flowing freely around the ground floor. Here’s what they suggested… 


1. Add a window to an otherwise blank wall

Introducing a new window opening can transform a space

In both designs, the architects suggested adding more or bigger windows to the space at the back, on the north-facing side of the house.  

Downstairs, at the back of the house, there was no window on the west-facing side, which missed a trick in capturing the warmth of west-facing light. Jamison tackled this problem head on and introduced a new window. This had a dramatic effect on how much light came in.  

Understanding the path of the sun around your house is key,” said Jamison, whose virtual reality plan showed how the light would travel over the house throughout the day. Even though the window was opposite another building, a dappled light would shine deep into the kitchen as the day went on. As the light would be coming in from the west, he explained:In the afternoon a very warm light [would filter in] as the sun sets.”  

Check planning rules 

Adding a new window may require planning permission, so its always worth checking with your local planning officer before any work begins.  

2. Introduce a curvaceous light well

Clever design tricks can add form and function

Jamison wanted to encourage high-level light to flow down into the ground floor, without fitting roof lights or roof windows. Instead, he added a light well (or light scoop) above the newly positioned window to catch the sun’s path as it passed over and around the house.  

How did he do it? He cleverly pinched 1m (39in) in height and 1.5m (59in) in width from a storage room situated directly above the window, on the first floor. And though it sacrificed space in the room above, the design demonstrated how much lighter the ground floor space would become if it was installed. It channeled directional light from above and provided a view up and out, too. 

The light well wasn’t rectangular in shape – Jamison introduced a curved organic form [casting] soft shadows” to aid aesthetics. The cost to do something similar in your own home was quoted at around £3,000. 

Jamison’s tip for adding depth of colour 

The kitchen and decor of Jamison’s design was predominantly white, but this acted as a blank canvas: White can be used as a background that other colours can be reflected on to. For example, if you paint the inside of the light scoop a colour, the light would reflect it,” he said. 

As west-facing light is warm and has depth, painting the inside of the light well orange or yellow, for example, would reflect the soft glow cast, adding colour and tone to the pools of light coming in.

Laura Jane Clark Your Home Made PerfectCredit: BBC
Architect Laura Jane Clark shares top tips on the show Your Home Made Perfect

3. Add skylights to a flat roof

Go skywards with skylights

Clark looked at tackling the north-facing end of the house and worked on the principles of light in her design. She explained how light from the north is flat but clear, so even on dreary days, light will filter in and bounce around a space.  

She embraced an open-plan layout and took this a step further by opening up the ceiling to the sky as well. The virtual design showed a row of skylights slotted into the flat roof that already existed at the back of the house, which showed how shards of light would filter down into the new space.  

The couple chose Clark’s design in the end, and opted for a horizontal rectangular skylight above the kitchen area and two square skylights that pooled light into what otherwise would have been rather gloomy corners. Cleverly-designed artificial lighting in the way of spotlights and pendant lighting added a layer of light and warmth to the newly configured, open-plan space.    

Deep window frame creates seat along bottom edgeCredit: Make My Blinds
A deep window reveal can create the opportunity for a comfy window seat

4. Incorporate a picture window with a seat

Deep window reveals can create a window seat

Clark incorporated a picture window with a seat into the snug area of her design. Picture windows tend to be slightly wider and higher than standard windows.  

Introducing deep timber reveals (the frame around the top, bottom and side in which a window sits) turned what could have been a standard window into a window seat with views out onto the garden beyond. The frameless glazing created a better connection to the garden and attributed to the increased levels of natural light bathing the space, too.


Window seat design 

The style of window seat Clark designed for the home on the show was a modern take on a traditional window seat. The timber reveals were the star of the show, and there was no window dressing, such as cushions to sit on. It was left clean and clear. The bottom edge of the reveal was wide enough to be the seat. 

More traditional window seat designs are synonymous with period homes as far back as the 1700s – think a bench-like seat set into a beautiful bay window. The seat is built into the recess of the bay but is usually deeper than the frame, jutting out to form a seat that tends to double up as storage. It’s then dressed with cushion pads and cushions to create a cosy nook to reside in. 

According to Christopher Scott Cabinetry, the ideal window seat should measure  “at least 32in (81cm) wide, to sit facing forward comfortably. If you intend to snuggle up on the window seat or extend your legs along the width of the bench, make sure you’ve got room for at least 48in (122cm) of bench width.” They recommend the depth of the seat should, ideally, be 16in (41cm).

kitchen with side window and large sliding doorsCredit: Searle & Taylor Kitchens
Sliding doors paired with a side window will encourage light to flood into an open-plan kitchen

5. Pick sliding doors for an unobstructed view

Opting for large sliding doors creates better sightlines

Interestingly, Clark did choose bifold doors in her virtual design, but the homeowners opted for sliding doors. The set of three panes were large and measured nearly the entire width of the back wall, essentially creating a glass wall.   

If you have a large-ish aperture like the homeowners in this episode, then sliding doors are a good option. The frames are less bulky than those you get on bifold doors, which can hinder the view. Sliding doors don’t concertina but slide over the top of each other, so even when open you have uninterrupted views out onto the garden, which in this case is what the homeowners wanted.  

Want to watch the whole episode? Catch Your Home Made Perfect on iPlayer and search for Series one, episode two

Michelle Guy

Written by Michelle Guy she/her


With an editorial career spanning more than 20 years, Michelle Guy has spent time working on educational magazines and websites as well as being a freelance copy editor for companies like BT, until her career pivoted, and she moved into and embraced the world of homes and interiors.  

Working on magazines and websites including Homebuilding & Renovating, Real Homes and Period Living, Michelle honed her skills writing about all things renovation, extension and self-build. From interviewing homeowners to writing buyer’s guides, from sharing advice about kitchen renovations and extensions to design ideas for bathrooms, Michelle has written about a whole range of home improvement projects for discerning home improvers and keen DIYers alike. 

Michelle, and her partner, renovated an Edwardian terrace from top to bottom, and learnt a lot about what not to do when renovating a period home. Moving to a newer build, having dealt with the delights a period property can throw up, and armed with her ever-growing knowledge, they have since completed another kitchen and bathroom renovation, as well as a myriad of other home reno projects, including installing new garages doors, an EV charger, air conditioning, external doors and decorating. 

Even when she has a bit of down time, Michelle’s love of renovation creeps in! She loves browsing sites like RightMove, clicking on houses for sale in need of renovation. She admits to bypassing the photos and immediately zooming in on the floorplans to see how the house could be rejigged – knocking down walls; extending out or up… the dream of buying a house to do up that she doesn’t live in is very much on her bucket list. Other than that, you’ll find her either on a tennis court, having recently taken up the sport, or nose-deep in a riveting read, cuppa in hand.