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How to introduce light into a cave

bbstx
2 days ago

I looked at a condo in a beautiful mid-rise building this past week that was pretty close to what I’m wanting. It was small but not tiny (2000+ SF), 2 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms. The location is great; less than 15 minutes from DD. It is a tiny bit overpriced, but not ridiculous.


However, it is a cave! The LR is 21 x 35. It has 2 tiny windows in it. The MBR is 21 x 21 and has one tiny window in it. The guest room is generously sized but only one window. The DR has no windows nor does the kitchen. No windows in the kitchen does not bother me. I expect that. No windows in the DR was not great but not awful either. DR is the only room with a ceiling fixture. All of the walls are already painted white.


It does not help that immediately outside each window is a HUGE tree.


All of the things that you can do in your house to increase light (trim the trees, enlarge the windows, etc) cannot be done here.


Have you seen or used any tips to increase the feeling of light in a home? Am I trying to turn this place into something it is not and never can be?

Comments (36)

  • nutsaboutplants
    2 days ago

    Skylights, maybe? I too would find dark vast rooms hard to tolerate. Are all the houses in that share this type of build? is there a possibility of finding something more to your liking in that location?

    bbstx thanked nutsaboutplants
  • Bunny
    2 days ago

    Obviously you care about light (and the lack thereof) or you wouldn't have posted this thread. I care terribly about light, natural light. I don't know if any of the other positives about a place as dark as this would ever make up for the lack of light. I'm a light-seeker.

    bbstx thanked Bunny
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  • bbstx
    Original Author
    2 days ago
    last modified: 2 days ago

    Nuts, it is a mid-rise condo. There cannot be any modifications made that would impact the envelope of the building. I have been looking at individual houses in the area, but the thought of being free of all exterior and grounds maintenance is very appealing.

    Bunny, I don’t know that I care as much about natural light as just LIGHT. I’m not sure I differentiate. I guess I could close all my shutters for a day or so and see how it feels with just lamps and ceiling lights. 😆

    Candice Olsen used to have Chico retro-fit can lights everywhere. I have no idea if that would be a possibility here or, if it were a possibility, if it would feel right.

    The windows in my house are plentiful and large. They start about knee high on me and go up farther than I can reach. The windows in the condo were neither large, nor plentiful.


    All I’m trying to do now is make sure that I haven’t overlooked a solution to the problem.

  • Jinx
    2 days ago

    Only you know if you’d be ok with primarily lamps and ceiling lights … I couldn’t do it. It would feel so claustrophobic, I think. I just love windows too much, not only the light, but seeing outside. Not feeling cooped up. I could happily live in a Phillip Johnson house. (Ok, maybe not that extreme …)

    But again, it might not bother you. It might feel cozy.

    Oh, no, not Candice lights! Her rooms always looked like glittery jewelry stores to me. :D

    What time did you view it? Maybe try some different times of day to see what it’s like? Ask a resident there if you could stay a few days? :D

    One bonus: save on utility bills!

    Are these the only condos in the area? What about renting a house/condo/townhouse to get a feel for the area?

    bbstx thanked Jinx
  • lyfia
    2 days ago

    Adding lights will make it appear brighter - although not sure if they would allow you to do can lights, but it won't mimic natural light in the same sense so testing out how you feel about it would be worth it. Maybe look at other condos that do have more windows and see how it compares as well even if not in the area or price range you want, but just to get the feel. I personally like natural light a lot. Not having it in the bedrooms wouldn't bother me though as I mainly sleep in there. However in the main living areas it would be a deal breaker. Could also be the orientation of the windows making the light conditions even worse. Do they face north, northeast, or northwest? That would make for even lower light. Are there other units with a different orientation or other condos nearby or is this the only option?

    bbstx thanked lyfia
  • graywings123
    2 days ago

    My first real estate purchase was a tiny condo in Chicago. It faced north. It had a wall of windows, but seldom any direct light into them. The one take-away from that apartment was to look at the direction the unit faces before buying.


    That said, there is a lot you can do with lamps, and I am a huge fan of them - table lamps, torchiere lamps, spot lights, string lights, and more. There is no reason for a room to ever be dark if you don't want it to be. I am also fond of lamps on timers. I have 5 timers set in my house to automatically turn on lights.

    bbstx thanked graywings123
  • Olychick
    2 days ago

    You can also do amazing things to reflect light and windows with large mirrors. I haven't been able to find a pic, but I remember seeing someone installed glass doors (freestanding not into the wall - or maybe it was an interior wall??) with ricepaper covering the glass and then backlit so it looked light light coming from the outside - or if it was an interior room, it looked like that room had great, bright light glowing through the rice paper - or it could be privacy film. In searching, this came up and she has some good ideas: https://stylebyemilyhenderson.com/blog/make-dark-room-brighter

    bbstx thanked Olychick
  • Olychick
    2 days ago
    last modified: 2 days ago

    Sorry, can't edit to add this pic. This is from the above site and kind of what I remember. If this was added to an adjoining room and backlit, it would give the illusion of light coming from the outdoors and help with any claustrophobia, I'd think.


    bbstx thanked Olychick
  • Lars
    2 days ago
    last modified: 2 days ago

    Exactly how tiny are the windows?

    I've lived in several railroad flats in San Francisco that only had significant windows in the front and back, but they did have large bay windows at the front. Usually only one long side of the flat would have windows, and these would be inches from the adjacent building.

    I've sort of forgotten what it was like, since recently I've had large picture windows or double patio doors that are all glass. Currently I get too much light, and I have to keep all the California shutters closed in the living room to be able to watch TV.

    I'm perfectly find with dark living rooms. In L.A., we have LED cable lighting with about nine lights going across the room. You can see some of them here:


    I like these because I can focus on various art pieces/objects in the room, and so those get lit very well, and the lights are very easy to adjust and control. Originally, the room had halogen cable lights, but those were too hot, and so I replaced the entire system with LED - it had a defective transformer anyway, and so it needed to be replaced. As it turned out, the previous owners had installed it incorrectly, which is why it was defective.

    I do not consider 2000 sq ft to be small - both of my houses are around 1540 sq ft, and they do not seem small to me, but then I've lived in much smaller places. My house in Venice was 900 sq ft - that was small! Fortunately it had a nice garage that was carpeted, and so I could use that as additional space - for workout equipment and storage.

    Does the condo building have nice grounds (maintained by others, of course) where you can stroll or walk around whenever? Does it have an outdoor pool? If there are opportunities for you to get outside easily, then I think it would be okay. If it is in a concrete jungle, then that is a different matter.

    Color temperature is important when you do not have a lot of natural light, and this is somewhat of a personal choice. The last office where I worked was huge, but it had no windows and had fluorescent lights, which are horrible. They bothered me so much that I had to leave the building at lunch and get some natural light. Fortunately I was able to go home for lunch and have that in the pergola in my back yard.

    Water features are nice to have, and they can have lights in them as well. Placing mirrors strategically will also help.

    bbstx thanked Lars
  • morz8 - Washington Coast
    2 days ago

    You are old enough to have an independent DD. I think you would know by now if you are especially sensitive to natural light. I am, and couldn't live in the condo you describe. DH and I are both open window people too, we're a little claustrophobic sleeping in a room without an operational window (year around) - although it doesn't necessarily have to have a view. There may be ways to make it a warm and inviting home, without seeing it I would hate to venture a guess as to if it would meet your expectations as you describe them. Your motives, the location, are somehow tempting you...

    bbstx thanked morz8 - Washington Coast
  • bbstx
    Original Author
    2 days ago

    There are no other condos of this sort (mid-rise) in the area I want to live in. I just happened to find this one on a fluke. It is in a very desirable section of town that is pretty much built out. I noticed the building as I was driving the grands to school. There were no signs, but I looked it up on Zillow anyway. The listing had been live for less than an hour!


    The LR and MBR in this unit face south. The guest room window is on the west side, as is the MBath window.


    DH and I lived in a downtown condo once that had 13-14 foot ceilings (they marketed it as a loft, but it was a ground-up new-build). There were nearly floor to ceiling, almost wall to wall windows in the LR, DR, and MBR. It faced west. I absolutely loved it except early in the morning when the rising sun would hit the mirrored buildings downtown and reflect into our condo! The rest of the day it was glorious!


    I hadn’t thought of mirrors.


    One old real estate listing of another unit in the building showed the DR painted black. I guess they decided to embrace what they could not change.

  • Annie Deighnaugh
    2 days ago

    For me, it would be a hard pass as I need lots of natural light, esp in the winter, to keep my depression at bay. Artificial light can be helpful, but it's not the same.

    bbstx thanked Annie Deighnaugh
  • Tina Marie
    2 days ago

    Not to be negative, but I have to agree with Bunny. I love natural light! Our windows are open from the time we (I) get up. We use our sunroom as a den/sitting room. We love all the light! Not only do I love natural light, but I want to see the outdoors. The small windows would be a big turnoff for me. I am sure you can lighten the place up with lamps, lighting, etc. but it just wouldn't cut it for me.


    I'm so sorry you are having such a hard time finding a place!

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  • bbstx
    Original Author
    2 days ago


    These are the two windows in the LR. The shutters don’t help. However, while the real estate agent and I were there, I opened the shutters and folded them back again the wall to allow as much light as possible into the room. I was there at 10 a.m.


    Lars, the building, although built in 1992, is very classic. It has beautiful, well-maintained grounds. And the surrounding neighborhood would be great for walking. I didn’t pay attention to whether or not it had a pool. DD has a pool and her house is only 15 minutes away. One of the biggest issues I’ve had with house hunting is almost every house within a reasonable radius of DD has a pool. I could have bought the house that backed up to my sister. It’s biggest negative was that it had a pool.

  • bbstx
    Original Author
    2 days ago
    last modified: 2 days ago

    Tina, you are very kind to worry about my having difficulty finding a place. I have a house I like. I have the resources to travel back and forth to visit DD and Sister frequently, so I have set very high standards. If I don’t love it, I don’t have to move. This condo was perfect for what I want (I even briefly considered keeping my house and buying the condo as a pied-a-terre) but the condo itself wasn’t perfect. I’m just trying to make sure I’m not passing up an opportunity becasue I am short-sighted and unimaginative about bringing light into the space.

  • Tina Marie
    2 days ago

    Oh I did not mean to sound like I was pitying you! I understand your situation and just wish you could find the perfect place for you near your daughter and grandchildren! If natural light is not a high priority for you - go for it! I would guess you would have a high resale value. I would guess that (hopefully) the real estate market will settle down at some point and maybe then there will be more available. I'm sure it will all work out.

    bbstx thanked Tina Marie
  • Annie Deighnaugh
    2 days ago

    If you are looking for how to add light to a room, look at Candice Olson's work. She always used lots of light fixtures and lighting at multiple levels to make even windowless rooms like this one sparkle.



    bbstx thanked Annie Deighnaugh
  • bbstx
    Original Author
    2 days ago

    Tina, I didn’t take it as pity and I hope I didn’t sound ”huffy” in my response.


    Annie, Candice could put some light in a room! I look at that picture and wonder how I’d feel living in it 24/7. Would the unrelenting artificial light drive me nuts?


    If it is still on the market when I go next time, maybe I’ll make an appointment to see it in the afternoon.

  • bpath
    2 days ago

    For me it isn’t just about the light, but the feeling of not being hemmed in by four walls. Windows with a view of whatever is outdoors make me feel connected. I need to know ”what’s going on out there”, which is why I like my front-facing kitchens.

    bbstx thanked bpath
  • carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b
    2 days ago

    I agree that large mirrors can help reflect light from the windows into the rooms.

    And there are natural light lightbulbs that mimic sunlight.




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  • mtnrdredux_gw
    2 days ago

    Agree with Bunny; you can ameliorate light, but looking out of windows is also very important, no?

    bbstx thanked mtnrdredux_gw
  • Annie Deighnaugh
    2 days ago

    bbstx, yes do that. When I travelled a lot on business, I stayed in hotel rooms that had various orientations, and the direction it faced made a huge difference in how I felt, especially in the morning. East and South facing rooms were so welcoming in the morning while north and west facing rooms were less so.

    bbstx thanked Annie Deighnaugh
  • Allison0704
    2 days ago
    last modified: 2 days ago

    For me it isn’t just about the light, but the feeling of not being hemmed in by four walls.

    This. Times 10.

    Our new house has fewer window area than any house we've ever owned. The only reason I do not feel hemmed in are the three sets of French doors across the front. Light can always be added, but not being able to see outside very well - is that a hard no for you?

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  • bpath
    2 days ago

    I just re-read that the building has beautiful grounds and space for walking. That is certainly a plus, not all condos have that. How nice!

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  • bbstx
    Original Author
    2 days ago

    If the windows weren’t covered by trees, I think I’d have a lovely view out across the tree canopy. Perhaps if I take a re-look, I can get the real estate agent to ask the board about trimming the trees that are covering the windows.


    I poked around on IG last night looking for #mirrors and #windowlessrooms. I found lots of hallways with mirrors at the end of each long run. I also found some specific advice for a windowless dining room. Use ceiling lights, sconces, and a plant with an uplight (hello, 1990!)


    I don’t believe I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder even a little bit. I don’t find the shorter days of winter depressing. I even like rainy days. I’m beginning to think that my aversion was created by not being able to see beyond the tree that was so close to the window.


    As I said before, I don’t have to make this work. I don’t have to move. I just want to make sure I’m not passing on something because there is a solution I cannot see.

  • Lars
    2 days ago

    From the picture you posted, it looks like it might have cathedral ceilings, which would be a plus, but I would not expect that in a condo, unless it was on the top floor.

    Ceiling height is an important consideration, as lower ceiling would make the rooms feel more constricting.

    It looks like you can open the louvers on your shutters to let in light, and that is also helpful.

    bbstx thanked Lars
  • Olychick
    2 days ago

    I live in a house with almost all windows and no window coverings, so I love the feeling of almost living in the outdoors. But if I were looking to move and found a place that fits all my other criteria, I could totally live with a living room with those 2 windows. Once the shutters are gone, it seems they would allow enough light and a view to the outside (as long as someone cannot see right into the room).

    bbstx thanked Olychick
  • patriceny
    2 days ago

    This is a tough one. How people respond to light and views is so deeply personal.


    I'm another one who craves natural light, and needs to see hopefully pretty things out my windows. Trees and/or nice landscaping (you can do a lot with pavers, water features, garden beds - which create a pretty view when there is nothing else to see) are very important to how I feel about the space I inhabit.


    I've always said I wish I could live in a house with southern exposure on all 4 sides. LOL. But that gives you a sense how much light is important to me.


    However I have friends who don't even register things like this on their radar. It's a non-issue to them, and they care about things which don't much matter to me. It's all good - whatever floats your boat.


    I don't know what I'd do if I were you. It sounds like you don't actually "have to" move, so it may be better to wait for something else more perfect to come along. However - no house is perfect either...so if this one checks a lot of your boxes, then I understand why you're struggling to decide.


    Imagine you heard it sold this afternoon. How would you feel?


    My gut reaction says you are trying to talk yourself into it, which means it's not "the one." However that opinion is worth what you paid for it too. :)


    GOOD LUCK. I've been in your shoes - looking for that "perfect" house - and it's a game of weighing out pros and cons and just hoping you don't choose poorly in the end.

    bbstx thanked patriceny
  • Jennifer
    2 days ago

    Lighting has come a long way. The newish LED light panels that office buildings are installing are not widely used in residential settings yet. Consult with a lighting specialist. I have been imagining a batch of these panels to mimic skylights in a dark den at my house.

    bbstx thanked Jennifer
  • bbstx
    Original Author
    2 days ago
    last modified: 2 days ago

    Lars, it does not have cathedral ceilings. The ceilings are only 9 feet.

    The shutter louvers are narrow-ish and block a lot of light even when opened to full horizontal. I totally opened the shutters and folded them back against the wall hoping that would help. It introduced a bit more light, but still not a lot.

    The condo was very poorly presented. Their real estate agent is their daughter who handles commercial real estate.


    Patrice, if I heard that it sold today, my attitude would be ”que sera sera.” I don’t get emotionally invested in buying houses. I look at houses as a real estate investment. I learned the hard way in my younger years, that having to have a certain house is the road to making a poor and often expensive decision.

  • bbstx
    Original Author
    2 days ago
    last modified: yesterday

    @Jennifer, are you talking about something like this? https://www.skyfactory.com/products/SkyView/?gclid=CjwKCAjwzaSLBhBJEiwAJSRokirpvmOSF4MXsAnmCPakVnu8BS3ZGbDBBB_R3_l8YEOBGaQTd4t00RoCbA0QAvD_BwE



    That is totally mind-blowing. I especially like the one that is in development that will mimick the time of day consistent with your location. I wonder if having a ”skylight” such as that but knowing there are floors above you would be disorienting?

  • cawaps
    2 days ago

    I have windows but hardly ever open my curtains (dense urban area; less that 10 feet to the houses on either side, and not very attractive views out the front). So it wouldn't be a barrier for me. One thing you can do is have fixtures that bounce light off the ceiling. It could be an "up" floor lamp or sconces, or cove lighting. Remote color-tunable LEDs would let you dial up cooler color temperatures in the morning and afternoon and warmer ones in the evening (mimicking how the color of sunlight changes over the course of the day).


    I'd probably use some combination of timers, occupancy sensors, and daylight dimming controls to keep the daytime light levels where I wanted them when I was home.

    bbstx thanked cawaps
  • Jennifer
    2 days ago

    bbstx, Those skylights are AMAZING! I was thinking of the regular old boring light panels!

    bbstx thanked Jennifer
  • bbstx
    Original Author
    yesterday

    I fell down a rabbit hole looking at that site. I read that there are some cruise ships with interior cabins that have a sort of ”window.” I wonder if they are using the same technology.


    Mitsubishi has a skylight that changes tone depending on time of day. And it can be yours for only $7,000! https://boingboing.net/2020/02/11/mitsubishis-new-fake-skyligh.html

  • Annie Deighnaugh
    yesterday

    Wow those fake skylights are amazing and horrifying...a little too soylent green for me, IYKWIM.

    bbstx thanked Annie Deighnaugh