A well-lit home or office is one of those things that you don’t realize you have until it’s gone. Apparently I had it good, and currently my personal lighting requirements are not being met. I complain daily about the lighting of my apartment, and no amount of freestanding lamps or open windows is making any difference. Even as a designer, I never realized how important a well-lit workspace is for productivity and even mood. After hopping from hotel room to guesthouse and living and working in everything in between, I’m here to say... lighting can make or break me. It affects how I work, feel, and experience/perceive a new place. This isn’t new or revolutionary. There are countless studies devoted to the impact of daylight and artificial light on people, but it’s a new experience for me so I must discuss (Of course I have read none of these studies and have no expertise on the matter, just personal experiences, observations, and a know-it-all attitude.)
When I first set out to travel early last year, I found a really inexpensive apartment in Thailand and spent a few weeks living there. Even though I can make do in pretty basic accommodations, one thing I quickly realized I couldn’t sacrifice was the lighting in my room. One tiny window and a single overhead light wasn’t nearly enough to keep me comfortable and productive while working in my room. Not to mention the effect it had on my mood. As a first time solo traveler, battling jet lag, and working through a major transition in my life a dark and gloomy room exacerbated my emotions. My fix was to find a nearby bright café to work from everyday, and my productivity and outlook quickly took a change for the better. My spirits would instantly lift the moment I walked out of the apartment, so I learned to keep my time there as minimal as possible. After two weeks at that apartment I upgraded my lodgings, and now I always try to find rooms that meet my new standards for comfort.
If I look back at all of the places I’ve stayed during trips, I can see a direct correlation between the lighting of my lodging and my overall feeling for that place. The weather has a similar affect on me. It seems I have a habit of arriving in new places in crappy weather, and it always give me an immediate negative impression of a town. As soon as the sun comes out, my days start to look and feel a little brighter. I've also noticed a change in the quality of my sleep in destinations that have extended sunlight during the summer. For example in Ireland last year, even though I got plenty of sleep I woke up tired every morning, and I couldn’t figure out why I was so exhausted. It wasn’t until after I left that I realized it probably had a lot to do with me falling asleep and waking up with the sun still shining. I’ve read of other travelers having similar experiences, and I’ll get to test my theory on my trip to Iceland this year.
Now that I’m working full-time plus creating artwork in my apartment, my battle with lighting is a daily struggle. Eye fatigue, the glow of my computer screen, and poorly lit rooms aren't a great combination. When the sun goes down, it gets especially difficult to do detailed work on my computer. I’m constantly opening and closing blinds, turning on lamps, and moving positions. It directly affects my focus and quality of work. The fix? I would need indirect ambient lighting overhead, which proves difficult to add when you are renting an apartment. So I'll continue to do my daily dance of shifting positions and light sources, unbridled complaining, and deal with it the best I can.
Even though it’s not something you typically think about, the lighting of your space may be affecting you more than you realize. It’s definitely something to consider when building or renovating a home to ensure that each space is sufficiently lit to serve its purpose. The position of windows, location of fixtures, light output, bulb type, and quality of light are all factors to consider. Not to mention the functionality of window coverings. It’s can get complicated, but well worth the time and effort to properly outfitting your home.