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Good Lighting Is Happiness

If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams, and you will always look lovely.

– Roald Dahl

In the photo above, Gretchen MurderMittens also demonstrates that if you have murderous thoughts, they will slice out of your face like claws, and you will always look fierce, even while loafing in the soft glow of fairy lights within a pastel child's bedroom.

Mood affects our perception of light--we appear to glow from within when we are happy, and the world looks brighter to us when we are energized--and mood and physical lighting both affect beauty, and beauty and lighting affect our moods. All these factors swirl together synergistically. We feel better when we are surrounded by beauty and when we feel beautiful ourselves, and we and our surroundings look more beautiful in good lighting.

I kept all of this in mind when I helped my preteen daughter choose a new paint color for her bedroom last year: Oleander by Sherwin-Williams with a matte finish. It's a soft pink that reads as warm peach in summer and delicate pastel in winter. At every time of the day and the year, it flatters skin tones.



It's hard to photograph, but there is a gorgeous phenomenon each winter morning when the sun rises on a clear day: the colors of the sky outside the windows match the pink, violet, and sky blue color scheme in the bedroom exactly. This never occurred to us when we chose interior colors, so it came as a glorious surprise and got me thinking about colors in other rooms of the house that could also coordinate with the outdoor light and scenes through the windows.

In every kind of light, my daughter's bedroom walls cast a flattering glow on all who enter there. Everyone inside that room looks rosy and healthy, with smooth, glowing skin, so it's a joy to glance in the mirror in there--or turn on the camera for online school. The wall color doesn't just look pretty as a backdrop, it boosts my daughter's self-esteem as she gets ready for the day and while she has to stare at her own face during online group meetings.

How we look in person is not always how we read on digital camera, so creating good lighting for real life in a room isn't always enough for the camera. Sometimes we need a brighter light source for digital and close visual tasks than we need to relax and converse face-to-face. Next to my daughter's school computer is a lamp with a blue shade that matches her desk (and the inside of her closet and the insides of her window frames--whimsical little color surprises that we did plan). But her desk lamp shade isn't blue only for aesthetic reasons. Bright, cool light promotes alertness and reduces eye strain for tasks like writing in a notebook. It also helps to illuminate her face more directly--brightly and coming from in front of her rather than above--so that her teacher and classmates can see her face clearly on camera.

The other lamp, on my daughter's bedside table, has a warm-toned shade and a bulb just bright enough for bedtime reading. Gold-toned twinkle lights strewn across her headboard provide a warm, enveloping glow soft enough to encourage winding down at night.

During my daughter's school day, I work from home on the other side of our house, in a cozy little nook off the living room. I also use a mix of warm and white light sources depending on the time of day and what I need to do. 

While my desk nook has always felt snug and private and peaceful, like a library carrel, I found it to be a little too dark, causing eye strain, until I added big mirrors to reflect the natural light from the windows behind me and a bright, portable, neutral-white task light that I can place over my work or set on a shelf in front of me to brighten my face for Zoom meetings.

My husband and I are making plans now to renovate our deteriorating kitchen and main bathroom this spring, and those spaces will have different lighting needs. The bathroom simply needs bright, neutral lights above or around the mirror so that we can see ourselves clearly for grooming. The kitchen and dining area will need several light sources for different purposes: downward-directed pendants and under-shelf lights to illuminate work surfaces without glaring into the dining area, and softer lighting (maybe upward-directed! maybe sideways! maybe twinkle lights on an upper shelf!) to create a flattering, pleasant ambience at the table. It will be fun to experiment with transforming how our spaces feel and function by playing with color and light.

Good lighting is happiness! It can help us wake up, stay alert, be productive, relax, feel good about ourselves, enjoy human company, and even appreciate the natural beauty of the world outside our windows. In turn, a well-rested, energized, self-confident glow can make anyone appear more attractive in any light.

Or more fierce, if that's the goal.

Before and after pictures coming this summer!

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