Harness the mountain light in your high country home | VailDaily.com

Harness the mountain light in your high country home

Jasmine Listou Bible
Special to the Daily
Living at high elevation puts us closer to the sun, and the intense midday sun can often be too bright. Solar shades, essentially sungalsses for your home, can be adjusted to allow different levels of light into a room.
Special to the Daily | iStockphoto

SUMMIT COUNTY— In many homes, bringing natural light into the space can be a challenge. Here in the high country, the opposite is true.

With more than 300 days of intense sunlight, the challenge is to temper the natural light. According to interior designer Tracey Egolf, of Egolf Interiors, “architects have done such a wonderful job of designing homes with beautiful expansive windows that they almost allow too much light into the home.”

Our high elevation puts us closer to the sun, and the intense midday sun can often be too bright for a comfortable environment. Egolf suggests using solar shades, which are essentially sunglasses for your home. The shades can be adjusted to allow different levels of light into the room, and some settings allow you to still be able to view the landscape outside.

“Ideally, we like to be able to work with the builder before the house is built to create a recess pocket above the windows to hide the screens when they aren’t in use,” Egolf said.

Installing these screens can be done after a home is built, but the screens and hardware will be visible. Another advantage to these screens is an added level of privacy.

If your home doesn’t have large windows, then an alternative is installing skylights or solar tubes. Be sure to use an experienced designer and contractor when installing either of these, as winter snow can lead to leaking or condensation build-up, if not properly installed.

Once you’ve harnessed the source of light in your home, be sure to protect the items inside. Be cautious of fabrics that are in direct sunlight, which can fade over time. Avoid hanging artwork in direct light, and skip hanging mirrors directly across from large windows, as they will bounce the light around the room.


When natural light isn’t available, what are your options? We look toward feng shui for guidance. Feng shui, in its simplest explanation, is the ancient Chinese art of arranging objects to create positive energy. This includes furniture layout, color choices and lighting sources.

Different colors of light create different moods. Choosing the right type of light can enhance each room, and its purpose. Pink lights have a calming effect, so use pink-hued bulbs in the living room or reading nook. Blue tones can be soothing and are recommended for nurseries. Red creates passion and energy and can be perfect for creating a vibrant kitchen. In the bedroom, purple light is said to evoke passion, so choose a purple-hued light or purple lampshades on your nightstands.

Balance is important in feng shui, so choose a pair of matching lamps and lampshades to place on both sides of the bed. Be sure the nightstands are the same height so the light beams at the same level, furthering the balance and symmetry.


While advancements have been made in the type of light that fluorescent lights can produce, some of us are unlucky enough to still have the long-tubed variety inside the plastic covers. So what can you do if your kitchen still has one of these creatures? Camouflage it.

Head to Rocky Mountain Coffee Roasters on Main Street in Frisco to see how they’ve cleverly used burlap coffee sacks wrapped around wood to disguise the lights. It creates a warm glow as the light shines through the burlap and has a modern, industrial vibe that could work well in many homes. Choose a fabric that appeals to you and craft your own hanging lampshade.

We often think of light coming from above, but creating levels of light can be a powerful design tool. Egolf suggests “a combination of fixed and decorative accent lighting to create balanced levels of light throughout the space.”

For the highest level, utilize skylights during the day or try using lights with an upward glow in a room with a vaulted ceiling to accentuate the structure.

In the next level down, use ceiling lights with a warm glow, chandeliers or hanging pendant lights.

For the middle level, rely on windows during the day and lamps or candles in the evening. Try placing the lamps in front of mirrors to reflect the light and cast a warm glow around the room.

For the lowest level, when needed, place lights that beam upward, especially in corners, to eliminate any shadows.

Feeling overwhelmed? Start with one simple project that will have a major impact — install dimmer switches on your overhead lights. You’ll be able to control the light throughout the day to achieve the mood you desire — a soft glow for a quiet evening, or a bright illuminated space for a craft project.

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