Blocking the Sunlight

 Photo shows a red street car on Canal Street in New Orleans. We left the cab and checked into our hotel in New Orleans’s Central Business District. We unlocked our door and the hardwood floors and fan-shaped bathroom tiles delighted me. After a few minutes of roaming the room as I oriented myself, I realized something unusual. Sure, I could hear next door’s TV and the furniture was a bit retro. But it was the light.

Someone planned these choices. Lots of thoughtful lighting sources like a pair attached to the headboard and a tall standing lamp behind a yellow chair would shine on the subject instead of generally irritating overhead fixtures. Finally, the strongest source of light, the natural one from the window. Unlike most hotel room layouts, the window did not flank the bed. The large curtained rectangle was parallel to the headboard and open to the living space instead of the sleeping area. Every corner of respite helps my sensitive eyes. Here, I could enjoy a whole wall of morning darkness before a full day of activities like riding the ferry to Algiers Point and stuffing my face with creole cuisine. Stockton saw my reaction and said, “Well, I know what side of the bed you want.”

My eye pain/headache has increased over the years despite eye drops regulating my IOP and regular eye exams. My greater light sensitivity demands I figure out the ways to live without limiting myself. It’s easier at home. I’m familiar with the way light illuminates rooms and bothers my eyes different times of the day, how I can manage my favorite yellow light of sunrise and sunset as well as harsh midday beams. A turn of the wide slat blinds make it tolerable instead of too bright. Sunlight and me are not on good terms, indoors I flee it like a covert vampire. I would entertain blackout curtains especially in our bedroom, but I share my home with my reasonable husband who prefers some light. We both don’t want all or nothing.

I was standing in another space away from home with Stockton when a bit of insight hit me. Last year we took a tour of Taliesin West, the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright in Arizona. Setting FLW’s interpersonal faults aside, the man valued studio lighting. In a building in the desert with rudimentary amenities, using natural light was important. Shaping light minimized glare against paperwork. Clerestory windows permitted light above eye level. Also, canvas diffused the light. Bingo I thought as soon as the brunette tour guide leading us from room to room mentioned the fabric’s purpose. Diffused light is my jam.

Lately I listened to a podcast about vernacular architecture, designing structures with local climate in mind like the porches I love on many homes in New Orleans. The wrought iron railings and graceful details are beautiful, but by incorporating a front porch–whether it’s a grand mansion, or shotgun house–occupants benefit from shaded breezes instead of direct sunlight heating up interiors. Window coverings were mentioned, too. Namely, the jali. This nerd immediately researched and fell in love with the patterns and geometric designs I spied with zoom online. Compared to Taliesin West’s bland canvas, jali shades beautifully diffuse sunlight. Perhaps Stockton and I will find affordable ones to incorporate in a few of our windows in Mayberry.

Living with chronic pain is tiresome. Directed light isn’t in all the environments I spend time in, but finding temporary shelter counts against the effects of compounding pain. Diffused light offers a shield that may help me win the bigger struggle with pain.

How is your life lit? How do you minimize glare? Do you like jali shades? Tell me about it.


10 Comments Add yours

  1. Katrin says:

    I entirely empathize with you on this one. On my list of criteria when we finally move is a house that is positioned for diffused light. In my current home I have so many windows permanently blocked because of the sheer amount of glare and pain that comes through them. I’ve learned to use window film, sheer curtains and strategic time of day opening and closing of drapes and black out curtains to make this house as functional as possible. Outside its wide brimmed hats and various glasses depending on time of day. The info you posted about the functioning of porches and architectural design is fascinating. Thank you for sharing all of that!

    1. Thanks so much Karin! You’re a sunlight sister ha.

  2. johnmill79 says:

    Hi. Interesting post. As a totally blind person, I often feel I need as much sunlight as I can get. But I certainly understand that people’s preferences can differ widely. I know for sighted people, it can be difficult to sleep in a room where the sun rises in your window, as my partner has struggled with this. Me? I chase that ball around, especially at this time of year. It me maintain mental balance.


    1. Good comments, John. It’s hard for me sometimes to avoid the sun because if my eyes weren’t a factor I would chase it like you. It’s always nice to feel the sun on the shoulders on a nice day. And it’s so much harder in the wintertime!

  3. floweringink says:

    Great post! I had never even heard of diffused lighting, but now I am going to check it out. Light sensitivity is one of the things I struggle with most and my husband has been great in making our apartment as comfortable as possible. We have black out curtains in the bedroom and various other widow coverings to reduce the glare. It is a constant challenge, but you have suggested some new and fun ways to change things up a bit. Thank you.

    1. It’s always a relief to find something that lessens the light sensitivity.

  4. Casee says:

    Right now sunglasses outside and closed blinds inside get the job done.

    1. I’m glad you have found what works well, Casee.

  5. Yup… lighting is a big deal, especially when travelling! 🙂 ❤ Jackie@KWH

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