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Why sun is bad for your home interiors and what you can do about it

A light and bright home is what everyone is looking for. Natural light makes rooms look bigger, makes colours pop and creates different ambiences through the day, while the physical and psychological benefits of sunshine in our lives are undisputed. However, far too few householders consider the fact that all that bright daylight also has a downside.

Think about it. The constant exposure to the sun’s powerful UV rays is bound to cause fading, discolouration and damage to materials such as wood, leather and textiles over time. What’s more, UV rays are just as powerful on overcast and rainy days, so the sun doesn’t even have to shine in order to cause damage.

Above and below: Cable House by Tom Robertson Architects

Many people think that glass is an effective shield against harmful sunlight but clear window glass lets up to 70% of UV rays in. Even with energy efficient windows, you can only hope to achieve a 10% improvement.

Whether you’re worried about colour fade on upholstered sofas and chairs, warped wooden flooring or sun damaged fitted carpets, or you have particularly valuable furniture pieces or antique rugs you wish to protect from the ravages of the sun, you need to find a way to keep UV rays away.

There are only three basic ways that this can be achieved: stop the light from coming into the room, move the vulnerable items out of direct light, or apply a protective cover to the at-risk interiors. Let’s take a look at each of these in turn.

Above: Cable House by Tom Robertson Architects

Fitting curtains, blinds or shutters

Adding a window treatment may be the easiest and most effective way to keep the light out. Here, you have the choice of installing exterior shutters or window blinds – a common solution in Mediterranean countries – or interior window dressings.

Suitable indoor window treatments include heavy blackout curtains that can block up to 90% of light, full coverage blackout roller blinds, easily adjustable Venetian blinds or super convenient electric blinds. Simply draw the curtains or close the blinds while you’re out during the day to stop harmful UV rays coming in. As an added bonus, your home will stay nice and cool during the summer.

If you are worried about opportunist thieves taking closed curtains as a sign that the property is unoccupied, how about installing discreet, semi-transparent solar blinds that keep up to 85% of UV rays out while still letting light in? You can also apply clear window film direct to the glass to disperse natural light and block up to 99% of UV rays from entering the room.

Changing the room around

Imagine a wooden table placed next to a bright sunny window. In that position, it will catch the full

force of the sun’s rays every day, particularly between 10am and 4pm when the sun is at its most powerful. You can extend the life of your furniture by moving it out of the sunniest parts into more shaded areas. Even a small reduction in the time your furniture is exposed to UV rays on a daily basis will have a beneficial effect.

Dark wood will show signs of sun exposure much more than lighter grains, so bear this in mind when choosing furniture for a sun drenched room. Maple and cherry, for instance, will become darker in the sun while walnut will lighten.

Rearrange the furniture in the room every few months or so to even out any differences in exposure to UV light. Also remember to reposition any ornaments on the table on a regular basis to avoid any marks developing on the wooden surface.

The same idea goes for upholstered pieces, and loose rugs or mats on hard floors. Protect the fabrics by keeping these pieces in the shade as much as you can. Obviously, fitted hardwood flooring and fitted carpets cannot be moved periodically, so won’t benefit from this method of sun protection.

Applying protective treatments

In the old days, dust and sun covers were routinely used to protect furniture in country homes. Putting the house to bed with large cotton dust sheets when the owners were not in residence. Nowadays, effective UV sun protection treatments are widely available and quick to apply to extend the lifespan of your interiors.

Choose a fabric protection spray designed for indoor fabrics, upholstered furniture and carpets. Look out for specialist leather care products that include UV protection, and apply periodically and as directed.

Wooden furniture and surfaces will benefit from protective sealing, varnishing or lacquering. Sealants protect and enhance the beauty of wood but depending on the type of wood in question and the amount of light regularly received, it will need regular re-coating. Softwoods such as pine will need more regular maintenance than hardwoods such as oak.

For excellent protection against sun damage, as well as heat, water and wear and tear, apply a wood varnish made from resins, oil and solvents, or choose a water based product for faster drying times. Alternatively, choose a solvent based and fast drying lacquer to create a hard shell with a tough gloss finish, offering lasting protection.


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