Using daylight is one of the most delightful ways to light your home. Natural light is a better quality of light and gives you the ability to see true color, the light is broad rather than focused, and its FREE! It is also changing throughout the day which has a relaxing quality.
The first thing to know about daylighting is to know your sun angles. At the Spring and Fall Equinox (March 21, September 21) the solar noon angle is 60 degrees. The Winter Solstice (December 21), the solar noon angle is 37 degrees and the Summer Solstice (June 21), the solar noon angle is 83 degrees. Keep in mind that when the sun in our region is high noon, the angle from 90 degrees is toward the South. This is why the light from the North is so nice; there is never any direct sunlight.
In our region, it is about the time of the Spring Equinox when we begin to need cooling in our homes. So it stands to reason that if we can cover our South facing windows at a 60 degree angle, we can keep out unwanted sun when it is warm, but invite it in when it is cold. Consider that the lower your window is to the floor, the longer the overhang or window cover should be.
For the East side windows, protect those rooms you desire to keep the morning sun out of, but let it shine into a breakfast room or master bathroom! The West side needs to be covered well by covered patios or deep window overhangs. Trees and hills help on this side too. The North side will never get direct sunlight, so let the light in!
Doing these things can keep the direct sunlight out of your home where it is not wanted, but let indirect natural light in. Here are some ways to use windows to let in more natural light. Use high windows along the top of a wall, especially if you desire light on a West wall, or if there is an unwanted view. Clerestory windows are a great way to capture indirect light, especially when the direct light bounces off of a wall first before entering your space. On North walls, use wide windows to not only let in the light, but also the outdoors making your rooms feel more spacious.
In interior rooms, use a partial wall from an adjoining exterior room to let the light filter in. Open floor plans are great ways to distribute light with out walls, but creating partial walls to help divide spaces can let the light in where it is wanted. Also consider tubular skylights which reflect the light inside the tube creating a bright, but natural light source.
Lastly, when designing your home, remember to properly orient your home to allow desirable natural light into the rooms where you want it most like the living rooms and bedrooms. The long side of your home should face North and South, leaving the shorter sides and less surface area to be exposed to the East and West. If you are currently living in a home where undesirable light is keeping your blinds closed, consider building a roof overhang to let only the best daylight in!