Sunlight can bleach, fade and destroy. Here's how to protect your possessions from its detrimental effects.
Here comes the sun
Living in the UAE it is unlikely that you will be afflicted with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), the depression that strikes some who live in northern climes when they are deprived of sunlight in the winter months. Even at this time of year, we will see eight solid hours of sunlight. But while sunlight may make us happy, it can wreak havoc on our houses.
Ultraviolet light destroys paper and natural fabrics such as cotton, linen, wool and silk, and will also cause them to fade. It bleaches and breaks down finishes on wood, and can literally turn dark wood white. It fades watercolours, photographs and coloured fabrics (but turns white fabrics yellow). A few years ago I lived in a very sunny flat in London. A couple of years after I moved in, I noticed that a walnut desk had developed a bleached strip down the side where the sun hit it in the afternoon. The bright yellow linings on a pair of Roman blinds in the bedroom had been bleached white. A dark blue curtain over a door had sun-bleached stripes at the top of each fold of fabric. And one day a pair of silk cushion covers featuring rather charming elephants, which I had bought in the Jim Thompson shop in Singapore, literally fell to ribbons in my hands.
Sun damage is cumulative and irreversible. You can, however, prevent it. Traditional Arab houses, with their dark interiors and small windows, may have been designed with the idea of keeping their inhabitants cool, but they also help protect our possessions, because the way to reduce sun damage is to reduce light levels. When a room is not is use, or if you are out during the day, draw curtains or blinds. If this is impracticable, fit semi-transparent roller blinds. They should be pulled halfway down at most times and pulled right down when the sun is at its height.
Move things out of the sun. Check if light-sensitive objects are sitting in direct sunlight and move them into new positions. Pictures and paintings are particularly vulnerable. A good idea - and one that makes use of the internal, windowless corridors in many Abu Dhabi flats - is to turn the hallway into a mini-gallery, making use of a drab space and protecting your possessions at the same time.
Rachel Simhon is the author of The Housewife's Handbook (Bloomsbury), available at www.amazon.com