Bringing sunlight indoors was architect John Walsh’s main
concern when asked to remodel a dark four-story Victorian in San
Francisco. But the closeness of next-door neighbors and of the street in
front ruled out adding any windows on three sides. To preserve the
privacy and quiet of the interior, Walsh determined to let in light
through the ceiling and the rear of the house.
At the back of the upper two stories, he added a glass-roofed
dining area with a large glass wall. The adjacent fourth-floor bedroom
gained a balcony with a view through the sunroom windows.
Walsh used 1/4-inch double-paned glass to enclose the sunroom.
Three sliding glass doors and two fixed panes form the large central
window; five small windows above them push open with the aid of a long
pole. When desired, mini-blinds pull down to cover the glass wall, and
aluminized Mylar shades can be drawn to cover its upward-sloping
On the west side of the house, Walsh created a light well by
installing a strip of skylights over the stairs that lead from the
second floor to the fourth. To bring additional light deep into the
house, he extended the stairs down to the first floor. Interior windows
in the fourth-floor bedroom open into the stairwell. Cutting away the
wall between the light well and kitchen also helped to disperse light
throughout the dwelling.
On cold but cloudless days, sunlight coming in through glass in the
sunroom and light well heats the upper two floors. On warm days,
opening a skylight in the light well and the five small windows near the
sunroom ceiling allows air to circulate without reducing security. An
exhaust fan in the wall near the bedroom balcony draws hot air outside.