Sleeping under the trees … with a bedroom skylight Essay

A skylight over the bed? Ask anyone who has one and you’relikely to hear resounding approval. For many homeowners, the most obvious reason is the pleasure ofsky-watching in bed. Says Betty Norrie of Portland, whose bedroom ispictured above left, “It’s like camping out every night. Isee the seasons change, I watch storms and jets pass overhead. Once Isaw snowflakes and stars at the same time.” Then consider the practical reasons–for example, bringing lightinto a room with no sacrifice of wall space or privacy. With an openfloor plan or a loft that looks down into other rooms, a bedroomskylight can help brighten the adjoining spaces.

Adding a skylight seldom involves major structural changes, but anytime you install one, you must consider the possibility of leaks,condensation, heat buildup, and heat loss. In most cases, properlyinstalled double-glazed skylights can solve these problems. In enclosed rooms such as bedrooms–particularly those adjacent tobathrooms–condensation on single-pane skylights can occur. Althoughdouble glazing helps, additional ventilation may be necessary; considermodels that crank or pivot open. South-, east-, or west-facing skylights add heat to rooms, whichcan be a plus or minus. If you’re afraid of too much heat gain,again think about openable units. In the example shown above right, theowners almost never turn on the room heat.

They find that in winter,even minimal sunlight through their pivoting model helps warm the roomduring the day; at night, pulling down the shade helps keep heat fromradiating into the cold sky. Coping with the sun … with shade Ultraviolet rays from the sun can fade or discolor fabrics andrugs. The answer is to provide adequate shade, such as curtains,blinds, or canvas, or to take advantage of shade from naturalsurroundings, such as deciduous trees. Most of the skylights we show are fitted with some sort of shade,though the owners seldom use them–they don’t like to shut theoutdoors out. Adds architect Ed Wundram, “You quickly adapt to thechanges in natural light.

The first day or two I had my bedroomskylight, I woke up with the sunrise; but after that, I had to go backto my alarm clock.” Gaining a heightened sense of space As in three of the examples we show here, you can capitalize on asloping roof and open up a cramped space with a skylight, creating theillusion of more generous headroom. The dormer shown above was designed to fit over the bed, includingthe slatted backrest for reading. In the attic bedroom at left, Seattlearchitect Charles Kato put twin skylights between doubled-up roofrafters. The north-facing pair adds a sense of roominesss and lets insoft, indirect light.

(Bear in mind that a curved or pitched surfacestays clearner than a horizontal one, though you have to clean anyskylight periodically.) Size and materials, particularly for custom jobs, can causestructural problems. In his new house, Ed Wundram’s large skylightis made of steel and glass; the house design had to account for theheavy weight. The Norries’ aluminum-and-glass solarium was part ofa second-story deck addition, built with heavy-duty posts to carry theload.

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