Sleeping under the trees … with a bedroom skylight Essay

A skylight over the bed? Ask anyone who has one and you’re
likely to hear resounding approval.

For many homeowners, the most obvious reason is the pleasure of
sky-watching in bed. Says Betty Norrie of Portland, whose bedroom is
pictured above left, “It’s like camping out every night. I
see the seasons change, I watch storms and jets pass overhead. Once I
saw snowflakes and stars at the same time.”

Then consider the practical reasons–for example, bringing light
into a room with no sacrifice of wall space or privacy. With an open
floor plan or a loft that looks down into other rooms, a bedroom
skylight can help brighten the adjoining spaces.

Adding a skylight seldom involves major structural changes, but any
time you install one, you must consider the possibility of leaks,
condensation, heat buildup, and heat loss. In most cases, properly
installed double-glazed skylights can solve these problems.

In enclosed rooms such as bedrooms–particularly those adjacent to
bathrooms–condensation on single-pane skylights can occur. Although
double glazing helps, additional ventilation may be necessary; consider
models that crank or pivot open.

South-, east-, or west-facing skylights add heat to rooms, which
can 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, the
owners almost never turn on the room heat. They find that in winter,
even minimal sunlight through their pivoting model helps warm the room
during the day; at night, pulling down the shade helps keep heat from
radiating into the cold sky. Coping with the sun … with shade

Ultraviolet rays from the sun can fade or discolor fabrics and
rugs. The answer is to provide adequate shade, such as curtains,
blinds, or canvas, or to take advantage of shade from natural
surroundings, 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 the
outdoors out. Adds architect Ed Wundram, “You quickly adapt to the
changes in natural light. The first day or two I had my bedroom
skylight, I woke up with the sunrise; but after that, I had to go back
to my alarm clock.” Gaining a heightened sense of space

As in three of the examples we show here, you can capitalize on a
sloping roof and open up a cramped space with a skylight, creating the
illusion of more generous headroom.

The dormer shown above was designed to fit over the bed, including
the slatted backrest for reading. In the attic bedroom at left, Seattle
architect Charles Kato put twin skylights between doubled-up roof
rafters. The north-facing pair adds a sense of roominesss and lets in
soft, indirect light. (Bear in mind that a curved or pitched surface
stays clearner than a horizontal one, though you have to clean any
skylight periodically.)

Size and materials, particularly for custom jobs, can cause
structural problems. In his new house, Ed Wundram’s large skylight
is made of steel and glass; the house design had to account for the
heavy weight. The Norries’ aluminum-and-glass solarium was part of
a second-story deck addition, built with heavy-duty posts to carry the


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