Decorative Skylight Options Decorative Skylight Options

Q: I have a small storage room, just 10 x 10, which I'd like to make into a guest room with a single bed and a small nightstand. One advantage is that it has a half-bath right next to it; it's on the top floor of the house. I've checked with a carpenter that there is proper ventilation, and he said he could install a fan or air conditioner.

My concern is with the light. There is just one small window, about one-foot square. My carpenter said he can put in a skylight, but I've never seen a skylight I liked. Are there any options other than what I think of as the leaky, 1960s style of skylight?

A: Yes, some of those older skylights were pretty dreadful. They leaked, they were difficult to clean, and they often didn't even let in enough light to do the job. So you're right to be wary.

And yet, as with many things in design, skylights have come a long way in recent years.

One of the first things to consider in planning for a skylight is how large it should be. In an effort to get the maximum amount of light, too often people go for a skylight that is too big for the space. How could it possibly be too big? A skylight, even of the highest quality, will have poorer insulation than roofing will, so a great deal of heat will escape in winter, and too much heat will come in during summer.

Therefore, it's very important to work closely with your contractor in calculating the amount of sunlight that hits that particular section of roof, and how great the seasonal changes are, before you decide on a size.

Skylights come in three types: ventilating, fixed, and tubular. The ventilating skylights can be opened, and work best in bathrooms and kitchens where you need fresh air flow. One recent development is that they don't have to be controlled by a hand-crank; they can be controlled by a remote, or they can even be set to automatically open and close as moisture in the room demands.

In your attic room, if the ceiling slopes up high, you may want a skylight that opens with a remote.

The fixed skylight doesn't open, and is designed only to let in light. Similarly, the tubular skylight is designed for smaller spaces, and just lets in small cascade of light, which can add a nice effect in a small room.

Skylights don't have to be flat anymore. While flat skylights are the kind most commonly used, and are usually easiest to install, there are several different styles available. A pyramid skylight is a simple four-triangle pyramid which juts out of the roof, adding interest to the profile of the house in addition to letting light flood inside.

The lean-to skylight slopes up from one story and ends by leaning against an upper wall of the next story, creating a look almost like an additional room, at least from the outside of the house.

Bear in mind that the price of a skylight will range from about $1000 to over $2000 to much more, depending on how complicated the design is and what materials are used.

With a cleverly-placed skylight in your tiny attic room, your guests will soon be happily staying over, enjoying your bright hospitality.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design.

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