The value of a light touch
QOur living spaces are quite dark but we’re hemmed in by neighbours on both sides. Is there any way we can get more light in without a major extension?
AThe enlightening answer to a sombre situation might just come from above, according to architect Shaun Carter of Carter Williamson Architects.
Shaun says skylights can be an ideal fix for a dark or awkwardly designed space, but they have to be considered carefully.
“We do skylights all the time, but we like to think we do ‘skilful’ skylights,” he says.
“Too often skylights are just thrown at the problem.”
Australians today have a love affair with bright and breezy homes, however that hasn’t always been the case. Shaun says older inner-city residences, which often butt up against one another on small blocks, are often in need of savvy light solutions which allow the sun’s rays in, but keep the neighbours’ gaze out.
In a historic cottage in Sydney’s inner west, Shaun incorporated skylights into a bathroom after being inspired by island life.
“We put a glass roof over the top, because it sits right under a big tree,” he says. “I think it feels like a Fijian bure where you can shower outside, open to the elements. That’s what we wanted to do, but do it in urban Balmain.
“The result is incredibly tantalising to think that you could be stark naked, cleaning yourself, looking up at a gum tree but be so close to the CBD.”
Shine a light on history
Bringing an older home into the 21st century often means seeking out ways to draw in natural light. However, while skylights might be seen as an instant fix, Shaun says they can sometimes interfere with the flow and form of period architecture. “If you are in a conservation area, you’d want to do a skylight on the rear climb of a roof line, which we’d probably support,” he says. “But then the next question is; are you interrupting a really beautiful ceiling?
Shaun suggests that, whether you live in a heritage area or not, you should first check if a skylight would be permitted on your property.
Good day sunshine
Shaun says if you have been given the go-ahead, the sky is almost the limit with design options and placement.
“After you get around whether it’s permissible or not, your only limits are structural,” he says. “Glass is the type of material that only withholds so much, so you’ve got to be careful with the structure.
“You need to design the skylight so that you can stand on it,” Shaun says. While you won’t be walking on the roof, the rule is in place to ensure safety during ongoing maintenance.