Friday, July 08, 2005
Capitalize on views and natural light
By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon
Everyone knows that curb appeal, or what you experience as you look at a house from the outside, is an important aspect of a home's architecture. But did you know that what you experience from the inside of your house looking out is even more important?
While you may not be able to control the exterior environment of your home — the sun is always going to set in the west and your neighbor may always stow his garbage cans in a spot outside your living room — you can control what you do or don't see from inside your house by working with the placement and size or your home's windows.
For example, last week we met with a client whose home has marvelous view opportunities of Mount Olympus on the east. Trouble is, you'd never know it when you're inside the house because there are no east-facing windows. We suggested adding a pitched gable roof to her living and dining rooms on the east side of the house, which will allow the addition of large, tall windows and stunning views of the mountain.
Another way to capitalize on good views and natural light is to enlarge the windows you already have. Skylights and solar tubes are other good options for bringing in natural light if it is not possible to have a window in the area you'd like to brighten.
You can also prioritize which rooms you want to have your home's best view and light, such as gathering areas that everyone uses, then rearrange the floor plan accordingly. For example, we converted a small, back bedroom in one client's home into a great room off the kitchen, then increased the window space on the back wall. This brought into the great room an engaging view of the woodsy backyard and wonderful natural light.
If you want to make an addition to your home, be sure and plan it so that it takes advantage of the natural light and best view options.
Keep in mind that you can also make nice views from your home by creating attractive exterior landscaping, trellises, fountains, and so forth. Look out your windows to determine the best focal points to place such features.
What can you do if there is too much natural light coming into your home, or a view that you don't want, such as a view of an alley?
Because windows on the west contribute the most heat gain to a home, keep them to a minimum if you're planning an addition. However, if the west side is where your view is, you might want to use window glass coatings or other shading devices.
If you want to minimize a view you don't want, such as of an alley, consider glass block windows or windows placed higher up on the wall. Both of these options will let in natural light without exposing an unwanted view. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.