Transitions Creating Connecting to Natural Lines and Colors

As we try to create transitions beyond the interior space of the home, it is important to think beyond the walls. When thinking about landscape, start by thinking about the inside spaces that will look out onto it. Likewise when we design interior spaces it is important to start with the outside. This helps us create connection and think about transitions. If there is a feature such as an especially nice tree, pond or future rose garden, we want to make sure that we are taking advantage of the vista. Also, with interior design, it is a good idea to start with the outside. This pallet is so important but most often overlooked. Perhaps there is a shade of green from a tree or a particular flower that you know will be prevalent and you want to match. This sort of matching can help create a wonderful natural connection. But, of course, natural colors change throughout the seasons. And this natural shift of shades can also be captured in your interior design defining secondary and even tertiary colors.

Lines too are another great way to help draw the eye outside. A ridge or rafters that carry out onto a covered porch can help create this natural connection. Floor lines and colors can do the same thing. Be creative. Are there other, more organic lines that can be incorporated into your design with the fabrics, furniture or other forms? Plant milkweed outside a window and bring the colors of the monarch into the room and watch the magical kinetic energy that you can harvest for delight.

Windows & Concrete Sills

Windows & Concrete Sills

 Home Remodel in Bryan / College Station, by Stearns Design Build.  

Home Remodel in Bryan / College Station, by Stearns Design Build.  

This is part of a project we recently completed on Hugh Stearns’ personal home —

Our carpenters mixed, poured, and installed custom concrete sills. They also installed new windows, a new door, and the intricate surrounding trim.

Brightening Up Your Kitchen

If your kitchen is dark, cramped, and closed off, it’s probably not a kitchen you enjoy being in. The smart placement of windows can transform your kitchen by bringing in daylight, connecting the space to the outdoors, and creating an overall feeling of openness. Here are some different window arrangements that can improve the character of your kitchen.

  1. Increase the height of your windows, stretching them from countertop height to the ceiling. This not only allows more light into the space, but also creates less of a barrier between your kitchen and the outdoors.
  2. Devote an entire wall to windows, increasing the feeling of flow between your kitchen and the outdoors. These can be windows of any size. A good place for you window-wall might be in the informal eat-in area of your kitchen so as not to sacrifice cabinet space. But keep in mind that wall cabinet space can be gained back in other ways if you feel like a wall of windows is the best idea for your kitchen.
  3. Creating a corner window in your kitchen is another good way to increase the feeling of connection to the outdoors. Corners can be awkward places in a kitchen when it comes to storage and cabinetry. By replacing awkward storage with windows, you can turn your corner into a cheery spot.
  4. If you have a small kitchen, placing a window adjacent to a perpendicular surface (like a wall or cabinetry) can really brighten up the room. Light entering from the window will bounce off the wall or cabinetry into the rest of the space which will feel much less cramped.
  5. Flanking windows with cabinetry, shelves, and/or soffits creates more surfaces for light to be reflected and directed into your kitchen. It’s also a great way to maximize storage space in your kitchen.

When you see a picture of a kitchen in a magazine or online that you love, take note of how windows are arranged in the space to bring in the outdoors. These arrangements can be utilized when remodeling your kitchen or designing a new one to create the bright, cheery, open kitchen of your dreams.

Bringing in Daylight: Light Shelves

 Home addition in Bryan / College Station, by Stearns Design Build. Light shelves are an option for windows like these to diffuse sunlight.

Home addition in Bryan / College Station, by Stearns Design Build. Light shelves are an option for windows like these to diffuse sunlight.

A light shelf is a horizontal shelf-like light reflector, which can be mounted inside or outside of a window. It helps reflect daylight into areas that are farther away from a window, and also helps to make this daylight less direct and more diffuse. Although mostly used for commercial buildings, light shelves could potentially be suitable for homes, especially for large spaces like family rooms. Light shelves are placed at least seven feet above the ground. This is to prevent having light reflected right into your eyes, and to make sure you don’t bump your head. Light shelves can be used with regular windows, but are also useful below skylights and clerestories. By diffusing the light they reflect, light shelves help to reduce glare. Although the shelves are normally a metal material like aluminum, the rougher and less mirror-like the surface of the shelf, the more diffuse and pleasant the light becomes. Experimentation with other light shelf material has included frosted glass, which helps bounce the light while allowing some light through it.

If made from metal, light shelves are thermal conductors, and could possibly aid in transferring heat and cold through windows into your home. This is a problem for our climate where most of the year’s weather is extremely hot. But with more experimentation and innovative thinking, light shelves may become a great feature for bringing in daylight into your home.

Bringing in Daylight: Skylights

Another way to bring more natural light into a space is through skylights located in the roof of your home. If you have rooms with vaulted ceilings or no attic space, you can have skylights that light the rooms directly from the roof. If this is not the case, you can also have part of your ceiling recessed to allow for these skylights. When this recess is painted white or a light color, it aids the skylight by helping to reflect daylight into your space. Skylights can be fixed or operable — they are normally only operable if they are within reach. Operable skylights can remove heat that rises towards the ceiling when other lower windows are opened for breezes, passively cooling your home.

Solar tubes or light tubes are an interesting developing version of a skylight. These are comprised of a glass dome that collects light and a rigid or flexible tube that reflects the light. Tubes are best for spaces with no direct roof access, as they are designed to fit through your attic. Solar tubes end up looking like large pocket lights in your ceiling, but instead of being electrically powered, they are sunlight powered. However, solar tubes are uninsulated and their metal tube is a thermal conductor of  hot or cold, potentially affecting the comfort and heating/cooling loads of interior spaces. As a result, the product needs a little more development before being an efficient day-lighting option!

Because skylights are directly inserted into the roof plane, there is a danger of leakage. Depending on placement they are also more likely than regular windows to receive direct sunlight (and thus heat gain). Skylights that are made with efficient material methods like double pane glass and low-e coatings can help combat this negative effect, but it is best if possible to restrict them to North facing areas. Remember that adding skylights to your existing home requires making holes in your roof. This can be a tricky process, but when done correctly and carefully can result in spaces with more beautiful daylight that you can enjoy.