Photo by: courtesy of Cathy Schwabe
When I was in middle school, my family moved into our first house. It was a beautiful, modern, one-story home in Northern California built in the late 1950s and designed by a local architect who was clearly interested in daylight and solar design. Like many modernist houses of that era, the bathrooms were small, efficient “machines for living” and were also all interior rooms. One memorable and unusual feature of these bathrooms was the low, flat ceiling, whose surface was an off-white, semi-translucent plasticlike sheeting. The sheeting was set in a lay-in frame and hung below roof-mounted skylights. The effect was to bring diffused daylight into the space during the day without the heat gain that was the mainstay of our summers. Many years later, I still find myself thinking about those bathrooms.
As an architect, one of my goals when designing a bathroom is to introduce daylight into the space so that it is balanced within the room and so that the contrast in illumination from one area to another is minimal. Put another way, I try to control the shadows.
If at all possible, I try to bring daylight into a bathroom from more than one opening and from more than one orientation. Daylight can be introduced to a bathroom from three key perspectives: from the side, from the top, or from both. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.