Lighting Up a Half-Bath
By day, a skylight shines on the walls, and at night, incandescent fixtures mimic the sun.
Synopsis: How do you bring natural light into a windowless room, especially a tiny half-bath where privacy and space are also lacking? Anchoring her design with a unique stone sink, Santa Fe architect Robin Gray knew just what to do, using such innovative solutions as a skylight complemented by latillas (a common feature in Pueblo architecture) and a half-wall with built-in storage.
Every room needs a focus, and for the half-bath in Sara Beth Peacock’s house outside Santa Fe, N.M., it was an elegantly rustic sink carved from stone. Sara Beth told architect Robin Gray that she wanted the bathroom to “be a bit of a surprise when you walk in, without straying too far from the overall simplicity of the house.” Other homeowner-to-architect directives included the desire not to be immediately confronted with the toilet when entering and the need for some natural light in the room.
Gray partially hid the toilet behind a half-wall fit with book shelves on the back side. A full-height partition between sink and toilet would have made the approximately 5-foot by 8-foot room seem even smaller and the WC area almost claustrophobic.
Because the bathroom has no exterior walls for windows, the only source for natural light had to come from above. But direct New Mexico sunlight can be too bright and easily overheat a small room. Gray’s solution uses wooden beams and latillas—small round branches typically used as ceiling planking in Pueblo architecture—as a way to filter the sunlight. The skylight is positioned so that most of the light washes the smooth plaster walls, which are painted a color Sara Beth calls Grey Poupon. Light from incandescent fixtures above the ceiling and next to the skylight mimics sunlight on cloudy days.
But if the lighting is subtle, it’s the sink that stands out when you enter the room. Carved from a granite boulder, the rustic basin sits on a slab of Brazilian slate, which is harder and less prone to spalling than domestic varieties. “The sink was a great starting point for the the room,” says Gray. It makes the perfect finishing touch as well.
For more photos and details on how to light a half-bath, click the View PDF button below.