Area homeowners let the light shine in
On the Double
Photos by Dan Gross
Sarah Davis and Ken Kiger’s Silver Spring house, a traditional 1950s rambler, was feeling a little cramped. They’d lived there for 17 years. The lot is 200 feet deep and 50 feet wide, and with the neighbors close, the house was as wide as it was going to get.
Two years ago they batted around ideas with John Audet of Case Design/Remodeling in Bethesda, such as adding a second floor. But the more Davis talked about what she wanted, the more she focused on the kitchen—what she called the “command post of the house.” She also talked about the importance of natural light in her life.
To Audet, Case’s director of project development, that meant the one-window kitchen wasn’t functional. So he suggested opening up the floor plan, moving the kitchen to the front of the house, and making a couple of cuts in the ceiling.
“Early on, we placed an imaginary skylight in the plan to give the idea” of how things would look, Audet says. One skylight became two so sunlight could best serve the developing floor plan and the size of the new kitchen, which was moved to what used to be the dining space.
Senior lead craftsman Robert Campbell sketched plans for skylight shafts right onto the walls, and he and Kiger, a mechanical engineer, worked out angles and dimensions: 18 inches by 48 inches at roof level, opening to 18 inches by 8 feet at ceiling level.
“That gives us a diffuse glow, not a harsh light,” Kiger says.
One opening boosts the light behind anyone reading or doing homework while sitting on the far side of the kitchen island. The other opening, 5 feet away, brightens the sink and stove work area.
When the skylight idea came up, “both Sarah and I were skeptical about roof leaks,” Kiger says. “My perception was probably 30 years old. We’ve had no problems with that.”
According to Audet, “When done properly with a quality product, they’re watertight.” They’re also energy efficient: Most use low-e (insulated) glass with a built-in argon layer, and the shaft is insulated against heat and cold. “They’re so sleek and low-profile now that many people may not notice them in the roofline,” Audet says. “They’re not a bubble dome anymore the way people remember.”
Kiger enjoys the patter of the rain on the glass overhead. Davis uses the skylights as her weather report: “How hard is it raining? How foggy? I can see and hear better with skylights than with plain windows.”
Kiger adds, “They’re my connection to the elements through light and the changes in light.”