Illuminating Design: Grazing Skylights

Skylights come in all shapes and sizes. Their location in an area may help determine the quality of the space, shaping one’s experience of the lighting which joins inside to outdoors, house to skies. And the gap between a skylight in the middle of the room versus one along with a wall is dramatic. In the event of the latter, the sunlight going into the space grazes the wall at particular times of the day to make patterns in mild.

This will give drama to a space and accentuate the fabric of the wall , emphasize objects put upon them, or reflect the light to boost the ambience of the room. The illustrations which follow illustrate various methods of integrating skylights together walls, be it in staircases, in living rooms, or even in bathrooms.

Bruce Wright

This photograph perfectly exemplifies the play that comes from skylights adjacent to walls. Located above a stair, the light coming from above is accentuated by light coming in from a narrow window . These perform in concert to generate the stair a special space in the house.

Eisner Design LLC

This is another skylight adjoining to a fairly light stair using open risers and cable guardrails. The skylight draws your attention to the large opening at the peak of the stair. At specific times of the day, the lighting could extend to the ground, casting shadows throughout the stair.

Modus Design Studio

Here the soft light which enters the stairwell from above goes in the space downstairs through the use of a transparent guardrail. Looking at the stair from above…

Modus Design Studio

… we could see the identical guardrail overlooking the opening above the stair, a huge opening which contrasts with the skylight above to bring downstairs.

Camber Construction

This perspective illustrates a couple things: The look of the skylight is important, as it’s going to be visible; and the wall under a skylight is well suited to displaying and highlighting artwork. Notice the way the triptych is aligned with the opening , therefore it could be appreciated from throughout the room.

House + House Architects

Where’s the skylight here? A soft glow comes from the ceiling in the space, aligned with a window framing a few backyard trees. A look from the opposite direction…

House + House Architects

… shows the skylight, a minimal construction with only perimeter framing. It unites with a window above the stair to frame views of the skies and trees outside.

Cary Bernstein Architect

This skylight is put above a narrow staircase. What is important here is the wall , a translucent glass wall…

Cary Bernstein Architect

… that borders the garage. This space then receives illumination from the skylight in the stair outside. Really nice.

John Lum Architecture, Inc.. AIA

While stairs are best for skylights (what can go above a stair anyway?) , they are are also well suited to living rooms and huge spaces which may require more natural lighting than windows provide. A number of the relevant skylights on Houzz are actually situated above fireplaces. This examples illustrates that framing these skylights along walls may be tricky; here the structure is not removed but boxed out with shingles to meld together with the minimal ceilings and walls.

Hanrahan Meyers Architects

On the flip side, this skylight above a fireplace dramatically accentuates the irregular texture of the piled stone. By day the hearth glows from above; during night it glows from the flame within.

This last example with a skylight above a fireplace demonstrates how a room with hot materials and colours could be daunted with the introduction of natural light from overhead. The brick wall has been accentuated, while the wood ceiling stays dark and gives an intimacy to the tall space.


A bathroom may seem like an odd place for a skylight, but they can be quite memorable. Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye, a modern masterpiece, really includes a small skylight in the first-floor powder room, of all places; that’s among the most memorable places I have needed to… well, you know. In the photo the experience of showering is heightened by the light from above (cleanliness is next to Godliness?) .

Vanni Archive/Architectural Photography

The skylight above this tub also offers an ethereal glow to the small room. This photograph functions as a reminder that the more natural lighting which may be brought into chambers, the less you require artificial lighting and the energy to power them.

Sliding Walls Bring the Outside In
Bathe in the Light of Clerestory Windows
The Case for Interior Courtyards
Translucent Surfaces: A Canvas for Lighting and Shadow

See related