Stairwell + lightwell = dwell well

Flights of stairs can be one of the trickiest parts of a house to plan. They take up a large volume and leave only awkward triangular spaces beneath. They do have their perks though (other than the functionally obvious).

In house design there is a high likelihood that the stairwell will be located somewhere in the middle – maximising external wall space for living spaces. So it’s often the area with the least natural light.

Ashburton house – stairwell

If the roof design is coordinated properly with the stairway, a stairwell can be capped by generous full-length skylighting. Having this natural light source above a double height space allows light to bounce down, providing diffuse ever-changing light into the centre of the house. It’s also quite uplifting to have that direct connection to the shifting clouds when you look up the stairs.

Care needs to be taken incorporating skylights into new house designs. The structure, glazing, tilt and flashings and guttering all need to be just right.

Most heat in a house is lost through windows. Where the “window” is on the roof, this is even more the case. So it’s very worthwhile controlling this to your advantage. Double-glazing and integrated ventilation can keep internal temperatures right throughout the seasons.

We’ve been incorporating skylighting for decades. It can be custom or standard, so that even on tight budgets it can be a viable option worth consideration.

The central stairwell has the potential to become a work of art in its own right, depending on how far you’re willing to go in terms of layout, colours and materials.