It is perfectly normal to want a living space with lots of light. In fact, you might even say that this is a healthy human desire. But I have learned that there is such a thing as too much light. In the following post, I will detail how I came upon this knowledge. I will do so in chronological order and in the third-person, so as distance myself from what is still a sensitive topic.
1. New Homeowners receive the keys to their new home at the The Closing. They excitedly drive straight to the house to walk through it, alone, for the first time.
2. When they reach their living room, their hearts sink. They simultaneously squint their eyes. Husband: “Is it a lot darker in here than you remember?” Wife, nodding: “I see that the sun is out but none is coming in.” Wife: “Did we just accidentally buy a black hole?” Wife, voice beginning to crack with buyer’s remorse: “What have we done?!” Husband, who is a calm person and ever-ready with a solution: “Well, maybe we can just get some skylights.” Wife, who is a straight-up shell-shocked from the enormous checks they just wrote at the closing: “But how much does that cost?”
3. Husband harnesses the power of the Google machine. He is determined to bring in more light: their apartment in the South Bronx was very bright, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows. In fact, this feature, coupled with the huge kitchen island regularly convinced Wife that she was living inside a magazine:
Husband discovers that, while skylights can be quite pricey, there is something called “sun tunnels” that are a lot more reasonable and…they are ROUND, his wife’s favorite shape. (Some could argue that she has a polka-dot addiction, but she has been in therapy many years and has learned to control this.) (No, that’s not true, she hasn’t controlled this, at all; she has simply shifted her focus to decorative mushrooms, many of which have…polka dots.)
4. Husband learns that Velux is a good brand for sun tunnels. They look great online. He finds a local dealer and installer. The process seems pretty straight forward: they basically cut a 14 inch hole through your ceiling and roof and insert a tube to let some sun in.
5. Husband and Wife decide to invest in five sun tunnels: one in the guest bath, one in the front hall, and three in the living room. Let there be light!
6. Installers come to put in the sun tunnels while Wife is at work one day. By the time she gets home, they have finished installing two out of five.
7. Wife comes in, drops her bag and drops her jaw. Their front hall is… completely different. It looks like a large florescent light has been turned on, only brighter:
Eek! The light doesn’t seem to be coming from one sun, but from TEN THOUSAND SUNS. Turns out the metal tubes lining these sun tunnels reflect/amplify the light and shine it into your house interrogation style. Wife grabs her sunglasses and calls out for Husband who is on a work call in his studio. Yes, it’s brighter than he thought it would be, too, and has a surprising blue-ish hue. It’s quite stark, kind of like the color of light in a Walmart or a laboratory…only…brighter.
8. They ask the workers to pause. Husband and Wife telephone the sun tunnel head honcho. They apologize to him – they have made a very grave mistake. They have let in too much light. They ask if they can cancel the other three sun tunnels.
Interjection: These Sun Tunnels are amazing products, extremely effective! And very ecological: if you were to get these, you would never have to turn on a light in your house during the day ever again. No doubt, if everyone had these, it would significantly decrease worldwide energy consumption. On the other hand, if you have one in the guest bath, your guests will lose several hours of their lives looking for a light switch to turn off the light, but THERE IS NO SWITCH for this tube to the sky, it can’t be turned off.
9. Husband and Wife decide to go with a more traditional skylight in the living room instead. After all, the house came with a skylight in their bedroom and they like how it looks. Here is the view from Wife’s pillow, where she can watch clouds move across the sky, wave at the man on the moon, and, on clear nights, wink at the stars:
These double skylights don’t amplify the sunlight, but merely invite it in.
Husband’s studio (converted garage) also has skylights, in fact, eight of them and they bring in a fantastic amount of light:
On the other end of the telephone line, the sun tunnel dealer is very accommodating. He agrees to install one skylight in the living room instead of the three remaining sun tunnels. It will cost more, and break the bank a bit, but this has become important to them. (Is there such a thing as escalating sunk cost?)
10. Wife stops hyperventilating. Then she strolls toward the front hall and guest bathroom and realizes that closing up these two existing sun tunnels isn’t exactly an option. She recoils like a vampire wounded by sunlight then melodramatically crumples to the floor quoting the Wicked Witch of the West, “I’m melting…” Husband, quite understandably, ignores her. Wife silently vows to always wear SPF 30 in her house during daylight hours. She is trying to not become completely unhinged, but her beloved new house seems a little less cozy now. Oh, if she could turn back time – was it really so dark in there to begin with? She tries to pull herself together and asks, innocently, “Are there shades for these things?”
11. Apparently, there are not shades for sun tunnels. Therefore, wife dedicates every waking moment of the next several days DIY-ing her own. She will not sleep until the light is dim! She treks o’er hill and vale, to craft stores and sewing stores all over the county. She buys several different weights of paper and fabrics. She mixes and matches, nervously biting her lip the whole time. Husband cuts these samples to size and tucks them under the tunnel’s frame. On day three – Eureka! – she finds some cross stitch fabric, of all things, and it works nicely when paired with two pieces of tracing paper: this specific combination lets in some light, but not too much, and the cross stitch fabric is stiff enough that it doesn’t buckle once secured by the frame. The tan coloring of the fabric counteracts the blue hue, making the light warmer. They exhale, take off their sunglasses, and stop berating themselves for almost ruining an already-wonderful house.
12. (It seems appropriate to end this on Step 12, since it has been quite a healing process.) The two sun tunnels look great now – cross stitch fabric saved the day! Husband and Wife have become accustomed to the still-signifcant amount of light they bring in. Here’s how their front hall looked when they first saw the house:
And here is how it looks now – sun tunnel tempered with cross stitch fabric and tracing paper:
They are also pleased with the single skylight in the living room. It makes the room seem bigger and more open. This is how it looked before the skylight:
And here’s how it looks now:
Lesson: There is such a thing as too much light, so proceed with caution when considering sun tunnels. Every library in America should have them and so should every laboratory and Walmart. If you’re considering getting sun tunnels in your home or if you already have sun tunnels and find them to be too bright, simply invest in some cross stitch fabric and tracing paper. This is a pretty easy solution if you’re where we were at during step 10… i.e. freaking out. Skylights, on the other hand? Ten thumbs up. If your rooms are feeling a bit dark and cave-ish, this is a “brilliant” (and more predictable) option.
Do you have skylights or sun tunnels? Did you ever do a home improvement project that you instantly regretted?