Help me turn a big, dark square into a light, airy crib.
November 22, 2010 10:29 AM   Subscribe

I am moving into a large windowless room in the middle of a nice industrial loft apartment. I need help figuring out how to make it an airy, light, pleasant place to be. I would love to hear suggestions for aesthetic solutions to make it feel light and airy, as well as what you would do to the walls of this space construction-wise (windows? vents?).

The room is about 25x25, has one door and no windows. I would like to make it a well-ventilated space that sunlight can reach into, without compromising the ability to make it sound-tight. I can do basically whatever I want to do with the walls, including install windows or vents, or paint, or whatever.

The space adjoins the common area, where music and socializing will happen, so it is important that whatever I do install will be capable of keeping that noise out.

A further complication is that I am not very handy. But I follow instructions well, and will have access to handy, helpful people with tools.
posted by jennyjenny to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You are thinking of installing windows and ventilation yourself? Do you have exterior walls?
posted by amanda at 10:38 AM on November 22, 2010

Is there any chance at all that you can get some pictures for us?

For light, off the top of my head I'd say triple pane windows installed high up would give you light with some measure of sound insulation (assuming you're looking to bring in ambient light from another room, not install new exterior facing windows)
posted by davey_darling at 10:47 AM on November 22, 2010

Response by poster: I don't have a picture handy at the moment, but here is a better description, hopefully:

The apartment is a large, light-filled residential former industrial loft with high ceilings. My room is in the middle of the space, and is a closed, 25x25' room with one door opening into the common area. It's a big square.
posted by jennyjenny at 11:12 AM on November 22, 2010

If I had your problem I would start with the following:

- how is this room situated with respect to the rest of the building and the outside? it makes little sense to put a window in a wall that wouldn't let in much light anyway because there are shadows of other buildings, trees, etc. figure out which direction the morning sun comes from and try to capture that if possible.

- skylights? is there another floor above you or just roof that you could hack through?

- super good non-natural lights? you want halogen or something else full-spectrum (because the sun is full spectrum, CFLs are sadly not no matter what the package says) multiple light sources and lots of them spaced throughout the room. track lighting is good for this.
posted by slow graffiti at 11:12 AM on November 22, 2010

I am not familiar with lofts but my concern would be how to escape from a fire in the event that the door is blocked. All places for working or living that I am aware of need to have at least two ways to enter/exit the space (like a door and a window).
posted by MsKim at 11:12 AM on November 22, 2010

It does not sound like a very inviting space. The only thing that comes to my mind is to build (hang) a huge light source behind something that looks like a window and hang some curtains to make it seem like a light source. But it will take a lot of light to do that.
If you cannot put in a skylight I think you are out of luck for getting sunlight into that space.
posted by JayRwv at 11:19 AM on November 22, 2010

I don't know the first thing about installing windows but the best lighting trick to make a room feel bright and airy is to light the ceiling as evenly as possible and allow the light to bounce down, then add direct lighting from the ceiling to light down directly. The combination of ambient and direct light really makes you feel like the room is bigger and less stuffy. For best results I'd use incandescent fixtures on dimmers, but if you want to go with fluorescents make sure the bulbs have a high color rendering index to avoid that cold, grey look. You can find that number on the box- it's marked CRI- the higher the better. For best results you should also have a light colored ceiling.

You can go to a lighting store or even the lighting department at Home Depot to get some fixture ideas but there are a few classic ways to accomplish this- for the ambient ceiling light you can install sconces around the room that direct light up or you can install lights on top of ceiling beams, coves, or even the tops of bookshelves that point up. Look at fluorecesnt strips or even some of the "under cabinet" lighting out there that you could turn upside-down. You don't need to see the fixture, it just has to light the ceiling. Then add pendants and maybe some floor lamps for your direct lighting.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 11:23 AM on November 22, 2010

A skylight or light tube would be ideal, but interior transom windows could also help quite a bit, if you are confident about installing that kind of thing. Many older houses have them, and they often have hinges and can be opened for ventilation.

Generally, if you want to make architectural changes, daylighting would be a good search term for exploring options.
posted by susanvance at 11:38 AM on November 22, 2010

Yeah, lighting and sound are kind of at odds, as you realize.

When we had to build walls in our loft in Soho, the way the space was laid out made it most convenient to build a windowless room along the middle. The light issue was solved three ways:

1. A 1-foot empty drop from the celing. This was great because light bounced into the room from above. This wouldn't work for you because the sound situation in the room was not ideal.

2. Translucent materials along the wall instead of wood. This was more of a strip that went along the room at about eye-level and brought in ambient light.

3. Bright lights. Spotlights on the ceiling and in the room gave the room a warm art gallery type feel.

The last thing actually is that the bed in the room was built on a sort of loft within the room. So the bed was high in the room and close to the light-giving open ceiling. The whole place had high ceilings so this gave more space within the room as well.

Thats all i got, really. Hope that helps in some way.
posted by vacapinta at 11:39 AM on November 22, 2010

You might consider a bunch of light tubes. Even if you're on the top floor you probably don't want to poke holes in the roof, but maybe you could somehow attach the light tubes to non-opening windows in the common space and then run them up high from the window to your wall.

Also use a lot of mirrors. If you can, replace the door with one that has a glass insert, cover the glass when you want privacy.
posted by mareli at 11:41 AM on November 22, 2010

Does it have a ceiling? Generally though, it sounds like you're going to have to build a room within this room to get everything you want, including tool skills. You don't mention where light could come from, so I don't have any thoughts beyond electric lights for that.
posted by rhizome at 11:45 AM on November 22, 2010

With no window, this is unlikely to be a legal bedroom. Check with 311.
posted by Carol Anne at 11:45 AM on November 22, 2010

This sounds like exactly what Ikea manages to do with their interior spaces -- might be a good idea to go there and look at the "200 sf apartment" to get ideas . . .
posted by MeiraV at 12:00 PM on November 22, 2010

I'd read the responses to this similar question if I were you. Consensus was that a bedroom with no windows = dangerous, unpleasant, and illegal. Definitely get some installed before moving in.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:14 PM on November 22, 2010

I'd put a double-glazed window on the wall that will let in the most amount of light, so probably the wall that faces, internally, an external wall. I'd pay a lot of attention to lighting as well.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:51 PM on November 22, 2010

I have lived in a few rooms without windows in NYC. I found that after a few weeks of living without natural light, I was willing to sleep with the door open even though it meant being bombarded with light and noise from the common room.

I think you should just find some old windows or buy cheap ones from home depot, cut holes in your walls and install them. You can sleep with a blindfold on and wear some earplugs when you need darkness and quiet. Fresh air and ventilation are vital and will keep you sane.

I also reccomend building a big lofted bed so that when in bed, you are resting at an angle where you do not see your roommates in the common space and they don't see you. Curtains can be used for privacy at other times.
posted by abirae at 12:54 PM on November 22, 2010

Natural light of any kind is a big plus in these situations. I'd figure out a way to deal with some noise and install a double paned window oriented to pick up some light from the larger room. Install two if you can, because if you're up high in a loft it is likely to be hot in summer and you'll want to open them. This will be much easier if your walls are wood framed. If you're up near the roof, I would also insulate the ceiling, or at least make a drop ceiling from big, wide rolls of cheap canvas. An air pocket is better than nothing for insulation. Plants and the sound of running water are great, though you may need additional lights for that plants, but that's good for you too. Instead of scattering them all over, make a planted area with extra bright light and a small fountain. You can also punch a hole in the wall and install a small fan- good for air circulation and white noise.

When I lived in a windowless (nearly- it had a big window into the windowless hallway) loft room, I felt much more normal when I removed some of the drop ceiling panels to get light from the skylights. I also got a small aquarium with a light on a timer and filled it with plants and fish. You can get creative with various lights on timers that come on at different times, fabric panels or curtains with lights behind, and illuminating different areas of the room to create different moods in each.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:37 PM on November 22, 2010

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