Friday, October 24, 2014

Pattern 159: Light On Two Sides Of Every Room

our bedroom on Cottonwoodlane

First, an apology and a celebration. This is only my 10th post during the Write31Days challenge, and quite possibly my last post for the month of October. At the same time, wahoo, I posted 10 times during October! That’s more than twice as many posts compared to any other month this year.

I won’t bore you with details about my excuses---suffice to say we move into our house in ONE WEEK! We are painting non-stop and giving our new home as much TLC as we can before all our things, which have been in storage the past four months, arrive this Tuesday. We also sold and gave away a TON of stuff before we moved, so we’ve had to make lots of purchasing decisions this month. Any one of these decisions would be a fun opportunity on its own, but having to make them all at the same time is plain crazy-making.

I will continue exploring Christopher Alexander’s book, A Pattern Language, and linking those posts to the introductory page, even if it takes me a year to write 31 of them.

web our house is a very very fine house

All of the images in this post are from my favorite room in our home on Cottonwood Lane, the master bedroom. It’s fun to see clues as to when images were taken. That first image is one of the realtor’s photos in June of this year---I thought it funny that they closed all the shades for the shot. The second image is from 2008---I spy a different chair in the sitting area, the blue JC Penny glider that might not be pretty but that was perfect for nursing my babies. The black box/bag on the floor is a nursing pump.

I loved this room for many reasons. It was big enough to include a crib or bassinet or the kids’ bookcase after we moved the playroom downstairs. Yet it remained a bit of an adult oasis in our kid-dominated house. I loved the soothing blue (Benjamin Moore November Skies). We only hung art and photos on one wall, which kept the room extremely calm in its simplicity. Most of all, though, I loved its light.

According to A Pattern Language’s Pattern 159:

When they have a choice, people will always gravitate to those rooms which have light on two sides, and leave the rooms which are lit only from one side unused and empty.

And so Christopher Alexander recommends that you build so that each room has outdoor space along at least two walls, and that you then place windows so that light falls into every room from more than one direction.

Christopher Alexander pattern 159 Light From Two Directions

Wouldn’t it be nice if that were always feasible? It would be if we all built according to Pattern 109: Long Thin House. But in deep houses, it isn’t unusual to find rooms with only one source of natural light.

There are ways to compensate---you can use mirrors, or open up the floor plan so other rooms’ light contributes. Start paying attention though. Look at your home and notice which rooms have light coming from more than one direction. I think it’s a bit overstated---“unused and empty,” but I constantly notice this now, and feel the difference it makes.

Alexander spends a lot of time on light and windows (Pattern 107: Wings of Light; 128: Indoor Sunlight; 194: Interior Windows, 180: Window Place, and many more). As we looked at houses over the past six months (hundreds of houses!), light was second only to location on my priority list.

You can add windows but you can’t change location. But adding natural light is no small undertaking, and I believe the least appreciated aspect in first-time home buyers. “This pattern, perhaps more than any other single pattern, determines the success or failure of a room,” writes Alexander.


I was delighted to find this discussion of Pattern 159 on, though their work-around options clearly fall short compared to the images that contain Pattern 159.

31 Days button

This post is part of Myquillyn Smith’s Write 31 Days challenge. You can find all my posts on A Pattern Language linked here, and other blogs participating in the challenge (and writing on different topics) here.

1 comment:

  1. I remember reading this pattern and walking around the house realising how much better I liked the two rooms in our house which have windows on two sides. I briefly considered knocking out a window for the dining room which, with only one, is quite cave like. Congrats on your new home! Best of luck setting it up!


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