Conservatory Skylight Study by Tom Simmons

During a recent remodel of a beachfront home the client wanted to include a large conservatory skylight over the entire kitchen.  The concern was that the large skylight at a coastal California home would allow in too much light on a hot summer day.  We half joked that the clients could get a sunburn from being in their kitchen during a sunny day.   We considered designing a sun screen that would be closed on the hottest days.  A motorized screen would add about $10,000 to the budget, not to mention engineering and framing costs.  

I suggested we do a "Sunburn Study" to determine the impact of sunlight in the kitchen.  

 Kitchen, Island and ceiling beam details with the Conservatory skylight. 

Kitchen, Island and ceiling beam details with the Conservatory skylight. 

We drew up the skylight based upon the manufacturer's specification for frames, glass etc., and concluded that if we were to decrease its size, the visual impact would be lost. 

 Conservatory Skylight under consideration

Conservatory Skylight under consideration

The digital drawing from this sunlight study quickly determined that at noon on August 12th, sunlight would be cast across the back wall of the kitchen, and not over the folks sitting at the island.  As a result, we decided that we didn't need the expensive sun screen and could confidently move ahead with the design, engineering and installation of the Conservatory Skylight. 

Kitchen showing the shadow and sunlight washing the far wall on August 12 at noon. 

In doing our 3 dimensional study, we used a valuable tool to help the entire team of contractors, owners, and designers.  

The design Circle Complete by Tom Simmons


Perhaps the best reward for a designer is to eventually see the finished product after months of collaboration, planning, scheduling, wrestling with suppliers, subcontractors and craftsmen to get the project right. And the crowning moment is when your client, to whom you have become confidante and friend in this chaotic march, turns and says, “When this is done, we’re having you over for dinner and we’ll all enjoy the fruits of our hard labor."

It rarely happens. Not for want of trying or good intentions but because our lives are full and busy and time is the most precious commodity. Kids, work, that last light bulb is not in place.... it seems everything conspires to keep us from sharing a moment. So when our clients Nick and Carmen called and invited us over along with their lender and Realtor to appreciate their finished kitchen, we jumped. 


It turns out that Nick and Carmen are quite a team, and both are excellent cooks. They were in full work mode when we arrived. The Bertazzoni oven was on for the roasted salmon and short ribs had been marinating for a full day. The spice cabinet that we designed, took apart and rebuilt at Nick’s insistence to finally become the perfect storage space was wide open. Spice jars were pulled in and out at a frenzied pace. 


We started with roasted root veggies on a smear of yogurt. Roasted salmon with tomatoes, and the melt-in-your-mouth short ribs followed. Believe us when we say that the knives were on the platter just for effect. 

The bar was lit and the wine flowed from the cooler and the angled wine racks that we had agonized over. 

This is in fact a working kitchen for a most worthy client. 

Everything was in perfect working order.


We were all having a marvelous time, when we reluctantly realized it was almost midnight and time to go.

All in all, it was a grand evening where the clients got to show off all the features that were hidden and painstakingly thought about during the remodel process. For us the rewards were obvious. A fine meal and the Design Circle complete.