A Sun Room for Improved Morale
There comes a time in life when making a change is the only way to move forward. A mother of four children, I have had a full 30yrs. Also, being a physician has kept my cup overflowing. It all came to a head when my husband came down with a debilitating cardiac infarction that left him partially paralyzed. A year of intensive physiotherapy has got him on his feet again, just about! And he has had to relinquish his partnership at the high-powered law firm he’d helped build. That, more than anything, was what practically broke his spirit. But being the dynamic person he is has given him the strength and determination to carry on. And the TLC he gets from me and the girls! But they’ve left home now, with only the youngest still in law school, the one with her father’s relentless drive and ambition. And a champion marathoner to boot!
Xavier still limps and slurs on occasion, but has perked up with the success of his recovery. We live close to Central Park where earlier he went for jogs; now, a sedentary walk will have to suffice, with yours truly accompanying! I’d begun to consult at the hospital on an emergency-only basis, and had recently resigned, with great sorrow. Medicine was my life’s work, but Xavier needs me more than ever now, and it’s not like we need the money, so I reluctantly but firmly pulled out of the rat race. Now, we’re partnering a sedentary life!
Though living close to Central Park has its benefits, we decided to move to the Long Island estate we owned, left to me by my late grandmother, seeing as I was her only grandchild. The house wasn’t too large, and we’d got it renovated in stages to reflect the order of the day, maintain the innate architectural elements of the house. Though we had enough cathedral windows in the place, Xavier came up with the idea of adding a conservatory to the structure. Having come to the conclusion that he wanted to write legal thrillers after 40 years of law practice, Xavier decided that a large sunroom was just the thing to keep him riveted in his inner musings, and if he needed to take a break, he could always potter around the plants he planned on growing – ferns and orchids. Well, one can never say that he took the easy route to accomplishment!
It was great excitement that we designed the sunroom, using AutoCAD to help us with the structural elements, taking into consideration all the required building codes for a sunroom with an HVAC. In the end, it really was simple. Xavier didn’t want anything larger than 500sqft. So, we decided to have the conservatory built adjoining the north face of the structure, so during winter, we would have ample light in there, as all the trees would have shed their leaves. So from the so-called mudroom, we had a short corridor built, leading to our hexagonal sun room, with skylights in the roof.
In no time, we had palms, ferns and orchids potted lovingly, the orchids hanging over a mulched and pebbled space in the ground – 25 varieties so far! Xavier put in two upholstered easy chairs and footstools that we could lounge in, in addition to the Queen Anne roll-top escritoire and chair for his writing, and a tiny island with a coffee maker, a sink and a bar, so we could entertain a couple or two occasionally.
Xavier also decided to have all the high-performance glazing we’d put in shaded, both for energy efficiency and for our comfort. And for the times when the youngsters came in for yard work and snow shoveling and cause distraction. There were two options we considered –
1. I loved the looks of the Tradewinds light filtering natural woven shades available in all the browns and whites, and that would complement our plants beautifully. They were also available as motorized options. Though they provided adequate shading and glare control, they did a lousy job of insulating without a backing. And the whole idea of the sun room was to bring the lush outdoors in.
2. The second option, and one we finally decide on was the LightWeaves Roller Solar Shades that were designed to provide a scintillating view while maintaining thermal comfort, some respite for the HVAC. We went for the 10% LightWeaves Solar Shades from Graber in an Oyster Charcoal. Looks complicated, doesn’t it? But it’s simple really –
Solar fabrics, made by Phifer, are designed in a basket weave which ensures that the tighter the weave, the less the light that filters through; the darker the material used, the more the light and heat that is absorbed, and because the darker material absorbs light, the glare of the sun is skilfully neutered while offering an unobscured view of the environs, yet muting the view from outside in. The fabric we chose was a blend of fiberglass and vinyl – durable and easy to maintain while offering the beat protection from the UV rays that can cause irrevocable harm to the human skin. These fabrics are also GreenGuard certified and FR rated, which makes them extremely low-risk window covering to our knee-wall conservatory.