Shelves of Light

Chicago, Illinois / United States of America

This existing building, redesigned to now be a LEED Platinum certified home contains a long south facing façade. The north side of the building is dimly lit due to a party wall condition at the north. Using ‘Light Shelves’ we designed a deep day light solution for the main living spaces. We first created large floor to ceiling openings in the south wall. We then place ‘light shelves’ built of steel frames cantilevered from the masonry wall and placed them at the transition between the large windows/doorways and clerestory windows above.


The light shelves are designed specific to this building’s Chicago location. Year round, the light shelf reflects sun off the reflective metal roof and deep into the living spaces of the home along the white plaster ceiling. In the high summer sun, these light shelves limit solar heat gain, while reducing glare and providing shade.  Yet the low winter sun sneaks in below the shelves, warming and lighting the space.


This Divine Detail includes other benefits: rain protection for occupants outside at the building entrances and a location for a motorized privacy shade.


The light shelves have become a memorable icon of the home. 

Architect of Record

Elements Architectural Group


Emery Residence

General Contractor

Roslyn Builders


  • The Structural Shop
  • Building Engineering Systems