Atrium Design Ideas

An atrium can be a multistory focal point of the living spaces of the house.

Steel Beam Industrial Atrium

An atrium in a home blurs the boundaries between indoors and out.An atrium in a home blurs the boundaries between indoors and out.
Or it can be a small glass column, filled with a green jungle of plants and piercing every floor to a rooftop skylight. In the tropics, an atrium might be screened instead of glassed-in.

Cities with reclaimed manufacturing sites occasionally feature converted loft living with the bonus of an enclosed atrium. The space preserves the steel beams of the original construction, pared down to a skeleton and roofed in glass. An "L"- or "U"-shaped home could borrow the idea with a paved patio and wood or steel beams holding up a greenhouse-style glass roof. Enclose the patio with more glass walls and doors for a minimalist invitation to the sheltered outdoors and a blast of light for the rest of the house.

Enclosed Patio Atrium

An open-air atrium for a one-story home functions like a patio, surrounded by glass-walled rooms on all sides. The atrium may be integrated with the home by a liberal use of the same wood for trim and the same flooring--limestone tiles, for example--inside and out. Because the atrium is so visible, keep furniture simple and use a limited color palette in the adjoining rooms. Tall container plants just inside and outside sliding glass doors erase the boundaries between the atrium and indoor spaces.

Arched Atrium Access

A home atrium has a graceful relationship with the rest of the house when the architecture relies on elegant forms. Instead of a typical glass wall, let the atrium be viewed and reached through floor-to-ceiling arches. French doors in one or more of the arches allow access. The style accommodates period architecture as well as an eclectic design sensibility. The atrium might contain a single green vertical wall, carefully tended topiary or a jungle riot of ferns and blooms. It evokes the Victorian craze for Wardian cases, glass terrariums containing plants. If the budget permits, echo the arch shape with a curving glass barrel roof over the atrium.

Glass House Atrium

For a dark house or apartment, create a two-story glass atrium surrounding a glass staircase. Sheets of glass form treads and risers, and the stairs and glass wall act like a giant window, a magnet for light by day and an opportunity for some dramatic lighting at night.

About the Author

Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .