How to choose the ideal window style

You have chosen your window materials and types – now let’s move on to the various styles and placement of windows in your home.

The phrase “Oh, you should get a casement window” is being abandoned, but to be honest, I didn’t even know what a casement window was when I first bought my house. I looked at it and quickly backed off when faced with the surprising variety of styles available.

I’ve done what I often suggest – look at your neighbors and keep your style consistent. For me this involved two more than one which meant one window pane on top of two window panes.

I’ve learned a lot more since then, and it’s worth knowing because windows are a central style element of any home. For the sake of brevity, I’ll stick to the styles popular in Ireland.

Check with your local planning authority first for any restrictions that may apply to where you put your windows and what style or color they may be.

casement windows

Let’s start with casement windows, as they are popular for good reason – they are beautiful. They first appeared in the 17th century in England, France or the Netherlands, depending on who you talk to.

A sash window. Image: Getty

Casement windows are effectively vertical sliding windows, usually in which the upper window pane is placed above the lower window pane, such that the lower window can slide behind the upper one.

This mechanism saves space as you don’t have to open your windows wide and is also good for keeping the rain (mostly) out (if you need to open your windows when it’s raining).

Casement windows have gone through several style eras – Georgian sash windows had six panes each on the upper and lower windows, and this remains very popular.

During the Victorian era, glass making greatly improved and larger windows with less ornate designs appeared.

More recently, casement windows have experienced a resurgence due to innovations in window frame materials – traditional wood frames and pulley mechanisms often require repairs, while modern wood and sliding mechanisms work smoothly.

You can even get PVC wood effect casement windows that look pretty realistic – take a look before committing to make sure you’re happy with the faux effect.

Multi-pane casement windows work best in vintage homes or cottages. Large, single-pane and minimalist-framed casement windows are a more suitable choice for modern homes.

bay windows

Bay windows became popular in English homes during the Renaissance. They usually consist of three panes of glass set at roughly 45 degrees to each other and extending outward from the exterior wall.

Bay windows, sashwindowspecialist.com.
Bay windows, sashwindowspecialist.com.

They’re great for creating extra space – both an illusion and some real additional space – and to let the maximum amount of light in.

Bay windows are often associated with Victorian style homes, but the style can be adapted to suit any home. For a very modern look, even the window pane itself can be curved – although this is expensive and many argue there is a greater risk of leaks.

Bay windows are usually downstairs in living rooms, and all sorts of Instagrammable window seats can be added to them, but they can also be added upstairs (called Oriel windows here).

Transoms, sides and arches

Transoms are simply the fixed glass pane above a door and the side lights are those on either side of a door.

Transom windows are usually rectangular, but are arch-shaped, sometimes seen with varying degrees of pomp in Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian homes.

Usually seen around front doors, but also often seen around interior doors, transoms and side windows are all there to let light into the home.

Arched transom and sidelights, flickr.com.
Arched transom and sidelights, flickr.com.

Originally their purpose was to allow ventilation without having to open the door, but these days they are not usually designed to open.

These are just one of the fixed window types popular in modern homes – tall horizontal windows are now seen above kitchen cabinets to maximize light without sacrificing space.

Large fixed windows on the landing or stair turn are also popular, and more unusual shapes such as round or hexagonal windows are sometimes used to add elegance to a home.

Window coverings such as curtains or blinds – even stained glass, carved glass or one-way reflective coatings – can be added to side lights or other fixed windows to preserve privacy and add a unique design element to your home.

wing combinations

Casement windows, most popular in modern homes, are windows that open with a hinge from one side. These can be combined to create a variety of styles – for example, more than two styles popular in cottages in the early 20th century.

Rectangular casement windows in various combinations appear in 20th-century styles such as art deco, mid-century, brutalist, and modern.

There are no hard and fast rules for how you should design your casement window combination – instead, consider what you need from your window.

Which section needs to be opened and which can remain closed? How can you best bring light to that area? Want a sleeker style with multiple panels and designs, or would a large modern compartment look better?

golden ratio

The golden ratio (1.61) is a number found in nature and used extensively in architecture. It would take another article to cover it fully, but to put it simply, the golden ratio (also called the “divine ratio”) is a sequence of numbers used to analyze the ratio of objects relative to one another.

Given its ubiquity in nature, this ratio is believed to be the most pleasing to the eye and has therefore become popular in architectural design. This has to do with two things about windows – their size and placement.

Hexagon windows, signelements.com.
Hexagon windows, signelements.com.

Typically, window sizes that are about 1.61 times taller on one side than the other are considered the best ratio – for example, if the window is one meter wide, it should be about 1.61 meters long, and vice versa.

While the final decision on window size will involve many other factors such as space and planning, it’s a rule of thumb that can help.

Similarly, considering the position of windows in proportion to the overall facade of the house will theoretically result in an aesthetically pleasing exterior.

In practice, I prefer to place the largest windows possible to let the light work its magic indoors!

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