Choosing windows for your home has the single biggest impact for both the interior and exterior design. Changing the windows in your home is a huge investment and with the seemingly endless choices available, it can feel quite overwhelming. Especially since window choice shouldn’t be down to just personal taste – they need to be functional, high performing and complement the style of your property. An architect or experienced interior designer can guide you through the process, but this post is aimed at those who are replacing windows in their own home and managing the process themselves. There’s a really handy website where you can compare window quotes from 150+ window specialists.
Luckily I have my architect husband on-hand to co-write this post to offer genuine insider advice on window options. You know those people who know what vintage and type of wine they’re sampling on a blind taste or can spot Miu Miu pumps at 50 paces? Yeah, my husband is a bit like that when it comes to windows (and also cars and boats!). I think it’s safe to say that in the UK, you’ll see more ugly windows on houses than well-designed ones. The issue is two-fold and 1990s UPVC is the biggest culprit!
Take a typical 1930s semi with it’s originally designed crittall or timber windows. These windows, although beautifully designed, were single-glazed and don’t meet today’s energy efficiency standards. During the 1990s most of these were replaced with UPVC windows which were totally out of proportion and design of the original architecture. The second issue is some developers. There – I’ve said it! Some UK developers produce housing without using architects to manage the projects. It’s rare for a developer to use an architect to actually carry the design through to completion and so the important details get lost along the way. Developers will often put in the cheapest windows to keep their costs down with little thought to the overall design. The thing is – well designed and beautiful windows aren’t necessarily expensive.
So here’s what you need to look out for when choosing windows for your home…
After considering the architectural style of your home, thinking about what function your various windows serve will really help you to narrow down your options. A window’s main purpose is to allow light into a room. In habitable rooms you’ll want to be able to open a window to allow air in. But in other spaces you may want to consider a simple fixed glazed panel such as in this window seat above and top window below. For windows where you are overlooked, you can consider frosted glass or shutters so you can still maximise light into the space.
Pros – Traditional properties are suited best timber windows. It’s relatively easy to change the colour of timber windows with a lick of paint.
Cons – They require painting every few years.
Aluminium and crittall windows
Pros – Stronger metal materials can produce the thinner window frames that architects covet so much. These low maintenance and durable windows suit contemporary homes as well as some period properties. Conservation officers often prefer crittall windows, especially for listed buildings.
Cons – Can be expensive in the short-term.
UPVC (or PVCu) windows
Pros – Generally the cheapest and lowest-maintenance option.
Cons – Plastic isn’t a particularly strong material and so the frames need to be much thicker than with other materials. Thicker window frames let in less light and can be quite ugly. UPVC windows can in fact lower the value of your period property too. Plastic windows are more brittle and very difficult to fix if they break and so they can work out to be less cost-effective in the long run.
The rule of thumb with window design is the thinner the frame, the more aesthetically pleasing the windows will look. However, there’s a balancing act between design, efficiency, building regs and SAP regs. A thin frame may look awesome, but may not necessarily comply with regulations. A common workaround by architects is to opt for windows with fewer panes of glass using decorative beading rather than multi-paned windows.
There are many types of window hangings such as sash, casement, top-hung, outward opening etc. This is a whole other blog post – but this article covers the options. There are various factors which should be considered when choosing how a window is hung. You need to consider things like, if a window is open, will it block an external walkway or make it difficult to open a door. If a window is over a kitchen sink can you reach to open it? These sorts of considerations are worth thinking about before you choose exactly what style of hanging you want.
Architects will generally steer you well away from brilliant white frames. They end up looking really bright and pretty crap so opt for an off-white for a softer finish. Many contemporary homes are moving towards grey windows and these can vary from a pale grey to almost black. Metal frames can be powder coated to pretty much whatever RAL colour you want. Although crittall windows are so identifiable by their dark grey colour that it’d be a shame to paint them. Wooden windows require painting every 3-5 years anyway and so painting them a bold colour isn’t a huge commitment and could be really worth the risk!
Featured image by Susan Fisher Photography