Window placement is critical to the success of your window design and overall home design. The window arrangement can contribute to the style, function and enjoyment of your home or work against it.
When the windows are right we hardly notice because the windows blend with the other design elements to make an appealing overall design. When the window placement is wrong it's really noticeable. It just looks off.
By Meg Escott
The placement of your windows presents an extra challenge because the window position needs to work from the perspective of each room both from the exterior and interior of your home. So that's how we're going to tackle this - firstly from the exterior perspective, then moving inside to the interior.
In this section we'll be looking at window placement from the exterior perspective. There are a few subsections in this section.
Skip to interior window placement if that's what you're more interested in.
The window placement of windows on the street facing facade of your home are particularly important as they contribute to the all important kerb appeal of your home.
For windows visible from the street make the frames and placement consistent with the style of your house. Each style has a sort of window rhythm. This is much less important at the back of your house where you might want to include more modern big glass windows.
On any particular facade of a home, particularly the street facing side, there has to be the right amount of area given over to window and wall. The proportions of solid (wall) to void (window) that will suit your home depends on the style you're trying to achieve. In the pictures below we look at a traditionally shaped house with different amounts of window to wall.
First - too much window.
Now - too much wall.
Generally the design of most styles of homes, both traditional and contemporary will be enhanced by lining up the windows vertically up and down the facade and horizontally across the facade.
If there aren't clear vertical and horizontal lines, the facade of the house is somehow harder to read.
Sometimes it might not be possible to line up windows exactly. If that's the case think about aligning the center of one window with the edge of another.
Windows on any particular facade of a house should be of the same shape in the main. It can be a nice touch to vary the shape of windows to add interest provided that this technique is applied in the correct proportion in terms of size and number of windows.
If there are too many windows that are a different shape, there is too much going on visually with the facade.
What is proportion?
The proportion of an object is the relationship between two dimensions. When we talk about the proportion of windows or lights (the smaller panes of glass if a window is divided) we're referring to the relationship between the height and width.
For traditional house styles it's best that a consistent proportion is used throughout the design. The proportion can be applied to window openings, window lights, shutters etc.
In contemporary house styles it might be than not preserving the proportions of the windows creates the effect you're looking for.
Let's have a look at some methods of preserving proportion in a lighted window in a traditional style.
In the image below, in the right hand set of upper and lower windows, the proportion is preserved by making the window lights the same size. The lower level has five rows of lights and the upper level has four rows of lights.
On the left the proportion is preserved by setting the opening of the upper level (the opening of the whole window) to the same proportion as the individual window lights on the lower level.
Obviously you wouldn't use both these methods right next to each other.
The other thing to decide on is the proportional emphasis of the windows in your home design. Are the windows going to emphasize the horizontal (landscape) or the vertical (portrait) direction? For traditional house styles, the emphasis is usually vertical.
If the home style you choose has a vertical emphasis, what happens when a window opening with a horizontal emphasis is required?
The answer lies in using lights to divide the window up into panes that have a vertical emphasis.
The art deco style has a horizontal emphasis and the same principle to change proportional emphasis can be used in the opposite way.
With this principle we tackle how to decide on the space between windows. We'll look at a few different things.
Let's start with an example of well spaced windows.
Now if the windows are moved towards the center just a touch you can see that things start to look a bit off. It's like the house is a bit cross eyed.
At the opposite end of the scale, if the windows are moved to the outer walls of the house our eyes don't quite know where to rest.
The horizontal spacing between windows and doors can be used to create emphasis on different parts of elements of the design.
To start with, here's an example of window placement with no horizontal emphasis. The center points of the central door and windows and the other window bays is equal. This arrangement looks fine but can feel rather static.
Now if we make a fairly subtle change and shift the outer bays of windows out from the center, the central part of the house is emphasized.
This can also happen naturally as in a house this size the width of the central hall would need to be wider than the door itself while still allowing for symmetry in the rooms either side.
It is good practice to decrease the size of windows on the upper floors of a house.
In the first example, the windows are the same size (in particular the height is the same) and placed evenly vertically.
Now if we decrease the height of the windows on the first floor this gives more emphasis to the ground floor and the overall effect is somehow more visually pleasing.
As the size of a facade increases, a common way to add interest to the facade is to vary the depth of the house along the facade creating areas of the facade that 'bump out'.
In the examples given below the house has a central bay. The principle discussed in this section applies equally to other arrangements of varying the depth of a facade.
The most obvious way to decide on the window placement for the outside 'wings' on the house below is to place the window centrally in the wall of the wing as viewed from the exterior.
The better way to place the windows in the outside wings is to place the windows centrally from the wall on the interior.
This positions the windows slightly more towards the center of the house. I think it makes the house look more solid and grounded.
We've already talked about the way windows look from the outside with respect to decoration. That is, the impression the windows give as part of the overall design when the whole or majority of the home is viewed from a good distance.
When we're up closer to a home we can actually see into the windows and that's what I mean by the view from the outside in. It's another way of saying that privacy needs to be a consideration in your window design. Think about what people can see from the street and what your immediate neighbors can see from their homes and outdoor spaces.
If privacy is an issue, consider the type of window glass you use in your window.
Remember that privacy doesn't just apply to rooms where you might be in a state of undress. Are there any windows in your house (eg into the garage onto your car) that might be best obscured from prying eyes?
Here's a Disneyesque chateau example that demonstrates some of the principles for window placement we've been discussing.
Can you spot the window that's a different shape, just to add a bit of interest? Hint - look on the turret on the left.
This house below has a split level design meaning that the rooms on the ground floor have varying ceiling heights. This means that the second floor has different floor levels. You can see how it's caused a few problems with the front facade of this house.
So, now we're ready to move inside and look at windows from the interior perspective. There's several sections to have a look at:
Intuitively we all know that for everyday living, a room with plenty of light is more pleasant to be in than a dark room. Here's a few ways to make sure the main rooms in your home have a great quality of light.
In your main rooms which are greater than about 8ft or 2.5m deep, aim to have windows on two sides of each room to let light in from different directions at different times of the day.
Apart from the obvious fact that the room will be brighter with more light penetrating deeper into the room, having light from two sides...
If it isn't possible to have light on two sides of your larger rooms here's a few ways to mitigate the problem.
1 - Use a skylight
The light from two sides need not necessarily be from two walls. It could be a window and a skylight.
2 - Have windows high in the walls
Raising the ceiling height and placing a window in the extra height means that light can penetrate further into the room.
3 - Use mirrors
Introducing a mirror will reflect the light from the window around the room. It's almost as if there's a second window. Mirrors are a great way to increase the amount of light in your room.
4 - Consider bay windows
With a bay window, the shape of the window will let in light from different directions.
Read more about bay window designs.
5 - Make good use of window reveals
Ensure the surfaces immediately around your
windows, also known as the 'reveal', are designed to their full advantage. Your window reveal design can really add to the character and function of a window.
In this section we'll look through a few ideas for window placement viewed from the interior. Some of the window placements are more suitable for traditional styles and some are more suitable for contemporary styles of home.
What size of window would suit the scale of the room and help contribute to the atmosphere you're trying to create?
Windows can be placed in the center, or off-centered. Would a group of windows look best?
Windows can be placed at the corner of a wall.
What if the windows extend the whole length of a wall?
Window height is dictated by the height of the lintel (top of the window) and the height of the sill. It makes more sense to talk in terms of the lintel and sill level rather than the height of the window.
The level of the window lintel will be dictated by the ceiling height of the room. The taller the room, the higher the lintel.
Lintel height should be kept consistent within a room unless you're looking to make a specific design statement to the contrary.
The level of the sill depends on a few things:
Let's see two rooms of different heights - 8ft and 9ft.
Some rooms have an internal focus or focal point such as a fireplace. For other rooms, the view out of the window is the focal point.
Naturally if there’s a great view you’re going to want to take full advantage. Try to place the window so that you can enjoy the view when you’re using the room. That is to say, we don’t tend to stand at the window and admire the view for long. Make sure you can also enjoy the view when you’re doing the main activity in the room, eg from sitting down at the kitchen table, or washing up at the sink, from the bed in the bedroom or from the sofa in the living room.
Different views can be compelling in different ways. A view of a city street can be impressive and interesting as much as a view of a landscape can be beautiful and peaceful.
If you’re reluctant to put a window in because of an ugly view the solution could lie in the type of window glass you use.
Here's a few other suggestions for dealing with an undesirable view.
Here's a few things to take into consideration for window placement in relation to the different activities that go on in the rooms of your home.
No matter how much money you spent on your TV if the level of light in the room is really bright or there's a sun beam coming through the window and landing on the screen, your TV viewing experience is going to be compromised.
This issue can be overcome in a few ways:
If you're working on a computer the points made above for TVs also apply to computer screens.
If you're working at a desk or table then it makes sense to make the best of natural light. If you're right handed, position the desk so that the natural light comes in from the left and vice versa if you're left handed. The basic principle is that you want to light up whatever you're working on without your body creating a shadow.
If you work with a computer at your desk make sure there's a window treatment to filter or block the light if necessary.
The above two points are a bit at odds with each other. Think about how you spend the most time working (with or without a computer) and plan accordingly
Obviously when you're sleeping you're not looking out of the window but if it's a warm night you'll definitely want to be able to open the windows to keep cool.
For everyday eating a light filled space is ideal. If your home design includes an additional eating space or dining room for more formal occasions which tend to be at night there is no need for a large window. The focal point is the table and the atmosphere is created by lighting rather than daylight. As such a formal dining room can be placed in a part of the house that does not have much natural light.
However, if you're dining room does double duty as a homework table this 'no need for a window' clause doesn't apply.
Windows and over counter cabinets compete for the same wall real estate in a kitchen. If you think you're going to be short on natural light, two possible solutions are:
For windows that are above kitchen base cabinets, make sure the opening mechanism of the window is within reach taking into account the fact that you'll be reaching from a position behind the countertop. Can you open the window above the sink when you're standing in front of the sink?
Bathrooms often have higher sills which automatically create privacy. The other thing to consider with bathroom windows is even though you have a fan it's nice to be able to open the window from time to time. So make sure the window is specified as opening on your plans.