WRITER | PATTI EDDINGTON
Ever since 100 AD, when Romans began installing glass in their windows instead of simply slapping rough-hewn wooden shutters over the holes in their walls, we humans have been obsessed with the way we let the light shine into our world.
Here in the US, window styles have evolved over the past century from the fixed panels, stained glass, and transoms so popular during the Roaring ‘20s, through the sleek and streamlined horizontal picture windows and sliding glass doors representative of the Mid-Century Modern movement, the return to Art Deco influences during the 1980s, and, most recently, a swing back toward Modern design.
“The hot style these days is a very contemporary aesthetic. Fortunately, there are many options that fit the bill,” says Cade Colley, who has worked as an architectural representative for Pella by HORNE in Grand Rapids for two years. “The sleek lines, clean joints, and maximized sightlines are everything that a current customer looks for. But I also work a lot with remodeling projects that need to meet historical guidelines, such as in East Grand Rapids. These projects need a window that meets the stringent requirements of maintaining a historical feel with the wood, grilles, and color.”
Colley, who lives on the waterfront in Spring Lake and commutes to the city for work, says there are myriad considerations when deciding which windows and window doors to install during new construction or remodeling.
If you haven’t heard of window walls, you’ve simply not had to consider a change of view for a while. Window walls are hugely popular, especially in Michigan’s water wonderland, where we try to take advantage of all the natural beauty surrounding us.
Normally comprising two or more big windows aligned over a large area, these huge expanses of glass create a sleek aesthetic and allow lots of natural light and warmth to enter.
Colley says that homeowners concerned with keeping treasured furniture safe from sun damage can easily add sun defense coatings. “There is truly a good solution for any climate or situation,” he adds.
Obviously, not all homeowners want a contemporary look, and the symmetrically designed French doors first popularized in 17th-century France still have their legions of fans.
“A French door offers a more traditional aesthetic. If it is the focal point of a building envelope (the separation of the interior and exterior), it certainly stands out in a crowd,” Colley says.
Brady Bunch-esque sliding glass doors are still widely requested and make for easy transition from the indoor living room, den, or walk-out basement to an outdoor patio or deck.
“Another alternative to consider is a multi-slide door, a door with three or more active sliding panels that can offer huge openings to really open up your space,” says Colley. A multi-slide door removes the barriers between indoors and out and expands your living area to include the outside space.
The amount of room you have will almost certainly be one of the most important factors when thinking about new window or door options. Homeowners in smaller dwellings might consider nonoperational fixed windows or even a transom window above a doorway or in a bedroom to let in light and bring the outside in, even in the smallest spaces.
Since budget is almost always a major consideration in any building or renovation project, Colley says it’s important to consider the material type as well as the style of windows or doors you select for your home.
Aluminum-clad wood windows are normally at the high end of the cost spectrum, but it’s also possible to select fiberglass products that still offer high quality but at a more budget-friendly price.
“Looking at the window type will make a huge difference,” he says. “Going from a casement window to a single-hung window will offer huge cost savings, as will going from a French door to a slider.”