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Window Layout: Juggling Various Conditions

Last week I attended my daughter’s new brand launch party. While chatting with her friend Eric, we got on the subject of alladiyally. He was curious to learn about the way it started, and I enjoyed reminiscing. Offering virtual architectural services was an innovative concept; thankfully, it has evolved into a thriving online business. Besides, it’s really a lot of fun — I get all kinds of design/construction-related questions. Mostly, the clients are satisfied with initial consultation because the people who reach out to me are true DIYers! Just the other day, I had a client who needed advice as she was juggling various conditions while deciding on a window layout.

She wrote: “Hello – my husband and I have been trying to agree on a window layout for MONTHS – we need to order them ASAP and we are still not agreeing on small details. It would help to have a professional advice on what direction to take. We are trying to modernize the traditional home both inside and out. I have an inspirational photo and then I have a drawing of 3 options we are considering. We are looking at windows that have a contemporary feel – square edge wood clad and a thin jamb for drywall returns as well as maximum glass – thinnest frame we can find.”

Struggling to reconcile quite a few variables in a window layout, she wanted “it to be cohesive.”

window layout

I empathized. Being removed from a heated situation, it’s easier to be rational.

I wanted to help with setting up priorities and guidelines that would discipline all of the conditions.

Question: There is a balcony inside… with a 9′ ceiling.  We have been going back and forth with whether to make the windows have a 9′ header height or 8’… I thought 9′ doors were a bit extreme, but my husband loves them.

Answer: 8′ height is very generous for an interior door. 9′ doors might look out of scale.

Question: He is very picky. He sees no value in operable windows… He would be totally fine with all picture windows (direct set) for aesthetics purposes only. I think it is a bad idea to have no operable windows and no ventilation besides the AC.  He just hates the look of a large casement frame next to a direct set window. Really what he wants is aluminum-clad windows from MARVIN, so that everything looks the same no matter what style. But they are $$$ and I think it is a waste of money to spend on this house… We would never get it back, although admittedly it would look great.

Answer: I vote for operable windows from Marvin.

Question: So the 3 elevation drawings that I drew in the proposed Windows pdf. The top one shows the lower windows at 9′ h with a center French door… my ceiling height in that room is 215″ I wanted to have the side windows go all the way to the ground, but we are having a patio outside flush with the inside floor and we are told with the snow accumulation that it is a bad idea to have windows go to the ground… my inspirational photo shows them going to the ground, so immediately I am not sure if it’s worth pursuing this idea and I should just shift gears and do something simpler like in my middle drawing. The middle drawing shows the lower level as all slider doors at 9′ h – it could also be 8′ if you think that is better. I tend to obsess over every window lining up in the house, and it’s driving me nuts.

Answer: I would not worry about bringing the windows to the ground. They should align with the doors at the top. I also think that lining everything up as much as possible is best. But you can break the rule when it’s justified. “Form follows function.” Go with 8′ above finished floor (AFF), not 8′ tall windows. Personally, I would do 12″ above floor and 7′ windows.

Question: He likes sliders because they have much slimmer stiles but says that he would want wider doors if we used sliders like say 39″ doors because they are tighter to walk thru then regular doors. This really chews up a lot of drywall in between the doors by going to a larger door, which worries me. The room width is 28’5″ I believe.

Answer: 36″ wide door is plenty.

Finally, this DIYer wrote: “Your advise would be GREATLY appreciated – it will be a miracle if we can survive this reno and order these windows as soon as possible.  There are so many details to think about and I just don’t trust myself to make the right decision. Just because I see a photo that I love, doesn’t mean that the same window layout is going to look right in my house. I loved the drywall returns that went all the way from floor to the top of the window with the black break metal or wood in between at the headers. I thought it was super cool… but should it line up with my balcony rim joist? If so, then 9′ windows are a must.”

My answer is that a unique case should not drive all of the decisions. When deciding on a window layout, it’s sensible to prioritize and choose a typical size that works for the majority of conditions. Then, make an exception where it’s appropriate.

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  1. Mia S Kazovsky says:

    Interesting! I’m sure she was very pleased with your thoughtful and thorough response! And I’m sure Eric was inspired!

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