Window Design Ideas for a Modern Home

Glass is often a key design feature for a contemporary property. Emily Brooks explores how glazing can be used to create striking architecture
Emily Brooks
by Emily Brooks
24th February 2018

Everyone knows the spectacular impact that lots of glass can make to an interior. And, if you favour a modern style of home, glazing will play a major part in establishing the right look.

But what makes windows appear contemporary? It may well relate to the sheer amount of glass in a property compared to solid walls, and the size of the panes; generally speaking, the more glass, the more modern a property will look.

Technology has advanced (and become cheaper) so it can now also be used as a load-bearing material, giving rise to features such as glass link buildings. This is an approach that can work well in extensions to older properties, providing contrast to characterful old materials.

Curved window by Niche Design
This curved two-storey extension was created by Niche Design. The structure is made from steel and glass, with the glazing supplied by York-based Gresson
Glazed front by thistleton waugh with window by ID Systems
Waugh Thistleton’s sustainable build features a projecting box clad in local timber, with a sheltered balcony and recessed sliding glazing by ID Systems

Source it: Find window suppliers for your project in the Build It directory

The trend is for glazing that looks as frameless as possible, letting in the maximum amount of sunshine and giving unobstructed views. Light, strong aluminium frames make this possible, and have become the backbone of many contemporary builds, along with composite products.

These frames can be further concealed within the structure of the building, but this requires clever architectural detailing to tackle issues such as thermal bridging.

Normal-sized cills can spoil the neat look of a window that’s flush to the front. With timber cladding the drainage can be concealed behind it; this isn’t possible with masonry.

Large glass panes are expensive, both to manufacture and install, and there are further costs associated with creating adequate structural support to take their weight.

Thankfully, it’s not always about being bigger and better. Architects also use glass in smaller ways to cleverly frame views, build top-lit spaces that sit in dramatic pools of light, and create unusual features such as curved external balustrades.

Contemporary glazing is about optimum performance, too; not just a sleek, modern look. Low-e coatings are good for thermal regulation; self-cleaning products effective for inaccessible roofs; and triple-glazed units are popular for ultra-low-energy properties.

Browse the gallery for more glazing design ideas:

Expert view

Daniel Rowland of Studio 1 Architects shares his expertise on contemporary glazing

What are the prevailing trends when it comes to glazing?

It’s all about seamless thresholds and frameless glass at the moment. But be warned: losing millimetres off frame widths will significantly increase costs.

In terms of glazed doors, sliders have become preferable to bifolds. The frames are able to overlap one another, rather than abut (like bifold doors) so this reduces their visual impact.

Does everyone want something as frameless as possible?

If you want to maximise on the inside-outside feel, reducing the frame size is the key consideration, but by no means is this always the right solution. If you want to create a cosier home with more of a sense of enclosure and still retain a high ratio of glazing, wider frames can contribute in a positive way.

It’s all about being clear about your intentions, the sense of volume you want to create, and sensitivity in selecting a suitable product that ensures you deliver on the type of space you want.

Can contemporary replacement windows work on a period property?

Slimline steel-framed glazing is very popular, and although its roots sit more in the industrial past, it works very well in period homes. We tend to add slim aluminium-framed glazing to either new builds or extensions.

As a general rule, we wouldn’t replace traditional sash windows with modern aluminium framing, preferring to be honest to the original building.

Is it very difficult to get a neat finish with minimal glazing?

Modern detailing is all about precision. Nothing can be left to chance and everything needs to be considered rigorously from the very beginning.

To achieve good precision, you’ll need to plan meticulously to pre-empt the various key decisions. This is why modern detailing tends to be most successful when done by experienced designers, who foresee things others might not.

Is it possible to make a strong impact without huge swathes of glass?

Definitely. A certain amount of control, rather than aimless expanses of glazing, is better. Sometimes adding large spans of glass works well; occassionally it is a lazier, less considered approach.

Open-plan internal spaces work best if there is defined zoning, and large glazed areas don’t always assist with that. Framing views with seamless glass, and features like projecting glass box seats, can provide a far more suitable solution.

Is glazing now as much about the performance as the aesthetics?

Orientation of the building is a key consideration for where you put glass. How the arc of the sun will affect direct sunlight coming into the space must always be one of the main factors when placing glazing into a building.

With careful selection of window types, you can mitigate the amount of heat, glare etc that passes through glass, but the principle consideration is orientation. Features such as deeper eaves and louvres can also be used to control some of these issues.

Top photo: Freeman Brear Architects turned a 19th-century windmill into an eco-friendly home, with windows from Velfac. Triple-glazed composite units were chosen for their energy efficiency

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