Bathrooms in the past typically relied on a small, sliding window for light for fear of losing privacy. Privacy is still important, but today’s master suites simply need more light than baths in the past. There are several reasons for this:
- Many newer homes have higher ceilings – areas that can get dark and cavernous easily.
- the popular decor for baths today involves dark cabinetry that imitates furniture and darker colors on walls, countertops, and floors.
- Third, with all the many functions that take place in the bath these days, it’s a shame to rely on artificial light for everything from shaving to lingering in the tub on a weekend to finish off your book.
Maximizing natural light without losing privacy
One traditional way to keep windows sizeable and maintain privacy is to order them with obscure glass. Hanging opaque shades, such as the cellular or honeycomb variety, allows you to use regular glazing. This keeps the look of your home consistent on the exterior. Some of these can be raised from the sill up halfway on the window in defiance of gravity. Wood shutters can accomplish the same thing if they are ordered at half the height of the window and hung just above the sill. Another approach is to place windows higher on the wall. High fixed windows – often called transom windows even when not mounted above a door – will catch the winter sun and bring it in. You can also use high slider, hopper, or awning windows if you like to open them in temperate weather. (Hopper windows are hinged horizontally at the bottom so they open slightly at the top; awning windows open at the bottom.) Another option is a small private garden (less than 50 sq. ft.) surrounded by a high fence that just serves a large picture window in the bathroom. The result can be an intimate but inspiring view – a way to bring a little of the outdoors in.
Choosing window styles and types
If you are replacing all the windows in your home or building new, picking out a window style can be surprisingly difficult. You do want to stay with a single style for the entire house and let the home’s exterior architecture determine the type of window. This obviously dictates double-hung windows for Colonials, for instance, but even then you have decisions to make about whether you use divided lites (paned windows) in one or both sash, etc. Studying classic homes in older neighborhoods can help you with this assignment. If you are just adding windows for a remodel or addition, it becomes simpler: You want to match the existing windows as closely as possible in this case. You can probably do this with either wood, composite, or vinyl windows. All have their fans and detractors. If you pay attention to quality within each category, all can produce excellent windows; the decision depends largely on your aesthetic and budget. Whatever you choose, make sure you are at least in the middle of the quality range for the window type considering how important windows are to your energy bills and how expensive they are to replace. Vinyl – the least expensive of the alternatives and also the one that requires the least maintenance over the years – is a good example. They range from flimsy, leaky products that are screwed together locally to Energy Star-rated windows made of thick, interlocking extrusions. Whatever window material you choose, look for a manufacturer who will be around to service their warranty and who has a proven level of customer satisfaction. Consider sealed double-pane windows even in temperate climates with low-E coating and argon-filled glazing in colder places. An Energy Star rating is certainly a plus in a future where energy prices will only be going up, and consider cladding on wood and composite windows despite its price to keep time-consuming (or expensive) maintenance low. For coastal living, think about the wisdom of hurricane-resistant glazing.
Window style, size and placement are all very important to the look of your houseâ€”this is an area where consultation from an architect or designer can really help. Whatever material you choose, look at quality and energy usage carefully, and pick a manufacturer that has a good reputation with contractors and lumberyards for a low rate of call backs. Then make sure the windows are installed with care and according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Finally, make sure the windows are one of the first things ordered. Not ordering windows (and cabinets) far enough ahead is one of the most common reasons that the work on new construction and remodels alike comes to a grinding halt.