Product Trends: Windows Bigger, Brighter, Bolder

Customizable windows prove key as sizes trend upward, colors get darker, privacy persists, and energy-efficiency technology advances.

January 03, 2014

A trend toward indoor-outdoor living spaces is prevalent throughout the remodeling industry, whether with kitchens, decks, porches, or doors. Large windows have become yet another way to mesh these spaces.

Whether windows are completely torn out or simply replaced during a remodeling project, the results can impact an entire home.

“Your window choice is the one decision you make in your house that impacts every single room,” says Elizabeth Souders, director of product management for Jeld-Wen. “You really have to make sure it works with all the different types of spaces you’re creating.”

Making sure these windows complement areas of the home aesthetically is only part of the challenge. Windows also must let in abundant amounts of light while still maintaining privacy (when desired) and lowering energy bills.

Creating light

A trend toward indoor-outdoor living spaces is prevalent throughout the remodeling industry, whether with kitchens, decks, porches, or doors. Large windows have become yet another way to mesh these spaces.

“The demand and desire for larger sizes [of windows] bridge traditional and contemporary,” says Christine Marvin, director of marketing for Marvin Windows and Doors. “Regardless of your style, the one thing we all share is a desire to maximize views and allow daylight to come into our homes.”

Newer construction often includes high ceilings, so homeowners are finding ways to take advantage of additional wall space with what Stacy Einck, brand public relations and social media manager for Andersen Windows Corp., calls “monumental-sized” windows.

“If you consider a standard ceiling height of 8 or 9 feet, then the windows are proportional to that,” she says. “But in some cases where ceiling heights are getting to be 10-, 12-, 14-, or 15-feet high, the windows are proportionally getting bigger too.”

RESOURCE LIST

Andersen Windows Corp.
Jeld-Wen
Marvin Windows and Doors
Milgard Windows & Doors
Pella Corp.
Ply Gem
Simonton Windows
Western Window Systems

During a project many remodelers, however, may not have the luxury of working with high ceilings or the ability to increase the ceiling height. In situations such as these, remodelers and homeowners are choosing to bring more light into the home by pulling the sill down, sometimes all the way to the floor, according to Einck.

Another way to obtain large expanses of windows that command wall space is with combinations.

“We’re seeing more homeowners and remodelers opt for factory-mulled combinations of two or more windows to create focal points in a home,” says Kathy Krafka Harkema, spokesperson for Pella Corp. “By combining several standard-sized windows into a larger grouping, you add architectural interest, open up a room, and invite in more natural light.”

Although some arch-top or half-round windows may be used in combinations, the general trend is toward contemporary, squared-off windows. Windows with clean lines, however, are not only gaining popularity in contemporary design but also in traditional design, according to Marvin.

Integrating privacy

With large walls of windows comes the challenge of maintaining privacy in particular areas of the house or at specific times of day.

Many manufacturers are offering different options of blinds that are integrated into the window system and give homeowners the ability to control privacy whenever they choose.

“Internal blinds and shades are becoming more important,” says Chris Pickering, vice president of marketing for Ply Gem. “They want larger windows and privacy, which means being able to move a lever to easily change the window from open-viewing to complete opacity is important.”

Homeowners do not have just one choice when it comes to integrated blinds. Interior and exterior shades as well as those between two panes of glass all solve privacy concerns but with different advantages.

“Between-the-glass blinds and shades are made-to-order, to provide a precise fit,” Krafka Harkema says. “Because they’re between glass, they’re a cleaner option and ideal for homes with children or pets.”

Marvin Windows and Doors, however, has moved its shade system all the way to the exterior. This eliminates any concern of the system scratching certain glazed coatings and thereby hindering energy efficiency, according to Marvin.

“We house the exterior shade system into our casing cavity. It’s beautiful and it’s seamless,” she says. “It’s another approach to allowing privacy control of your home but not necessarily by way of obscure glass, where you’re actually obscuring the view.”

With automatic features on these systems, homeowners can program when they want their shades to open and close depending on the time of day.

Marvin’s newest release of interior shades offers privacy without the automation but with the perfect fit by integrating them into the window system. Homeowners can open the windows in a top-down or bottom-up manner to let in just as much light as desired.

Although shade systems are becoming popular options for large expanses of windows, privacy glass and art glass have a strong presence in some areas.

“Where houses are closer together, obscure glass is often sought after, especially in bathrooms or bedrooms,” Krafka Harkema says.

These closer houses are popping up in contemporary neighborhoods throughout the country, so homeowners now more than ever are looking for more innovative ways to add privacy to key areas of their homes.

“Privacy just doesn’t have to be the frosted or sandblasted glass anymore,” Souders says. “It really can be an opportunity to be a decorative or art-like element.”

Souders says she has seen more people coming in with customized ideas or artist renderings they want to turn into privacy glass for a bathroom or hallway.

Customizing aesthetics

Customization is not only a key element with glass but also with window shapes, colors, and hardware throughout the house.

“We’re seeing a return to wanting to personalize. This may be attributed to the downturn of the economy, but we saw people have very functional needs: ‘My window isn’t durable anymore, it isn’t energy efficient, and I have a problem I need to fix,’” Souders says. “Now we’re still seeing them say that but then saying: ‘I want it in the right color and the right finish, and I want my hardware to coordinate amongst other items in my house.’”

White used to be the most common color for windows, and it still is, but now there is less of a percentage of white windows, according to Einck. Homeowners want to incorporate windows into their entire design plan.

“Consumers want a wide range of exterior window color options that match or accent siding, roofing, decking, and other trim components,” says Steve Gillhouse, vice president of sales for Simonton Windows. “On the interior, window colors and wood grains are being coordinated to complement popular cabinet wood grains and furniture.”

To appeal to homeowners’ willingness to experiment with color, Ply Gem has introduced four new colors to its lineup of painted vinyl windows: Black, Evergreen, Royal Brown, and Sharkskin. Andersen also recently released a dark bronze to embrace this trend.

Homeowners are giving much more attention to window hardware, and manufacturers are innovating new material options in this category.

“More choices in hardware finishes allow homeowners to make a statement and match other finishes within their home,” Pickering says. “It’s about creating an inviting and warm atmosphere within the home.”

Standardizing energy efficiency

As homeowners really hone in on customization and aesthetics, they are not willing to give up the energy-efficient characteristics that are often the primary reason for replacement.

“In a post Energy-Star and energy-tax credit era, consumers are more educated regarding energy efficiency and the options that are available to them to achieve optimal performance,” Gillhouse says. “Combine this knowledge with rising energy costs, and improved energy efficiency is one of the key drivers for window demand.”

Boosting energy efficiency can take many forms including double- or triple-pane windows instead of single-pane, enhanced glazings on the glass, sill materials, and proper installation to name a few.

Many manufacturers are incorporating things such as low-E coatings into standard window packages. Energy-efficient products tailored to certain areas of the country are often no longer upgrades.

Some homeowners and remodelers, however, are now looking to fine tune other aspects of window purchases to maximize efficiency and minimize energy bills. One of these aspects is house orientation.

“If you’re trying to orient a house to a certain direction, you may choose a window that’s going to give you an energy efficiency that will allow more solar heat gain or less depending on if it’s on the north, south, east, or west side of the house,” Einck says. “That’s not to say the other sides won’t have energy-efficient windows, but you may want something different.”

As a key component to new and replacement windows, energy efficiency can now be seamlessly combined with the large walls of durable windows and customized aesthetics in the marketplace.

“Windows have gone through an extensive evolution over the years, and they’re better built, better technologies, better materials and better processes to craft those windows,” Marvin says. “In the end, you have a very robust, durable, and appealing product as a result.” PR

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