There was a time when man lived in the wilderness, communing with nature day and night. We have since found manmade shelter to be more to our liking, but we still crave the beauty of nature.
Windows handle this transition very effectively. They help protect us from the elements, yet allow us to view them.
Who says we can't have our cake and eat it, too? We can simulate outdoor living with atrium windows, also called greenhouse windows. Or, on a larger scale, a complete sunroom can be made where everything is glass except the floor. Architect Philip Johnson was so enamored of nature that he built a house of all glass except the floor and a center core for the bathroom.
There are many more standard windows, though, all having special names that are listed below with a brief description.
— Picture: One large fixed glass in the center, often flanked by smaller windows at each side that can be opened for ventilation and egress (a means to escape in case of fire).
— Double hung: Opens from either the top or the bottom, sliding up and down. This is the kind most of us grew up with.
— Sliding doors: Large panes of glass set into tracks enabling them to slide in front of each other.
— Ranch or strip windows: Fixed glass, horizontal in shape, found in contemporary homes, usually used high on a wall for light as well as decoration.
— Awning: Same as ranch, only these open.
— Casements: These open by means of a crank. They can be purchased to open in or open out. The casements that open in create a decorating challenge that requires carefully planned window treatments.
— French doors: Glass doors with mullions (the vertical and horizontal strips that divide the glass).
— Louvered or Jalousie: Horizontal panes of glass that open outward, usually by means of a crank.
— Bay: Three or more windows set at angles to one another forming a protrusion from the building.
— Bow: Same as bay, only circular rather than angled.
— Circlehead: Half-moon fixed glass used alone or above other windows or doors.
— Skylight: Glass affixed to an opening in the roof to allow penetration of light and sometimes ventilation.
If you are constructing or remodeling, be sure your window supplier provides you with windows that are weather-tight sealed when closed, have insulative value and are free from condensation. When window shopping, ask your dealer the "R" value and the "U" value of their windows. The "R" value is the measure of how well the unit prevents heat from passing through. This figure ranges from 2.40 to 4.50, depending on different types of glass used; the higher the better. The "U" value measures how much heat actually passes through. This figure should be low, ranging from .50 down to .23.
The buzz words from the glass industry are "high performance." Be careful, though. There are high-performance windows for cold climates that allow heat in but not out and the warm-climate types that work the other way around.
I've described standards, but anything can be created. Windows can be cut to almost any shape and size. Just use your imagination.
Rosemary Sadez Friedmann, a professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers.