Windows play a crucial role in the design of modern luxury homes for very good reason. Firstly, for the exterior of the home, they literally create the ‘facial’ balance that natural aesthetics require. The correct placement of windows on an exterior façade gives it a natural harmony, while the opposite results in visual discord. From an interior point of view, new custom home builders believe windows’ orientation is key to optimising natural light and ventilation, while also (and this is particularly true in the Australian context) minimising solar glare and unnecessary heat gain.

Until recently many modern homes or refurbished period homes in the Australian housing market suffered a kind of ‘window mistreatment’. In other words, perfectly appealing interiors often found themselves brought low by the use of aesthetically unsophisticated or simply unimaginative windows. These days, the influence of high quality European design and other international influences from the US and beyond have encouraged attention to become refocused on the importance of windows in modern luxury homes. Here, we look at two category leaders in the window department that are frequently used by quality home builders, one from period style and one that’s decidedly modern.

‘Old’: The sash window

The sash window is about as classic as a window as can be, but while we’re placing them in the ‘old’ corner, don’t be deceived. These windows have a timeless appeal that also works in modern settings.

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Invented in the 17th century, sash windows work with a straightforward up and down motion and use a system of counterweights. They’re perfect for colonial or classic period style homes. Traditionally they have had a few drawbacks however, the main one being their tendency to let in cold air and the constant rattle of the sash in the frame due to wind movement and timber shrinkage. However, advances in materials and designs and overall glazing technology have resulted in modern sliding sash windows that are attractive, safe and energy efficient; and as a result are increasingly used by custom builders. Newer versions of sash windows are available in a range of materials, including uPVC (unplasticised polyvinyl chloride) or modern treated timber.

Sash windows come in numerous configurations – some have an inoperable top sash and are referred to as single-hung windows, while others have three operable sashes, called triple hung. The most popular are double-hung windows, with both the top and bottom sashes being operable. And while they are regarded as a true classic, they are in fact impressively versatile. Whether clients are thinking of a period home or a contemporary haven, sash windows, suitably detailed and styled, can work well for both these custom design homes.

‘New’: Steel framed windows

Sometimes named Crittall windows after the original English manufacturer of steel-framed windows, these large expanses of window intersected by steel frames have become a hugely popular feature for new custom home builders in recent years. They were invented in the mid 19th century with the introduction of a process for hot-rolling steel taken up by Francis Henry Crittall, an ironmonger in Essex, to create steel-framed windows. Crittall was trademarked and the rest is history. The windows quickly achieved popularity throughout the world.

They’re now increasingly used in modern luxury homes to create light-filled ‘walls’ of window that have a warm, authentic feel, but can also be used internally to break up expanses of open-plan layout. Their versatility makes them incredibly popular with quality home builders, architects and home owners.

“Steel framed windows seem to be in high demand at the moment,” confirmed one commentator. “This is probably because while they’re unmistakeably modern they also have a heritage. They can be updated for modern contemporary settings, used in warehouse style industrial settings that are akin to their origins and even in more classic, period homes as a kind of counterpoint that’s contemporary and modern without being too hard edged.”

“What they’re really great for is interiors. Use them as a screen to separate an entrance hallway from a living area, enclose an inner courtyard with them, or even use them as a standalone shower screen in a larger bathroom. If they’re designed properly into a scheme, they give the impression of a property that has had a previously intriguing life, with a nod to an industrial past.”

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One area in which steel frame windows can create challenges is heat loss and condensation. However innovations including double glazing have been proven to considerably diminish their effects. Most quality home builders will be able to advise clients on the best approach in this regard.

Whether your scheme is modern or period, both these window styles can be effectively used, particularly given our current interest in eclectic approaches to architecture and interior décor. There are key points to bear in mind however; as mentioned, don’t forget to discuss the effects of your window selection on ventilation, heat loss, condensation and solar glare. Most custom home builders will be able to provide you with an effective solution and where necessary can also advise on good window covering, shading or insulation solutions.