Match the Window to the Room

Different areas of the house have different requirements for windows. Here are a few guidelines for thinking about windows on a room-by-room basis.

Living Room: The living room is typically one of the largest rooms in the house and therefore can accept the biggest windows, but that makes sense only if there's something to look at. For example, if your living room faces a tight cul-de-sac, the view of other people's cars might not be the best use of a large array of windows. Big, south-facing windows can fill all the spaces feeding off the living room with bright, ambient light; just be aware of the potential for overheating in summer. Many living rooms also contain glass doors to decks or patios. Ganged together, windows and doors can create a sense of openness and bring in the outdoors in a way that makes a home seem larger than its actual size. Integrate them by aligning the tops of the openings and using coordinating trim.

Dining Room: Windows in the dining room should be thought about with a great deal of circumspection. Most dining rooms are used at night, so do you really need a giant window to look through when it's dark outside? An increasing number of homeowners are choosing to put dining spaces in areas with few or no windows, relying on art, a fireplace, or even furniture to create more valuable visual interest when the sun goes down.

Family Room: Given the variety of activities that go on in a family room, window placement can be a challenge. For instance, high light levels and low sun angles interfere with TV viewing — and if you've invested a lot of money in a plasma screen, you certainly want to be able to watch it. So if the view from your family room is fantastic, you may want to opt for big windows and relocate the TV and computer. If homework or other desk work is to be done in the room, think about which side you'd like the natural light to come from: For right-handed people, light from the left is best; vice versa for lefties.

Kitchen: Double-hung windows over sinks are tough to open and close; casements are the best choice when you have to reach over a sink or counter to get at them. Windows and cabinets often compete for wall space in kitchens. For the best of both worlds, create a walk-in pantry for storage and have larger windows over the counters, where you tend to spend more of your time.

Bedroom: While bedroom windows admit light and views, their most important function is to allow for sufficient air flow on warm nights. Casements give the most operable area, awning windows can remain open even in light rain, and tall double-hungs can have both the upper and lower sash opened. Bedroom windows are also subject to some safety considerations: If you have a second-floor bedroom and don't have a back staircase, building codes require that the windows be of a certain size and sill height to allow you to escape and firefighters to get in.

Bathroom: Privacy is key. Transom windows, skylights, or even glass block can give you a fair amount of ambient light without compromising privacy. However, it's a real benefit in most bathrooms to have operable windows, rather than relying solely on a fan.

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