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Designs and Styles for Traditional Windows

Fitting traditional windows for any modern or period property is a task that requires careful preparation and consideration. You will need to know what you are looking for in terms of design and style, as well as any unique requirements your property has. But what can this process cover? What designs and styles are available for a homeowner to choose from?

We have answered these in more depth below, as well as offered information on some of the traditional window designs you are likely to come across. All of these may be seen on older properties as original or replacement features, or on newer builds as design elements intended to add a timeless charm to a modern interior or exterior.

What Constitutes a Traditional Window Design?

Strictly speaking, there is no one “traditional” window design. There are only window types and design styles that originated in particular eras and were popular features of properties of the time. These properties, which we now term “period properties” for their age, may have retained these windows over the decades. When these original windows are broken or become worn by time or neglect, a property owner may then decide to have them replaced with replicas.

These replicas can be said to have a traditional window design, and will often aid in maintaining the perfectly preserved aesthetic appearance of an older home. For many listed buildings or addresses in conservation areas having this work carried out will not only be at the discretion of the homeowner but may be a legal obligation. The list of requirements these windows are expected to adhere to is noted in a conservation order upheld by local planning authorities.

Traditional Sash Windows

Traditional sash windows are designed with one or more moving panels, commonly called “sashes”. These characterise the type itself, and they slide vertically to open and close as the homeowner wishes. The window’s construction means that a homeowner will have to push the window upwards to open it, rather than outwards as with a standard window. This achieves a broader opening that allows for greater airflow, and they generally allow a large amount of natural light into a property.

Classically made timber sash windows are the oldest type you are likely to encounter, as softwood timber is the material original sash windows would have been made from when the design was first introduced (around the 17th century). However, in the modern era, you are also likely to find them in more contemporary materials, such as uPVC. These materials are more cost-effective and easier to maintain but can still be manufactured using window details that replicate the wooden designs of days gone by.

Wooden sash windows will often be built with either a spiral balance (made popular in the 1980s) or a cords and weights mechanism as the method of opening and closing.

Traditional Box Sash Windows

At first glance, ordinary uPVC or timber sash windows and uPVC or timber box sash windows may look the same. There are, however, some subtle differences that you may wish to take note of before deciding which one will best suit your property. The most important and noticeable of these is the feature that gives box sash windows their name: they use a vertical window box to hide the ropes and pulleys on a sash cord that allow the window to be opened. This maintains the window’s appearance, while still allowing it to be opened effortlessly.

Box sash windows are often considered chunkier and heavy than ordinary sash windows. As such, they are often recommended for larger window spaces.

Traditional Casement Windows

Timber casement windows were the most common type of window by the second half of the 18th century and can be identified by certain specific window details. These include the subdivision of window panes by glazing bars that join them together. Earlier designs also had the opening part of the window (the casement) made of iron with lead latticing to the glass. By around 1840, this had changed, and the frames and opening casements were entirely wooden.

The most typical pattern for casement windows at this time was six glass panes per window, but designs could be elaborated upon by using Gothic arches or smaller panes. This was a prevalent stylistic choice during the mid-19th century, but after this time, the technology involved improved, and the number of panes per casement was reduced to two. These panes would share one horizontal glazing bar between them, and traditional windows were usually no more expansive than about 450 mm (18 inches) per casement.

The wooden frames of casement windows were developed from the heavy oak frames of Medieval openings. Jambs, cill, and head were jointed with a pegged mortice and tenon. A slimmer, softwood version forms the basis of a traditional casement window design. Today, they may also be found in uPVC materials.

Traditional French Windows

Despite the name, French windows do not have their origins in France. Instead, it is widely believed that they originated in Italy, and may either be an invention of or take inspiration from Roman or Greek architecture. A Renaissance revival of former design principles such as proportion and symmetry, as well as adopted traditional Greek features such as columns, arches, and lintels, influenced a range of architectural aspects at this time, including windows.

By the 1490s (the High Renaissance period), this style was widely popular across Italy, and it did not take much longer for the trend to take hold in France. Once there, architects had their influences on the design, embedding window panes into the structure held by mullions. The concept was then used to great effect during the Baroque era, and taller designs of French windows soon became doors in their own right (although they are generally slimmer than actual French doors).

The original designs for French windows would have been made from wood and iron, and some experts will still recommend these materials for their creation. However, it is also possible to find them in more modern material designs, such as uPVC.

Replacing Traditional Windows for Period Properties

If a homeowner is replacing a period property’s windows, they will still be expected to meet the most up-to-date standards and regulations. This includes those covering thermal efficiency (so window designs can be double glazed or triple glazed) and security. There may also be an approved list of colour options for timber designs that have been chosen and approved by their local authorities.

Advice on Replacing Traditional Windows

When replacing traditional windows for an older property, there are a few tips and pieces of advice that may help you to make the best decision when selecting the perfect new set:

  • Know your property well; by knowing when your property was built, you will be able to do the right research and select a type of window that fits the period.
  • Consider neighbouring properties; if you have neighbours, your properties are likely to have been built in the same era. By looking at their features and architectural designs, you should be able to see which window design matches your home best.
  • Consider your material options; replacing timber windows, in particular, can be costly, and they will require a lot of maintenance. You may be able to find the exact window design you need in a more cost-effective material.
  • Pay attention to detail; there are several aspects you will need to pay attention to in terms of window details. Colours, finishes, styles, and window furniture should all be looked into to give the most authentic overall appearance.

For Bespoke Windows in a Traditional Style

We understand the importance of perfectly replicating the features of period properties, as well as delivering window designs made to specification for newer builds. This is why our experienced professional team will take great care to ensure all the bespoke traditional designs you have asked for are supplied and fitted to suit your requirements, as well as the needs of your property.

We will even be ready and waiting to discuss everything you need as soon as you get in touch with us. Contact us on the phone or send us an email if you’re ready to fit high quality, custom-made casement or sash windows in a modern or period property.

We will be glad to ensure these traditional window designs meet the standards you are expecting and match your home to complete any aesthetic requirements.