Window Watching

Regardless of the view, a home's windows can be an enticing selling point.

February 1, 2004

Windows are the eyes of the home and also the soul. If the rooms are dark and the views unremarkable, you may worry that your listing will be slow to sell. Fortunately, the windows themselves can evoke a special kind of magic that goes beyond their function of providing light and ventilation.

The variety of windows manufactured today is staggering. However, the emotional appeal of windows comes not from their engineering but their artistry. Ask yourself these four questions to shed light on your listings' windows and intelligently discuss their inherent beauty to prospective buyers.

1. What shapes are the windows?

Not all windows are square or rectangular. Consider the romance of these popular styles:

  • Pointed Arch. Rooted in the tradition of medieval cathedrals, narrow windows with pointed arches are common on Victorian Gothic homes. Wider, squat Gothic arches are characteristic of Tudor homes.
  • Rounded Arch. Rounded, or Roman, arches hearken from Renaissance Italy, when Andrea Palladio and other architects designed buildings modeled after ancient Greek and Roman forms. You are likely to see windows with gently curved archways on Italian Renaissance and Victorian Italianate homes.
  • Palladian. Named after the Renaissance architect, a Palladian window is divided into three parts, with rectangular panes on each side of a wide arch. Placed at the center on an upper story, a Palladian window is an elegant focal point in Federal, Queen Anne, and Classical Revival homes.
  • Semi-circular and Oval. Like rounded arches, half-circles and ovals are classically expired. These accent windows are a hallmark of the graceful Adam style and have continued to be used through Victorian and modern times.
  • Triangle and Trapezoid. Angular shapes add drama to contemporary homes. A cathedral window forms a narrow triangle as it stretches across the room, following the line of a slanted roof. A gambrel window follows the line of a gambrel roof.

2. What are the glazing patterns?

Although many windows are made from a single sheet of glass, you may notice a variety of glazing patterns or windowpane arrangements.

  • Six, Nine, or 12 Panes. Windows with many small, square panes suggest aColonial, Georgian, and Federal influence.
  • Diamond-shaped. Diamond-shaped panes are characteristic of Tudor, English cottage, and some Mission-style homes.
  • Leaded Glass. Secured with thin strips of lead, pieces of clear, frosted, beveled, or stained glass are arranged in dazzling patterns. Many glassmakers have imitated Tiffany's floral designs and Frank Lloyd Wright's abstract geometrics.

3. Where are the windows located?

From semi-circular openings in the door to romantic skylights in the roof, the placement of the windows can be as important as their shapes.

  • Ribbon. Common in Prairie, Craftsman, and 20th century homes, several windows are placed in a row, with their frames abutting.
  • Five Ranked. Georgian-style homes almost always have five rectangular windows equally spaced across the second story.
  • Sidelights. Neoclassical and Greek Revival homes often have sidelights—tall narrow windows—flanking the entry door.
  • Fanlights. Adam and other classically styled homes may havesemicircular fanlights or sunburst lights above the entry door.
  • Bay Windows. Originating during Medieval times, bay and oriel windows became popular during the Victorian era. Bay windows jut out from the side of the house. An oriel window projects from an upper story and is supported by decorative brackets. A bow window is made with curved glass.

4. How do the windows open?

An ornamental window, such as a fanlight, is usually fixed, but most windows are composed of sashes that glide, hinge, or pivot.

  • Double-Hung. Also known as a Georgian window, this traditional style has sashes that slide up and down.
  • Traverse. Often found on contemporary homes, traverse window sashes slide side to side.
  • Casement. Craftsman, Tudor, Mission, and various 20th century styles often have casement windows. They are hinged on the side and open with cranks. A French window is actually two casement windows placed side by side.
  • Awning, Hopper, and Transom. An awning window is hinged at the top and opens out. A transom window is hinged at the top and opens into the room. A hopper (or eyebrow) window is hinged at the bottom and opens into the room.
  • Jalousie. Practical for sun porches, jalousie windows function like Venetian blinds with narrow slats of glass that crank open and closed.

Let in the Light

Train your eye and you are likely to find a variety of windows—including types and styles not listed here—on a single house. Don't worry if you can't remember the precise vocabulary. Simply draw the curtains open and let the beauty and ingenuity of the windows help you sell the house.

Learn more:

Window & Door Manufacturers Association


Residential Styles & Structural Elements


Romanesque columns were originally seen in the Romanesque style of architecture in Western Europe from the 9th century to the 12th century....