Architectural Advice: Detailing Doors & Windows
13 Apr '21
As an architect, one of the most important things when considering a building or extension project are the windows and doors. They permit not just the transmission of light in to and through the house but also the passage of feet and sight out to the contextual surroundings.
The design of windows and doors of a property are a detail many overlook, rush past or fail to even consider, for us they’re absolutely imperative. Buildings are animated by shapes, solids, voids and shadows and the way that sunlight plays on them. These apertures allow natural light to fill each space as well as frame the chosen views of the outside world.
Unfortunately the industry standard is to put all window and door head heights at 2.1 metres tall. This, in our opinion, is rather mundane and we try to avoid this practice at every opportunity.
When we draw doors we try to create something significant, to make them as statement pieces, not just functional thoroughfares. We like to raise the bar with head heights up to 2.4 or even 2.8 metres, creating a real wow factor and allowing as much sunlight to flow from one space to another. These designs would generally be in response to a site requirement, the view, the garden or to animate a direction within a building, with the statement piece drawing you in, creating intrigue and excitement. Think of sliding or bi-fold doors opened wide on a balmy summer’s evening seamlessly drawing the outside in whilst extending the living space of the home out into the garden.
Another detail which is architecturally fundamental is window sill heights. Clients can be particular about them as so many of us are familiar with the standard height. Thankfully architects are more fluid. The standard sill height is between 0.9m and 1.1m. Generally they are planned at this level for privacy reasons or for placing a radiator beneath. Which, as per the standard low door height is ubiquitous and a little dull – so we rarely plan a sill at that height! Instead we prefer knee height, perhaps with a little seat so you can sit and ponder life, gaze into the garden, watch the world go by or even the grass grow…that’s what life is all about!
Architects are always searching for and looking to create these differences that make a house special and unique. Even the smallest of windows can be transformed by using just a little consideration. The reason an average house look average is that there is less design consideration! Design ends up being refined to the nth degree so standard parts can be used. Yet with little or no monetary difference between standard and bespoke, why choose standard when you can have bespoke, unique and fantastic?
So as your thoughts become plans, try not to think of windows and doors as just necessary apertures but instead utilise them and think outside that house-shaped box. Ignore the standard and dull, embrace the exceptional, and grasp the opportunity to celebrate the character and beauty of a building, its surroundings and the natural light which fills it.