TIFFANY MAIR: Choosing doors & windows for your home

Home & Garden 23/04/2017

By Tiffany Mair, former contestant on The Block.

OPINION: A poorly designed home decked out with all the latest furniture trends will still be a poorly designed home. Consider where you spend your money – put money into structural and architectural features of your build, rather than filling it with expensive stuff. You can still make a home look beautiful and stylish on a shoestring but the class of architectural features will always shine through. 

These structural elements such as windows and doors will also be expensive to change down the track and they will, of course, be there way longer than that modern coffee table that has come and gone out of style.

If you can’t visit a showroom, you can still look at the windows and doors you’re considering online. When browsing online, look for listings that show the products “in context” in people’s homes. You want to get a strong idea of the way the windows and doors you’re thinking about can fit into a home, so you can visualise how they’d fit into your home. You’ll also want to see full specifications, energy ratings, and other important details.

Another obvious tip, but you’d be surprised how often people forget it: make sure you choose windows and doors that match your home’s architectural look and style. For example, floor to ceiling glass is a striking yet contextual feature in a contemporary home. But in an otherwise un-renovated old villa, it looks pretty out of place. Your architect or building designer should be able to give you recommendations about the lifestyle of windows and doors you should choose to suit your property’s character.

The windows and doors you select also need to fit the purpose they’re meant to fulfil. If you want privacy in a ground-floor bathroom, for instance, you’ll want windows with obscure glass. For maximum light or showcasing a view, large glass sliding doors or bi-fold doors, or windows that come in large configurations, are probably what you’re looking for. If ventilation’s important to you, you’re obviously not going to want fixed windows. On the other hand, sliding and bi-fold doors and awning, sliding and louvre windows will all fit the bill nicely.

Your windows and doors will be your home’s source of natural light. You don’t want to let in too little or too much sun, so it’s important to factor the orientation of the sun into your window choice. The size and orientation of your windows in relation to the sun, along with your type of glazing, will determine how much sunlight streams into each room. Keep in mind that roof overhangs prevent natural light from entering at certain angles. Your architect or building designer can recommend appropriately sized and placed windows and doors.

Approximately 40 percent of all energy consumed is used for cooling and heating. The vast majority of your home’s heat loss and heat gain come from windows, so choosing energy efficient windows can have a real effect on your power bills. Your window’s design, glass type, glazing, and seals determine how energy efficient it is.
Of course, the windows and doors you buy ultimately have to fit within your budget. That’s why it’s important to prioritise which features are most important to you. Are you particularly concerned with energy efficiency and security? Then you need to invest in windows that fit this bill, even if that means you miss out on better acoustic shielding. By prioritising the features you’re looking for, you can ensure you choose the best windows and doors for your budget.

People are sort of in the rut of using cheap aluminium windows, old timber sash windows and doors barely tall enough for the average person. There are so many new products out there – I remember when I travelled around Europe how common ‘tilt and turn’ hinges were, turn the handle one way to open as a standard door, the other way to open like a window. They are just yet to make an impression on the local market.

Have a look online at modern window systems - there are slimmer takes on the timber sash bi-fold windows, sashless windows replacing the century ago sash mechanism, pivot hinged doors are also doing away with exposed hinged barrels. So plenty of new options are out there if you research a little.

If you want to try something a little bit different in your house look into some options like –

  • Pivot windows: for a New York loft look with a hidden hinge are simple and easy to use and maintain.
  • Steel framed windows: create a fine and delicate appearance of a wall of glass
  • Recessed windows: turn that window seat into a daybed or bench seat
    Sliding doors: made up of glass panels that can slide around corners opening up loads of space. They will add a real wow factor.
  • Floor to ceiling glass: gives extended views to the exterior and have a great design aesthetic
  • Electronically frosted glass: perfect for privacy at the touch of a button
  • Oversized doors: will make a statement like no other and give your home architectural flair.
  • Pivot hinged entrance doors: can make a great first impression and have a wider than standard clearance.

Tiffany Mair is a set stylist and a regular contributor on Home & Garden