Page H1 . 01 October 2003                     
ArchitectureWeek - Patterns of Home
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Patterns of Home
Pattern Nine — Places in Between : Window Places

ArchWeek Photo

The dining room of the house by George Homsey is an expanded bay with the feel of a pavilion settled comfortably into its quiet forest setting.
Photo: David Duncan Livingston


Indoors, windows can be used to create enticing places in between. The universal appeal of window seats and bay windows has made them almost a cliché in developer homes. A number of factors combine to make these spots attractive; most important perhaps is the way they combine the use of structure and light.

A conventional window is treated as a hole in the wall, often located based purely on the exterior appearance of the house. The function is to provide light or a view for the room, and it is left to the homeowner to find a way to take advantage of the window with furniture placement.

Window seats and bay windows are meant to be occupied and to be filled with light. They are planned from the beginning with the intent of providing a place to sit that is strongly connected through the window to the outdoors.

The Seasonal Room: An Expanded Bay

There are many variations on the bay window. At one extreme, the bay can grow to become a whole room surrounded by windows, filled with light and looking into a natural setting. While typical bay windows are small enough to share the heat of the room they adjoin, larger versions, expanded bays surrounded by windows on three or more sides, can be hard to control thermally and may become seasonal rooms.

In large older homes, sunrooms and solariums were spaces dedicated to enjoying sunlight or to growing plants; and they simply weren't used when temperatures were uncomfortable. Their value was enhanced by this sense of temporary availability — like spring strawberries or fall leaves, they must be enjoyed in season.

ArchWeek Photo

The sliding wood-framed windows in this tiny south-facing sunroom are right at desktop level. The lack of any sense of a wall behind the desk creates a strong connection to the outdoors.
Image: The Taunton Press

ArchWeek Photo

Looking through the garden gate of this house in the Hudson Valley, by Centerbrook Architects, the gazebo-like form of the summer room is visible projecting into the garden.
Photo: Brian VandenBrink

ArchWeek Photo

The summer room projects from the house and is almost entirely surrounded by windows.
Image: The Taunton Press

Click on thumbnail images to view full-size pictures.

One of the characteristics of in-between places is that they are often difficult to define as either indoor or outdoor rooms. The summer room by Centerbrook Architects is uniquely able to play both roles. Built as an addition to an existing small house, it was designed to transport the owners out of their workaday city world into one of country comfort.

The basic form of the original house is traditional and rectangular; so to create the sense of being in a space apart, the designers used a completely different geometry for the summer room. The almost octagonal space projects from the building and has a roof form that distinguishes it from the original house. It is surrounded on five sides by an herb garden, making it more a room in the garden than a room in the house.

In summer, the triple-hung windows are moved up, above door head height, leaving large screened openings below. The room then functions like a screened-in porch, open to breezes and filled with the scents of the garden.

Patterns of Home

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Part of the ArchitectureWeek Patterns series. Text and images excerpted with permission from Patterns of Home: The Ten Essentials of Enduring Design by Max Jacobson, Murray Silverstein, and Barbara Winslow, copyright © 2002 The Taunton Press, Inc. The book is available from The Taunton Press and at

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