Need to replace the windows in your older house? Yes, you can make it work. New windows, old house, here we come. Get our tips here.
Getting your windows right is the difference between an adorable house and a “what were they thinking” house. Since windows are an architectural feature, they are a great way to add character to a house that doesn’t have much. But if your house is already a certain style, choose carefully or you could unintentionally ruin the look. New windows, old house? Sure thing! Here’s how.
Determine Your House Style
Your home’s style should determine the look of your new windows. If your house is an existing historical style, choose something that looks similar to the originals. If you don’t know what the original windows looked like, do some research. Authenticity is important in choosing new windows to match vintage character.
Even if you want an updated look for your home, keeping the charm intact is really important. If your house is vintage and you want to go modern, choose a modern take on the original window style.
Choosing windows isn’t the time to experiment with different styles unless your house doesn't have a real style to begin with. Look at local houses you like for ideas. Vintage house pattern books are also a great source of inspiration. Also, look online for ideas. New windows, old house love, right?
What If My House Isn’t a “Style”?
If your house doesn’t already have a specific style, you’ll have more options. Still, study your house and see what style it’s “trying” to be. For example, if you have a generic tract home from the mid-20th century, decide if you want it to look more like a ranch or a Cape Cod. This will also help you create a template for a curb-appeal update where you can fill in the details like the front door, house numbers, lighting and of course, new windows, old house. If you can pick a style and go with it, your result will be a lot more cohesive than if you throw a bunch of stuff at it and hope for the best.
Beware the Blank Stare
We tend to see houses like faces. If the windows are too wide and horizontal, it can make the house look sleepy, and if they are fixed glass they can make the house look blank and vacant. You want your house to have personality and look alive.
With new windows, old house or new house, look at how the overall effect will have with the style of the house and the view from the street. A rendering of your house from the window maker or architect can help you visualize this.
New Windows, Old House
This is one of the more important pieces of advice I have about new windows, old house. Figure out what style you want and be very careful about entrusting this design decision to others. Your contractor will suggest one thing. The window company will suggest something else. Home Depot will suggest another option.
All these people seem like they know more than you, and about certain properties of windows, they probably do. What they don’t consider, though, is design. You are responsible for that (or you can hire a designer).
Even as a designer, I have deferred to people I thought were experts and lived to regret it. Ask them about the right-sized window to put in the existing opening or which windows have the best UV protection. Don’t ask them which windows will look best with your house.
Our Country House
We added a sunroom and needed windows to match the vintage character of the house. Since the original windows had been replaced with ordinary vinyl ones, I didn’t have any design inspiration to launch from. The house style is a cottage-like mishmash of other styles, so that gave us freedom to choose almost anything.
At the time, an old house was being torn down in Nashville and we were able to buy its windows. They have wood mullions and quite a bit of vintage character. On the not-so-great side, they are definitely more drafty than choosing new windows.
Often, windows are to blame when you see a house that doesn’t look right. It’s really not that hard to choose windows to match a home’s vintage character, but you do have to choose carefully. Just make sure they fit the style of your house and you’ll be doing it right.
Holly Thompson is the lead interior designer at Holly Thompson Homes in Franklin, TN. She loves making houses the best version of themselves. She is married to Dave, who is a contractor, realtor, and often works as her project manager. They own a fixer upper in the country, plus three kids and three cats. In her free time, Holly is working on her master’s degree in Interior Design and writes articles for American Farmhouse Style. In the rest of her free time, you’ll find her antiquing at estate sales, flea markets, and shops. All of those times involve coffee, to which Holly attributes her success in staying awake.
To see more of Holly's handiwork and sound advice, see How to Choose Floor Tile and How to Get Faux Marble Countertops. Of course, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest to get your daily dose of farmhouse inspiration!