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Small Windows That Make a Big Statement

By Gates Dearein
Courtesy of

Sidelights, dormers, bays, and bows. You may have heard of some of these types of windows  – but what are the others? One or more of these special windows may be just the touch you’ve been looking for to add style and distinction to your home. And they aren’t just attractive.  Each has its practical purpose too, from adding light to creating space. One word of caution, though: Even if you consider yourself a skilled handyman or handywoman, these windows are trickier to measure for and install than ordinary windows, so you may want to leave this job to the professionals. Below we’ll explain what each type is, and where in your house you might want to use it.

A nice door Kew Gardens

You’ve probably seen these and may not have known what they were called. Sidelights are narrow vertical windows on one side, or sometimes both sides, of entry doors. They add light to foyers and other entry areas, creating a nice, welcoming space. Depending on your design taste and budget, there are many options. You can go with clear glass, in which case you would probably want to put up a window treatment, easily found for this type of window at most stores that sell window treatments, obscure glass which gives a bit more privacy, or something a bit fancier such as etched or stained glass. These types of windows are a simple way to add a flair to your home.

English: House in Cumberland, Maryland USA wit...
The term “dormer” is often used interchangeably with “dormer window”. A dormer is a part of a building that juts forward from the surface; a dormer window is a window fitted into that space. Dormer windows are similar to skylights in that they add light to higher areas of a home, but most dormer windows open, allowing for ventilation and making what may have been an unbearably hot and stuffy part of the house easier to tolerate. If you have attic space that you’re converting into living space, such as a loft, dormer windows may be just what you’re looking for in terms of style and practicality. Some dormer windows, those called “blind dormers”, look like windows from the outside but are not visible from inside the house. These windows are strictly an exterior style element.

Bay Windows
English: Line art drawing of a bay window. Fra...
Bay windows comprise a category made up of many kinds of windows. Technically, any window construction that protrudes from a house is a bay window, regardless of shape, angle, height, or width. The kind of bay windows most of us are familiar with are bow windows and oriel windows. The main difference between the two is that oriel windows tend to be more ornamental and are rarely used in new residential construction. These are the windows you see typically on old buildings in downtown areas. One of the reasons they first gained popularity in cities was that they offer a more expansive view of street and foot traffic. Both types curve outward from the main part of the house and are usually on upper levels, although sometimes bay windows are on the first floor. Bay windows add a great deal of architectural interest to a home, on the inside as well as the outside. Depending on how large the angle of the window curve is, the interior nook created by a bay window can be used for anything from a window seat to a parlor.

Custom Windows
In addition to the less-commonly used types of windows we’ve discussed above, you might have something in mind for a special spot in your house, and you just haven’t been able to find the right thing. Keep in mind that you can have custom windows made in almost any size and shape, to perfectly complement your home’s d├ęcor or add just the right finishing touch to your remodeling project. It’s amazing how much a room can change by letting in a little more light.

In this article, we’ve described some windows that are different from the usual rectangles. We’ve explained where and why you might want to use each kind, and also mentioned having custom windows made if you’re looking for something completely unique.

Gates Dearen is the co-owner of HomeRite Windows and Doors in Jacksonville, Florida. Owners Dearen and Richard Walden have been serving the building products industry in Florida for over 25 years. They know the products, the industry, the market and what adds great value to a home. Their approach is a somewhat different than others. They strive to match the homeowner with the right windows and doors for their home and budget. They know that home improvements projects can be a hassle. They strive to make the process as pleasant as possible with first-rate, energy efficient products; affordable prices; and expert, award-winning installers that employ the best practices and who respect your home as if it were their own. 

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  1. I love the design of some of these windows. Nice article, thanks.

  2. Nice article. My wife and I are particularly fond of Bay Windows.

  3. Good window basics, and one I've never heard of (oriel). Well done. We have a functional bay window in the bedroom, and I built a simple window seat with storage to maximize the space.

  4. bay and bow windows are the perfect way to add depth, light, and charm to any room in your house. These elegant window additions are built so well they’ll last a lifetime, require practically no maintenance and, above all, provide your home with a beautiful new look.

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  5. Well-placed details are the cornerstone of good design, conspicuous, and yet lushing.

    Very nice post.


  6. thanks for the tips and information..i really appreciate it..

  7. Nice information...Very interesting post. Thanks for sharing.
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