These 8 Unusual Windows Will Take You by Surprise

These unexpected windows featuring unconventional shapes and surprising locations will have you rethinking the possibilities of fenestration.
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As we’ve discussed before, windows typically come in a variety of operable and fixed window types, each suited to particular uses, spaces, and climates. Windows not only have the functional aspect of bringing light and air into a space, but they also have a significant impact on the aesthetics of a building or room—and are often sold in standard sizes in the classic rectangular form. However, when a non-traditional window is selected, meaning that the window probably has been custom-made, it can have a big impact on the design of a space, even if it’s not very large in size. Here, we take a look at some unique windows with strong personalities in shapes and places you wouldn’t normally expect.

1) Brick Addition With Porthole Windows

On a rear addition to an existing suburban home outside of Melbourne, Australia, Austin Maynard Architects designed a brick structure with a series of round windows on multiple facades. The circular windows vary in size and location, giving the building a playful twist, despite its more traditional construction of red brick. 

At this wooden A-frame retreat in the Normandy region of France, architect Jean-Baptist Barache designed a home that's both casual and elegant, low-key and surprising. A large central window on one of the end gables of the house is accompanied by a scattering of smaller, square "peek-a-boo" windows. The two windows on the third floor bring light and views into the bedroom, and the window on the first floor fits perfectly into the camouflaged rear door.

For the design of his own home in Venice, California, architect Lorcan O'Herlihy selected a panelized exterior system infilled with windows of varying sizes, operability, and opacity to screen out and optimize select views. The result is a facade that has a graphic quality to it that acts as a functional composition of both solid and void.

At a wood-clad house built in 1915 on a remote fishing island in Quebec, Canada, a modern renovation by YH2 melds the local vernacular with contemporary flair. The octagonal porthole window is not uncommon in older homes, but its presence is a pleasant surprise in the master bedroom, where it not only evokes the sea, but also looks out onto it.

At their own home just 15 minutes outside of downtown Seattle, the designers behind the architecture firm Lead Pencil Studio created a home with sustainably oriented and salvaged materials and an industrial air. The duo of round porthole windows on the second floor provide personality and reference the nearby Boeing airplane factory, complementing the home's steel cladding.

As part of a major renovation of a turn-of-the-century brick row house in New York City's Harlem neighborhood, architect Laura Briggs made a bold change to the formerly historical facade by adding a projecting, multi-floor oriel window to the front elevation. The original brick facade had partially collapsed after fatefully getting struck by lightning, and the new window's industrial materials (like metal siding) give it a distinctly modern edge that's unlike anything else seen on the block.

At one of the late Zaha Hadid's earliest projects, triangular shapes create both windows and skylights (and in some locations, light fixtures as well). The highly designed, contemporary space treats the windows almost like artwork, spacing them thoughtfully across the walls so that they create curated moments of connection to the outdoors. The triangular shape is very unusual, but the distinct design is typical of Zaha's architecture.

Following the mantra of "less is more," Taguá Arquitetura+Design developed a minimalist home with carefully oriented and arranged windows to maximize sunlight and views while minimizing the need for air conditioning. At the top of a landing that leads to the second-floor bedrooms, two slim parallel windows allow light to filter in, reflecting off the glass railing and providing a quick glimpse to the outside.


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