I get this question a lot, whether it’s from friends via text message or fellow design fans who slide into my Instagram DMs, so you’re not alone in wondering. Replacing windows is a big decision with big dollars attached. No one wants to spend thousands only to realize they’ve invested in the Design Hall of Shame’s next chapter – the one just after popcorn ceilings.
Depending on a home’s architecture, the look of black windows can skew clean and modern or edgy and industrial. As with subway tiles, herringbone wood floors and Persian rugs, black windows are a classic. They’re not going anywhere.
Before I call black windows the architectural equivalent of the little black dress – always in style – I decided to put your question to two clever designers on opposite sides of the country, just to be sure.
“Funny, I just had this conversation yesterday with a client who’s renovating an old Craftsman house in Westmount,” says designer Richard Ouellette, co-founder of the Montreal-based firm Les Ensembliers. “Black windows and doors are a classic for a modern or industrial look, especially when used to frame views,” he says. In fact, Ouellette and his partner, architect Maxime Vandal, have installed them in their own new-build contemporary farmhouse in Knowlton, Que. “Will I still love them in 10 years? I believe so!”
Vancouver designer Sophie Burke points out, quite rightly, that the look isn’t exactly new. “The vernacular of black windows has been around since the 19th century, with black steel windows used in the factories and warehouses of the time,” she says. “In my opinion they’ll always be timeless. On the interior, they add contrast and drama. From the exterior, black windows add definition and curb appeal.”
Ouellette has one point of caution, though: He thinks the look has the most staying power when black windows are used architecturally rather than decoratively. In other words, authentic metal casements are preferable to painted wood frames where possible.
Context is important, too. Black windows may not suit, say, a gracious Georgian-style home – unless there’s an all-over contemporary renovation to match. But if you’re mindful about materials and sensitive to the style of home you have (and the windows you choose), this is one design decision you won’t regret.
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