When asked to discuss contemporary design for small houses, the first things that architects mention are clean lines and natural light. Compared with a large home, the lines should be cleaner and the windows proportionally larger.
Contemporary trim may be minimalist, but in a compact space it needs to be perfect because homeowners will scrutinize the craftsmanship. "On homes with small square footage, the architects and builders we work with put a lot of care into the little details," says Greg Pearson, a San Diego-based architectural consultant with Jeld-Wen.
When it comes to glass, big windows are only a starting point. Here are some other tips to consider.
1. Big and tall. Coronado, Calif., architect Christian Rice of Christian Rice Architects, Inc. has designed many small houses on narrow infill lots near the beach. These homes tend to be long and narrow, and in close proximity to neighbors, so getting light to the interior can be a challenge. To help with this, he likes to make windows proportionally larger than in the average home. "If a room has a 12-foot-wide front or back wall, I might use a nine-foot window," he says. Tall ceilings also help. "If possible, I like to have all windows and doors eight feet tall."
2. Make good use of accessory windows. Rather than a tall, single unit, Rice often uses small accessory windows above the main windows. They bring light to the center of a room while visually breaking up the glass, and they work great on the gable wall of a vaulted ceiling. An operable awning allows for natural convection.
3. Don't forget egress. Although you may not want as much glass in a bedroom, the code may still require an egress window, so it's important to think through that requirement.
4. Glass type is important. In a cooling climate, solar gain though a large expanse of the wrong type of glass can overload the air conditioning system, while in a heating climate all that glass can cause excessive heat loss. Speccing windows with the appropriate energy ratings solves the problem, and a good manufacturer's architectural consultant will help you choose the right ones for the space, orientation and climate. Rice, for instance, says he has never had to reduce window area to meet California's strict energy code.
5. Multi-slides earn their keep. A multi-slide door that opens to a patio can help the homeowners live large in even the smallest home. And because the doors recess into a pocket, you get a large opening without sacrificing needed wall space for furniture placement.
For more on contemporary looks in windows and doors, visit: http://www.jeld-wen.com/en-us/possibilities/contemporary