Bay Windows have been around since medieval times. The fact that they’re still widely used today speaks volumes about both their beauty and the effectiveness! They provide expanded views, increase natural light to interiors, and add to the architectural beauty of both private homes and commercial buildings. They also have an uncanny ability to make interiors seem larger than they really are. There are two basic types of bay windows — oriel and canted. An oriel bay window is supported by corbels or brackets, while a canted bay window has a flat front and angled sides. Let’s learn a little more about bay windows and what you can do with yours in your home!
Most bay windows from medieval times up to the baroque era were the oriel variety, and appear more as ornamentation to a building rather than integral to the structure. Bay windows were hugely popular in Victorian residential homes in Great Britain in the 1870s, and are still popular today, not only in Europe, but in the U.S. and the rest of the Western world as well. In the U.S., they’ve become a defining feature of San Francisco’s architecture in particular.
A bay window is, of course, perfectly suited for a window seat, either a built-in version or a free-standing upholstered bench for a lighter look. They’re also a perfect environment for plants, make great breakfast nooks, and can even accommodate a desk, providing a home office with a view and plenty of natural light.
There are as many options for dressing bay windows as there are for other windows, with one caveat — never assume that the angled side windows are the same size or angle as the front window. Always take measurements of each window before ordering individual window treatments. Following are some beautiful ideas for enhancing the interior view of your bay window:
- Use bamboo or matchstick blinds to soften the light if it is very bright. You can hang draperies on top of the blinds for a more formal or softer look. Either have individual draperies framing each section, or simply have rods installed on the outside wall that close straight across, just as you would for a large picture window.
- Another option is to have angled rods installed so that they fit neatly into the corners above the windows, and play up the architecture. This obviously is mainly for dressing the window and not for privacy, so probably wouldn’t be as suitable for a bedroom.
- Plantation shutters work well in bay windows as well, because when opened, they allow for greater outside visibility and let in more light than traditional shutters, but when closed offer complete privacy. Here again, if the shutters look too stark, you can easily add draperies or a valance (or both) on top.
- Roman shades are another pretty, less formal option, and come in a variety of solids or patterns.
- If your taste runs to minimalism and you like the look of bare windows, that’s fine. But at least install a roll-up shade that can be pulled down when needed for privacy or to prevent sun from damaging floors and furniture. When the shade is up, it’s barely perceptible and won’t ruin the aesthetic.
- For a country or cottage look, try stripes, which look striking on windows. Use lining behind the ticking to add insulation and protect the fabric from fading.
- Consider a pretty valance for a casual area like a sun room. It doesn’t obstruct the view, and you can always hide roll-up shades behind it to dim the light if you want to.
Imagination and creativity are the only limits to adorning your bay window. After all, you’ve got the best “canvas” imaginable!