NOT SO MATCHY-MATCHY
When a house dates to 1790 and has made it through at least one fire and had modifications in every century since, most people would throw up their hands on choosing a window style. But to architect Mat Cummings, the house’s diverse history gave him permission to play with multiple influences. “We didn’t want to play the Match Game because there was too much to match.”
Consider that the main part of the house has Federal windows with large glass panes and thin muntins. A boxy addition at the front is a full-on Arts & Crafts sunroom with folding French doors and leaded- and stained-glass windows. The old kitchen, with crumbling vinyl flooring and appliances that had stopped working, had no windows at all.
While doing exploratory work in the kitchen area, Cummings discovered that a dropped ceiling concealed evidence of an old timber-frame barn with large trussed beams. The architect decided to expose them and add more where sections were damaged or missing, establishing a farmhouse theme.
To bring light into the kitchen and the adjacent sitting room, he used a mix of divided-light windows: sash windows in the kitchen over the sink and taller casements in the sitting room. Around the corner in the mudroom is, in the words of the architect, a “wicked cool” round window with a keystone motif at each of four points (shown on p. 23). The room connects to yet another sunroom through a pair of refurbished sliding barn doors that are three-quarters glass. “There’s not too much we didn’t touch in the house,” says Cummings.
Another consideration is existing additions to an older building. Rather than going with the window style of the oldest part of the house, it’s usually better to work with the period and style of the addition. For example, an addition to a Colonial-era Georgian house during the early 19th-century Federal period would have had windows with the larger lights (panes) and delicate muntins typical of Federal. Today, it’s perfectly acceptable to use the same trick—introducing more modern glazing—provided it’s done well, says Massachusetts architect Mat Cummings, who specializes in historic restorations. If the new glazing is on the back of the house, further liberties may be taken, especially if the house has had many modifications throughout its history.
Fenestration (the arrangement of windows and doors on the elevations of the building), however, must stay true to the underlying design of the structure. Such elements as sills, mullions between windows, and the muntins separating divided lights (panes) should be in keeping with original details, if not an exact match. That’s true of all the new glazing shown on these pages.
A house that has survived for a century or more has had the benefit of many adaptations by its occupants, some for the worse, but usually many for the better. “I find,” says Cummings, “that the oldest houses in the country are far more functional than new ones.”
Timber-frame beams supported by trusses mark the back of the original 1790 house. Architect Cummings brought in the light with sash windows, a skylight, and a French door.
BELOW Originally part of an old timber-frame barn, the sitting room adjacent to the kitchen connects to the mudroom and barn; it’s lit by tall, divided-light casement windows.
ABOVE A long-term restoration of a historic 18th-century house with multiple add-ons deftly brings light into all of the rooms, making the interior both functional and comfortable.
TOP In an Arts & Crafts cottage, the sunroom afforded the only lake view until a recent renovation opened up interior sight lines. ABOVE Darkened by a dated built-in that went to the ceiling, this dining room was opened up when designer David Heide introduced a pair of fixed, nine-light windows and a French door opening to a new terrace.