Ideas to address a big bow window with no panes that open for ventilation?

the design of house with typical bow window that adrienne is looking atAdrienne is looking to buy a midcentury modest house and is seeing a lot that have big bow windows in the front. While these are beautiful and original, they do not have panes that open to provide ventilation. Today: She asks for our ideas how to address this situation when and if she pulls the trigger and buys a house with this feature. What a great question for readers to help answer, based on their experiences. I even have the uploader in place if you want to share a sketch or photo idea. Adrienne writes:

Well after being under contract and waiting 90 long days on a short sale for an average colonial house. I realized it just wasn’t the fresh start and style of house I really wanted. So I began my search again. I work in an Architecture firm, and being recently divorced I wanted something completely different than the house I recent sold with my former husband…. For the past several months I have been searching on websites and blogs like yours compiling lots of photos of inspiration to bring into my new home

I am stumped as to what to do with the windows in the houses [that I am looking at]. [For example, shown above is]: A 60s style custom ranch that has a fabulous bow window on the front of the house. With it being the only real window in the space, what would I do about ventilation? How would I replace it with a “like” design. [This type of home is] the most appropriate [for me right now], but I don’t want [to have to install a] $10,000 window.

I am also curious about what your readers would think about my painting the brick exterior of the house to make the stone stand out.


1960s house with a bow windowOkay, readers, bring the ideas on! I’ll pipe in at some point, too, but invite you to get the party started.

  1. Beverly says:

    Leave the window. Don’t paint the brick, but add some good landscaping. Something is definately not right about the brick side, it looks awkward, maybe a raised bricked flower bed there. Change the window treatments-cafes make too much fuss on the outside.

  2. Vera says:

    I had a 1955 time-capsule ranch with a huge bow window made up of 5 independent windows and the 2 end windows opened as casements. When we remodeled the home, our builder was able to replace the 5 windows with 5 identical looking casements, and they all open. I think they were standard size windows, so not terribly expensive. We added a second story and included a shorter bow window in the MBR to mirror the one downstairs. We love them, and love that they open.

  3. Jim says:

    If you replaced the entrance walkway with a wider one you could leave a gap between the new walkway and the house. Then whatever you plant in front of the window can wrap around the corner and almost all the way to the front door.

  4. Adrienne P. says:

    After what seemed like forever…the sellers accepted list of needed repairs on this home. This takes me one step closer to making this house mine!!! Thanks to all who have commented. I cannot wait to put my stamp on the style of this house! Stay tuned

  5. David Gill says:

    BAY WINDOW…..Live in the house before considering changes to the wonderful bow window. Your sense of what needs to be done will change after living there for a year.

    But, if you decide you must add some operable windows in that room look for a custom wood window/door maker in your area and have four small operable casements made to replace four fixed panes in the window. These would be very simple…each made of four pices of wood, one piece of regular glass, period appropriate retro hinges, latch and adjustable “stay.” Everyone will think they are original to the house! (I’ll go out on a limb and guess those four small casements might cost $1500 total installed.)

    I learned by trying to find windows and doors for my 1928 house that the best answer is to have them custom made. You can’t adapt a Pella, Anderson or other manufacturers standard product to a vintage house without destroying the authentic look. (…and a special place in hell is reserved for those who install vinyl windows!)

    I live in Sacramento but I hired a shop in LA to do the work and the results were perfect. They had a salesman come by and survey the openings, and the existing windows and doors and then they produced 95% true reproductions of the existing widows and doors, with ease. (Some doors were missing and most windows had been repalced with cheap aluminum windows decades ago.) The cost was much more than bottom of the market vinyl windows but about the same as overly complicated, engineered, problematic insulated windows from a major manufacturer.

    BRICK….PAINT IT!…..The brick on the house is not a great brick!….kind of dull, at least it appears that way in the photos. Painting might be a great improvement….painted brick can be great look! The comments from others that you shouldn’t paint the brink are understandable. Really beautiful brick should not be painted….but the brick on this house is not that kind of brick. Just do some technical research on how to paint brick effectively and how to avoid traping moisture that is in the brick, inside the wall.

  6. Greg Cummings says:

    I live in Massachusetts. Had a 9 pane window 10 by 5 that only had one window pane in the center that opened. 1.5 by 3. Put a lot of effort into it. Stripped the paint with heat gun, painted and calked. Not worth it. Knocked the whole thing out and put Anderson double pane casements. Four long windows. Looks Great. Still has that
    modern look.

  7. Chad says:

    I agree with the people who said give the brick a chance. You can always paint it later. I’m kind of obsessed with vines, so maybe building some kind of trellis (or an espalier) against the brick part of the house between or around the two windows might help. Definitely choose new landscaping that will be lower and lighter than what’s there. And if budget doesn’t allow you to replace things right now, I’d rip what’s there out and live with nothing for the time being.

    I’d live with the bow window for a bit and then have a few panes remade to crank out if you decide you do need the ventilation. Also, those windows can be very drafty from what I hear (my grandmother had one and ripped it out), but you can have interior storm windows made that attach with magnetic strips.

  8. Amani says:

    Hello all those with a bay window like the one shown. I have one in my 1967 rancher and it lets in the cold air so much so that the inside of the glass panels freeze. The ice then melts leaving a pool of water on the wood below. I love the windows in the bay, and will not replace them, but need ideas as to how to keep the cold air out without the use of ugly plastic.

  9. Angel says:

    I have a 9-window 10×7 in my living room with no opening panes…I’m thinking about putting a transom (maybe with leading or some other decoration) across the top, a large picture in the center, and two double-hung windows on the side. Mine does not have bow or bay, but what do you do with a 10 ft window??? I’m open to other ideas…

  10. Tresa says:

    Love the bow window!!! Get rid of the gumdrop plant on corner of natural stone, its hiding the stone and the window. Maybe add a small patio connecting to front door, with low planter boxes on outside edges. Think like a small seating area. If you don’t like the brick add climbers on trellises to help hide DONT PAINT the brick. Once you paint its hard to go back!!!!!!!!

Commenting: Information

All comments are moderated, generally within 24 hours. By using this website you are agreeing to the site's >> Terms of Service, << which include commenting policies, and our >> Privacy Notice. << Before participating, read them in full.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.