Itty-Bitty Windows on Old Houses with Pitched Roofs and Chimneys

I know what you’re thinking after reading the title of this post: I should just quit everything and write clickbait pieces for BuzzFeed. Clearly I have a knack for it? Because who wouldn’t want to read about the super-specific topic of how to address the upper portion of the back of my house by pooling an excessive number of examples and generally obsessing a stupid amount over the handling of this one architectural detail?

backofmyhouse

A few weeks ago I posted this disastrous photo of the back of my house after the walls and roof of the mudroom were demolished and the vinyl siding was removed to expose the original clapboard. Like…damn. I won’t even pretend that I’m not a little intimidated by this picture. Winter is around the corner and I gotta get this put back together—stat!

A big debate ensued in the comments about how to deal with the second story of this bad boy. Originally I was planning to build a covered porch on the first floor with a balcony above it on the second floor, so you could walk out that funny door to nowhere (where there used to be a fire escape when the house was divided into two units) and lounge around high in the air, feeling fancy. That door and window arrangement always felt kind of…off…but once the vinyl siding was removed it all started to look especially bad. The door and window were both almost certainly later additions to this structure, and seeing how they both cut into the raking frieze (the flat board at the base of the cornice that the clapboard terminates into) makes that very apparent. Unlike the front part of the house, where there are two full levels and an attic, the second floor on this section I think qualifies as a half-story—not an attic but not a full story with an attic above either.

So anyway. I’ve nixed the balcony. Officially, that idea is dead. Everybody forget about it. I’m not mourning it for the following reasons:

  1. It requires a door. That door up there is already a small door and it looks enormous and stupid.
  2. Because it’s a half-story, there’s no height to allow for any kind of roofing structure above the proposed balcony, so it would be open-air. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen any houses of this style with a set-up like that…I think it would just look all wrong.
  3. It would be expensive. And harder to build. I still like the idea of doing a covered porch off the back of the house with replica columns and all that jazz, but just a regular roof on top of it. Hopefully next spring/summer.
  4. I’m not sure I’d actually use it? It’s not like I have some spectacular view of the Catskill mountains or something, and really, how much of the year would I actually choose to sit outside 20 feet in the air just…because? It gets really hot and really cold here and I’m not much of a lounger even in perfect weather.

Cool? Cool.

So now that that’s off the table, what do I do back here? A lot of people suggested one larger window in the center, but the issue with that is that there’s a chimney that runs up the center of this wall! Currently, the chimney doesn’t do anything. I suppose someday somebody might decide to have it lined and made functional again, but in all honesty that will probably never be me. Without an existing function, a lot of people also suggested demolishing the chimney, patching the roof, and then putting a window in the middle of the wall.

I see the logic of that—really, I do—but I feel strongly that the chimney stay put. I’ve mentioned this here and there before, but my house actually had a third chimney when I bought it that I decided fairly early on to demolish. It was also functionally obsolete, but mainly I removed it because it was structurally unstable and causing roof damage, and its position essentially eliminated the option of ever finishing the attic, and so the pay-off of removing it just outweighed whatever superficial charm it added to the house. This chimney, though? It ain’t bothering anyone! I think the exposed part of it above the roofline is really pretty, sure, but it also feels like an interesting part of the history of the house and of Kingston. The base of this chimney is actually a wood-burning fireplace in the basement—presumably because that was the original kitchen of the house—and then it’s set up for a wood stove in the kitchen (not sure if the upstairs room would have also had a wood stove…) and I guess a wood stove outside the kitchen for cooking in the summer. Cool, right? The bricks that this chimney is constructed out of were manufactured by the Hutton Brick Company, which was founded around 1865 and became one of the biggest brick manufacturers in the Hudson Valley, and a big part of the economic and social history of Kingston.

ANYWAY. I think losing the chimney would be sad. I see people tear down defunct chimneys every now and then and I often feel like it doesn’t do the house any favors aesthetically. Obviously I’ve been on both sides of the fence on this one and not all old chimneys are created equal, but in general I much prefer to see them remain intact!

So the option, I think, is either no windows or little windows! Once this conundrum got on my radar, it quickly became something I was laser-focused on when walking or driving around town. Does that happen to you? I never gave any thought to this topic for like 25 reasonably functional years of life but now it takes up a lot of my precious attention.

Finding one and a half story structures with this particular set-up is a lot harder than just finding two story structures with attics, but I think we’re allowed to say close enough. Right?

rectangular2

Look at those cuties! This is actually the same house that has the nice hosta hedge. The house itself appears to have replacement windows but I’m assuming the originals were six-over-six double-hungs, like mine. Those little attic windows are casement windows that open into the attic on hinges, pretty sure. You can also kind of see the original shutter hinges still up there, too! I love tiny shutters. So cute.

Gosnold_Exterior

This is a Sears house in Norfolk, Virginia that I found on the google machine, not in Kingston, and it’s from the 1920s not the 1860s, but…quarter-round windows! Ugh, so damn charming. My house has a half-round attic window on the front, so I keep wondering whether quarter-rounds would be the way to go on the back. I don’t know what was here originally and I kind of doubt I ever will, but for a couple weeks I was really fixated on the quarter-round idea.

senatehouse

As to whether they’re appropriate to the age/style of my house…I’m not totally sure! What I can say is that I’ve definitely seen examples spanning many decades. This one is the Senate House in Uptown Kingston—where the first New York senate met for a period during the Revolutionary War. The history of these old Dutch stone houses is complicated because they were mostly burned by the British in the war—in general just leaving behind an exterior shell—so it’s possible that the quarter-round windows weren’t installed until the shell was renovated circa 1800-ish…but anyway.

amityvillehouse

The idea of quarter-round windows is/was also really appealing because everybody immediately associates them with the Amityville Horror house, I’ve learned from now boring way too many people with this debate. I’m so fun to hang out with.

amityvillemoviehouse

In working on this post I found out that the Amityville house used in the exterior shots of the original 1979 movie is actually not the real house, but a similar Dutch colonial-style also with the distinct quarter-round attic windows. I’m guessing these were installed specifically for the movie just because they seem so over-scaled for the house itself and in relation to the other windows, but what do I know.

amityvillehousetoday

This is the real Amityville Horror house again as it looked a few years ago, and just adding to this complicated quarter-round vs. rectangular debate that maybe isn’t really even a debate? The quarter-round windows were nixed during a renovation and replaced with little rectangular ones! I think this probably had to do with the occupants getting tired of the house being so recognizable, so they changed one of the most distinctive features. Crazy! I gotta say I think those little teeny double-hungs look perfectly good though. I ain’t whining about it.

senatehouse2

Oh yeah, and the Senate House with the quarter-rounds on one side? Also has double-hungs on one of the other sides. Thanks for nothing stupid Senate House.

quarters1

Are we so bored yet? Check out the crazy situation on this nearby Victorian! This entire house is bananas, but MOST IMPORTANTLY (to me) is that they have the pitched roof, the chimney, quarter-round windows, and a little teeny rectangular window in the middle! You see this every now and then around here—chimneys where the flue splits to allow for a window right in the middle of where the chimney would be. It’s so funny! Victorians were crazy.

rectangular

This picture is clearly terrible but the house is a little closer to mine style-wise, and those windows are rectangular casements, just like the first example. It’s also a distinct attic space, not a half-story, but you get the idea.

sixoversix

I love the little six-over-six double hungs. Like dollhouse windows.

casements casements2

Andddd, back to casements. These two houses are a few blocks from mine and about a block from each other, and I’m guessing they were built around the same time. I’m told that the house in the bottom picture is actually a wood framed house with a brick veneer, which is neither here nor there but kind of cool so I feel compelled to repeat it here.

The common thread I’m noticing with the casement windows is that they appear to be at the upper limit of size—the outer top corners of the surrounding trim just barely miss the raking frieze. I also find it interesting that the window style and divided light patterns aren’t necessarily mimicked by the rest of the windows on the house—like the dark blue house is almost like if you shrunk one of the six-pane sashes and turned it sideways, but the brick veneer house has nine-pane casements and six-over-six double-hungs everywhere else.

If anybody on earth is still reading…what did we learn? I don’t even know, but I feel like this is all sort of good news because maybe there isn’t just one single correct answer but a few acceptable responses that will all look OK. This comforts me. So I guess here’s what I’m thinking…

  1. As much as I love the quarter-rounds and think they’re totally adorable, mine would have to be really small and I’d have to find something salvage (unlikely for two matching ones at the right size…) or put up the big bucks for somebody to fabricate some reproduction ones. That level of carpentry is way beyond my skill set. Everything about them seems kind of overwhelming…like how do I get them made and how do I pay for it and where do I find tiny quarter-round shutters and will they be a pain in the butt to install and if they ever need replacement or repair that will be a total nightmare and…you get the picture.
  2. I like the idea of doing six-over-six double hung windows like what’s on the rest of the house, but these would have to be so tiny—they’d definitely have to be custom and I think they’d just be so small that they’d seem weird. If it were a bigger house then I’d be considering it but I just don’t think mine could handle it size-wise, even if I could get them made.
  3. That leaves us with casements! I think this is the answer, you guys. And actually, I have to spend some time measuring and re-measuring, but I think the existing casement window on the left side could actually work if I break up the sashes and hang them as two separate windows, like the many examples above. Not having to cough up cash for windows would be excellent.

In case you’re concerned about the small size of the windows, that room has two large dormer windows on the street-facing side, so I think it’ll all be fine in terms of natural light, and I feel like the little windows will make the room feel sort of sweet and quaint and charming when you’re inside it. I’m looping in my contractor/BFF/sexual harassment target, Edwin, for this one because I’m guessing we’re going to end up re-siding the top half of the entire wall, which will undoubtably be intense and terrifying as it’s happening. At least it should make for an interesting blog post? I’m scared.

ADDENDUM:

mockup1

I’m bad at photoshop, but here’s a rough approximation of how things could look. Except I may have already changed my mind already—this is actually approximating how the sashes from the kitchen window would work, which are about 6 inches longer and an inch wider than the ones upstairs. So NOW I’M THINKING (hear me out…):

  1. Remove upstairs window and door.
  2. Remove casement window from kitchen. Split sashes, hang as individual casements upstairs, as shown.
  3. Replace kitchen window with something mega cheap because, as cute as that window is, the plan all along has been to replace it with an enlarged six-over-six to match the rest of the house when I can really overhaul the kitchen, and as it stands, that window is SO SO SO drafty and maybe a stop-gap replacement window would allow me to do the dishes without also being able to see my breath in the winter? But I don’t want to hang an interior storm or cover it in plastic because it’s the only window in the kitchen and there’s no range hood and I have a crap stove that burns everything so I do have to open it pretty frequently year-round. So even though I don’t love the idea of throwing a vinyl window in there, this kind of kills two birds with one stone?

OK, carry on. Ignore me.


89 Comments

  1. “thanks for nothing stupid Senate House” !!
    Damn I love this blog.

  2. Yes!!!! I love this idea and think it’s gonna look awesome. And I wasn’t even bored by all your inspiration pics! I think it’s so cool that you went out and did research like that. I do kind of want to see a Photoshop mockup of what size windows you’re thinking and the vertical positioning of them (could you do that for us? kthx ;))… I feel like your house could handle bigger windows than some of those teeny tiny casement examples, just because it’s a half-story and not a teeny attic space. But maybe I’m just not visualizing it right. Anyway, super stoked and I love your hilarious blog!!

    • I’m not sure I feel confident enough in my photoshop skills, but lemme see what I can mock up! It won’t be pretty, haha. Check back in a bit!

      You might be right about going a little bigger…another option I’ve been tossing around is using the casement sashes from the kitchen window and then just throwing a cheap replacement window in there. The long-term plan is to replace that window anyway (and maybe even move the door to that side with a larger window on the other side), so I can deal with having a cheap stop-gap window in the kitchen in the meantime to get this right!

      • I LOVE THE KITCHEN WINDOW MOCK-UP. I’m in arch school and so I’ve been thinking about your windows. I share your obsession with staring odd building details. Ahaha, people think I’m strange. Anyways, I was thinking a series of rectangular windows that got shorter as they approached the roof line, kind of like phone signal bars. You could also do triangles in the same way for more light… or you could do rectangles that have half circles on top and/or bottom…..

        but all of that seemed, I don’t know over the top. This the back of your house, and honestly some of my ideas are more cathedral than Victorian home. I like the two birds/one stone approach. You save money, get an appropriately sized window, and the stress isn’t going to kill you before you finish it. I think it’s a win-win situation. Plus the mock up is super cute. I agree with you on the chimney, it’s got to stay, it’s a beautiful part of your home. Even if you don’t restore it to full use, it’s tactile representation in your home really adds a lot to its character. In California you’re hard pressed to find exposed masonry, and almost non of it is very old, so I might be biased in that respect.

        Also I was having a really bad day and checked in to see if you’d blogged. Your blog is the only one I follow, and I really enjoy something about the honest personality the comes through in your writing. I was pleasantly surprised to see a new post! Thanks for the pick-me-up. :)

      • Love the mockup, and the new plan!! Totally practical and IMHO using the kitchen window sashes upstairs looks like the perfect size.

  3. I agree with your final assessment, any one of the three options would work. The quarter-rounds are really cute! (And I LOVE that Victorial tiny window in the brick.) As your reader it would be fun for me to see you solve all the issues of the quarter-rounds. I’m sure we would all learn a lot. But in your shoes as the person having to not only pull it off but also make it happen and pay for it, the logic of casements and cost benefits outweigh the other options. So long as the two windows are balanced it will add symmetry to the back of the house. And symmetry is beauty. I hope you’ll add shutters. I will be following with interest! -Sally

    • I know! I’m enticed by the challenge of the quarter-rounds but it seems too complicated and expensive and factoring in the lead time to have them made even if I could afford it is just cutting it way too close to winter for my comfort! Maybe removing a window, a door, framing in two new windows, residing half the wall, and painting is enough of a challenge! :)

  4. I am still reading and I agree with all your decisions.
    A balcony off the bedroom is not necessary. Anyone who tells you they will sit out there and have their morning coffee is lying. If you go downstairs to make the coffee (or get the bottle of wine) you aren’t going to go back upstairs to drink it.
    Using the two itty-bitty windows that are already there on either side of the chimney is perfect.

    • And no shutters. The itty-bitty windows are too small for shutters. And I don’t think the rest of your house has shutters.
      But if you do add shutters make sure they are architecturally accurate – as in just one shutter on an itty-bitty window – and on bigger windows two each half the width of the window so it looks like they could actually be closed to cover the window. With hinges. And shutter dogs.
      But you already knew that.

      • The rest of my house doesn’t currently have shutters, but it did originally! I’ve started the process of looking into getting shutters back on this baby (it would be amazing), but you’re exactly right—if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it RIGHT. Which means custom sizes, pricey repro hardware….this house is not getting incorrectly sized plastic shutters screwed right into the clapboard! Not on my watch! :)

  5. If existing windows can be retrofitted, I think that’s great. If that goes sideways, nothing wrong with an inoperable window sized for the space with mullions for a grid (those aren’t hard to do). You have operable windows in the space so it seems it would meet code or whatever.

  6. you are bonkers lol but this post is exactly why I love your blog so much.

  7. So cute! Like two little eyes smiling at you! Keep up the crazy, you’re the best!

  8. How high will the roof from the covered porch go? I love these examples and your idea, it just seems like those teeny tiny windows (if you are splitting your current window) will be REALLY teeny tiny. My favorite examples that you showed had the casement windows set into attics – since yours has the height of a story (even if it’s a half), could the proportions look off? I think the roof from the covered porch should create enough visual separation, but I’m just curious on your plan.

    • Good question! Honestly I haven’t gotten too far into the planning of the porch, but I think I’ll try to match the front porch pretty closely—which means a pretty low pitch. I guess I envision the highest point of the roof being somewhere around the bottom of the existing second floor door, but I haven’t really done all the calculations to know for sure yet…

      • My concerns are null now that you’ve chosen to go with the kitchen window. I love it and it’ll look great!

  9. Your window hunt cracks me up because my husband and I have been doing a similar activity lately…walking the neighborhood and inspecting everyone’s storm windows. We have beautiful old storms with original glass but many of them are falling apart, or the original windows aren’t working as well as they should be. We’re trying to get quotes to have them rebuilt/repaired but everyone is trying to get us to replace them with aluminum triple track and it makes me want to cry. I think we’re gong to end up tackling the entire project ourselves and spend the rest of our lives doing it.

    • Cheryl, buy the book Working Windows by Terry Meany (3rd edition). Then you’ll spend only half your life and be able to laugh about it, too, because that book is not only the best ever for old windows, it’s a joy to read.

      • Thank you for the rec, Kate! And best of luck, Cheryl!! Saving your original storms is a noble task. Aluminum triple-tracks would be a bummer if the alternative is original wooden storms!! If you absolutely have to go that route, I feel like the trick to new storms is to NOT get them in an aluminum finish—get them to match the exterior sash color. My big plan is to remove my storms and spray-paint the frames black to match the sashes…I’ve seen this done around town and they look INFINITELY better, though not as nice as original wooden ones.

    • Cheryl– Do not give in!! Stay strong!! I ended up getting all but two of my house’s wooden storms replaced with custom-milled kits from Adams Architectural in Des Moines (they ship). You measure, they mill the parts, you glue them together and do the rest. Or you can buy them assembled (they have many fine options) if you have the $$$. Oh, and I second the rec of the Meany book. It’s priceless, will tell you everything you need to know, and is an entertaining read to boot.

  10. I made it to the end! Good detective work, always fun to see houses from different styles. It is amazing the amount of styles that was develop in the us in the period 1850-1920. I like the idea of two little ones. If in doubt regarding specific styles, it can be tricky when there are no originals around that look the same, one can always go back to the classical architecture and use the golden ratio. It amazes me how many times people have taken down the paneling and found old holes just where they wanted to put in windows. Just take a tape roll and draw new windows where you want them. I think the important part is to keep the dimensions of the glass panes the same, then adjust the size with the casement, maybe half round top casements?

  11. Almost forgot, a common solution to this problem here is two square windows, only four small glass panes, that is rotated 45 degrees. It also solves some of your problem about having a square window meet very close to the roof pitch. Of course, if your roof is not exactly 45 degrees then that will look a bit off though…

  12. In the end, the right choice, and most appropriate as well. The quarter windows are beautiful, but I am not sure they would have ever used them on the rear of a home (where nobody would see them), and they were most often used with Dutch Gambrel roof lines. I would imagine they would be more susceptible to maintenance issues in the future as well.

    I have said this in previous comments, but it is the fact that you obsess on the details that the results turn out so well. So many people only want things done quick and cheap, without thought to appropriateness or longevity. I am an obsessor too, finding myself researching the most inane details of something just so that I can get it right. But I am always glad I did.

    Keep obsessing….. You will be happy you did too.

  13. well happy friday Daniel….gotta say that first picture of the back of your house looks like the “after” pictures of hurricane damage…yikes.

    I agree about the balcony..while it seems fancy are you really going to want to sit up there and look at your neighbours yards…? Just do the covered porch..that will be fancy enough.
    Honestly have no opinion on the windows…do your “re use” opinion….what have you got to lose? and it’s the back of the house…not critical.
    OH and I agree about the chimney…it has to stay….but a woodstove in the kitchen..now that would be fancy!!

    • Yes it would! Particularly because my kitchen is FREEZING in the winter! I also have fantasies of having the chimney part that goes through the kitchen re-built to be a real wood-burning fireplace (my friend says this is possible…I don’t even know…this is MANY years off regardless), basically mimicking what’s in the basement that will never get used because, well, it’s in the basement.

      • I have a woodstove in the kitchen of my (large and drafty) 1850 farmhouse in upstate NY. It’s a lifesaver in winter – so cozy it draws everyone in: cats, dog, humans. If you can swing it, I highly recommend it.
        BTW, you probably know this already, but open wood-burning fireplaces just suck all the heat out and up the chimney. We have two in our house and gave up using them because it was such a chore to keep them going and the rooms never got warm. A third fireplace has a buck stove insert that puts out nice heat but doesn’t look very attractive. Our wood stoves, on the other hand, are as lovely as can be, both for the warmth and the look (IMO). There’s nothing quite like the kind of soothing heat a wood stove gives off.

        As a fellow Detail Obsessor, I love your posts. And you never fail to crack me up.

      • You’re making me so jealous! It’s not even below 50 here today and I already don’t want to go make myself a sandwich. Maybe I’ll just play a youtube video of a crackling fire and make believe. :)

  14. I think that splitting and using the old window to make two smaller ones is a perfect solution. I bet it will look just right!

  15. I’m so relieved you made it to the same conclusion I did like 2 paragraphs in. I read the entire rest of the post shouting in my head, “just split the existing one into two! ARGH!” Although the tiny quarter circle windows are freakin adorable, I totally agree, not worth it.

    Love reading about your projects! You write about them so well and with so much personality. Love it.

  16. Ooh, ‘raking frieze’ fancy!
    Thanks for another great post, Daniel. I loved looking at all the old (and not so old) houses.
    I’m sure whatever you decide to do will be perfect!

    • Ha! It’s probably still the wrong term but I spent a LONG time reading about details of cornices and soffits so I’m just going with it. :)

  17. I love it so much that you consider the history of the house (i.e. the chimney) and don’t get all smash and trash to make things work. Love it. Love it. Love it. Houses that old deserve to have their stories preserved.

  18. I’m loving all the research and the pretty house pictures! It sounds like the existing window split in half would look about right. I’m just glad that the ‘door into nowhere’ will be gone. It gives me the jitters just to see it (though I know that room’s not in use and you don’t have any kids and nobody’s going to fall out of it — but still…..)

    I also love the idea of an old woodstove in the kitchen at some point.

    • Ha! You and my insurance company both!! That door has been locked since before I bought the house and I don’t have a key, so maybe that helps? It is, uh, unconventional though. :)

  19. What you’ve done by walking around the neighborhood and documenting the windows on other people’s houses is exactly what you should be doing – and what you have to do in most historic neighborhoods when submitting renovation plans for approval. Most require “model examples”, which are basically just photographic studies of other similar house types in the neighborhood.

    I agree with your decision – I think it’s the right way to go. The quarter rounds are cute, but I think they are too much for a rear facade. You have to be really, really careful with special windows like that – the proportions have to be perfect or it’s immediately noticeable. Just drive around any late 90’s subdivision and look at all the faux palladians. Shudder.

    If you do shutters – be really careful about the size. They should look like they could perfectly cover the window when closed, even when you know they won’t close. In the case of these windows, you probably just want one shutter on each window – like that model example in your post with the red shutters.

    • Quick turnaround on the mockup! Nicely done. Part of me wants those windows to be just a little bit smaller, so I’m not completely sold on using the larger kitchen windows. But another part of me doesn’t want to assume that you want everyone and their brother to weigh in on this. So consider or ignore at your leisure. I think you are on the right track though with the two windows.

      • I think I might have made them bigger in the mock-up than they’d be in real life, but I think this is pretty close? I’m guessing people think this wall is bigger than it really is…those windows would only be 18×36 inches, plus the 4″ trim around them. The width is only a difference of about an inch from the upstairs one, and I think the bigger height would be good…IDK, I gotta climb up there on a ladder and tape it out, I think. It has to stop raining first!

      • That makes sense – I was counting clapboards, but of course the kitchen windows will look larger because of the perspective of the shot – so they look stretched up above.

        Windows are my favorite part of historic houses, but they are a royal pain the neck to deal with.

  20. I like the idea of reusing the kitchen window and replacing that (maybe you will get lucky at a salvage yard). Will the new attic windows be operable? It probably gets stuffy up there in summer and having open windows on both ends of the attic would keep things cooler? Maybe?

    • Yep! At least the plan is to put them on hinges. It’s not actually an attic (it might even end up being my bedroom!) so I definitely want to be able to open them. There are other windows in the room but I still think it’d be nice if they opened. :)

  21. Ok, I may have a terrible eye but I couldn’t even tell your last photo was shopped! I had to read your description to realize it. So props on being better at photoshop than most teenage selfie overposters.
    How freaking cute would it be if your sashes and window/door frames were painted black?! I know your stress level is probably overwhelming but I think it would be very you and accent the black shed fabulously.
    Cudos, Daniel! Love it!!

    • Ha! That’s like the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me about my computer abilities!

      Yep—the sashes on my house are already black, and the plan is to add black shutters down the road! Right now the house is looking kind of kooky because it reads as very white and obviously the garage is very black, but I think adding more black accents to the house (which is totally in line with the style) will really tie everything together nicely. It’s just going to take a while to get there!

  22. Of course I read to the end. I can’t be the only one who went off on a two-ish hour image search of upper story windows on the rear of 100 year old houses after your last post about the windows cutting into the frieze. It was really important to me to find examples of it happening on a fairly regular basis since my last house, a 120 year old victorian, definitely had some of that going on. Though like you said, Victorians were crazy.

    • You are not alone. I went on that search, too. And I don’t even have a Victorian house.

      There is practically nothing in the whole world that I love better than obsessing about architectural details. Ok… husband, kids, etc. But after them……

  23. I have a balcony just like the one you’re describing and while I like the way it looks from the street, I really don’t find myself enjoying that space ever. It isn’t as private as a deck off the back of the house so it feels weird being up there. And you have the added fun of shoveling the flat roof in the winter. I always say I wish I smoked so I would have a reason to sit out there in the dead of night. Probably a good call to nix the idea :)

  24. I love your idea of splitting the existing windows. Small casement windows with reasonably sized panes are definitely the best option here. I’ll be interested to see how you deal with remaking the window frames, but I know it’s possible.
    Personally, I’m rather leery of your idea to use the larger kitchen window because I’m afraid that you’re already going to have problems fitting the windows and associated moldings inside the raking frieze. Measure, measure, and measure some more! Based on the picture of the exterior, and not knowing if you can get any closer to the chimney, I think it will be tight on width. If you move the windows down, you may be able to use larger ones, but if they then become misaligned with the other windows in the room, it may feel rally weird inside.
    Looking forward to seeing the result!

  25. I really love where you’re going from the photoshopped image in the addendum!
    I know you wanted to put the windows so the trim is close to the raking frieze, but honestly I think they need to be a little closer together based on the photoshopped picture. That area being taller than an attic just leaves the windows feeling too high and wide – and not in a good way like hanging curtains.

    I love the idea of re-using the kitchen window, and a stop-gap new window there sounds like a great idea. The windows themselves look to be the right scale. I’d just move them each in 3 or 6 inches.

    • Yeah, you might be right! It’s just a rough mock-up…I think it’s pretty close to scale but definitely in no way exact! The amount of space I have to play with here is tight though, between the frieze and the width of the trim around the windows and the location of the chimney, and trying to keep it looking good inside and out…I have a feeling the house will dictate a lot of decisions on this one!

  26. I am a sucker for quarter-rounds but after seeing your mock-up, I think the larger casement windows look great! It will be a good compromise between time, money, and style.

    On a completely unrelated note, I have applied to some jobs in the Hudson Valley area recently, so if all goes well I could soon be a resident! Which of course means I have been browsing Zillow and Redfin way too much, looking at all the old houses in the area and dreaming of making them pretty again.

    • Oh, nice! There are SO many good houses up here…I stalk Zillow just to see what’s around all the time. Good luck with the job hunt!

  27. Have you seen this picture? One and half store with roof moldings/detailing like yours.
    https://www.pinterest.com/pin/123286108524879468/

    • Ohhhh, so pretty!! This back section of the house is so narrow that I don’t think you could squeeze two six-over-six windows up there if you tried, but it’s nice to see how it’s handled there!

  28. “…sexual harassment target” BAHAHAHA. Talented builder men are so dreamy. <3

  29. Never think that we will not read the whole post. I love they way you write. Love all you have done to both this house and the little cottage. Keep up the great work.

  30. We are buying a house that has nearly the same facade layout with the windows/doors except our 2nd floor door that goes to nowhere is a Juliet balcony. I hate it. But with the other renos we’re doing to the house, I don’t think the money is there to change it to a normal window. Well, I just lied — the bottom right of our facade doesn’t have a window — it has double doors that go out to the front deck. Our facade is like doors on doors on doors + the one window at the top left. That said, I totally agree with your design choices. No one will ever use the balcony…or even an extra door to a deck, like ours.

  31. I’m now convinced that there is something in the joined chemistry between people who buy old houses to fix up and the houses themselves that brings on insomnia producing, teeth gnashing, research obsessing behaviors. Anyway, I’m heading out to find all of those houses in Kingston and thanking you more than profusely that you didn’t include that one with the worst possible of all colors of “olive” (diarrhea) green trim. Don’t you just love looking up at architecture and seeing how beautiful things used to be? I have no comment on your window dilemma because I know for sure you will do it right and all I’ll have to do is sit back and admire when you’re done.

  32. Hahaha – “Thanks for nothing stupid Senate House” – best laugh I’ve had all day. Keep it up!

  33. I really love this blog. Even when you’re talking about something so super specific and arcane as quarter-round windows. Which, btw, I wish you’d do. I wouldn’t, (I totally agree with every point you made), but I wish YOU would do them, so that I could read about them and enjoy them from afar.

  34. I think I’m a minority of one, but I was hoping you were going to settle on no windows. I know finding clapboards to fish into those slots would be difficult, but I think getting all the windows, doors and porch to scale right will be a challenge given how narrow your house is, especially with those cornices cut in like they are. Something about the image of just the kitchen door and window (and eventual porch) leading up to the triangle and capped with the chimney is very appealing to me. I don’t remember what the inside of this room looks like now, the last image in my mind is when you bought it. How will the casements scale with the existing street-side windows when you’re actually in the room? Having two sizes of windows in such a small room would drive me insane. Of course, you’re like Midas with this house, so I’m sure it’ll be beautiful whatever you decide.

  35. I just wonder, how the situation is from inside. How will the room feel an look with whatever windows or without? To me this would be the more important reason on that decision – do you need light and air, or better have a wall to put art or a sideboard. Did you think about that?

  36. I am another one who would spend an inordinate amount of time deciding exactly how to redo those windows. I spent at least as much time as you did here when I wanted to replace the 15′ sidewalk from our front door to the city sidewalk. Concrete or pavers? Concrete with paver edging? Replace exactly the same S-shape? Make it straight? Make it a wide swooping curve that narrows as it passes the front step and continues to the little sidewalk around the side of the house? I could easily have spent $15k on that little sidewalk.

  37. I think the size of the windows you drew in is perfect for the exterior and interior. You could put a bed under them on the inside, chimney and all, and have nice light coming in. I think they look great in your photoshop for the exterior proportions. I think quarter-rounds look better in attics – they make rooms look smaller on the inside, and with them being shorter and cutting off the top corner on one side, they let in less light. So I don’t think they’d look good here, inside or out.

    I wouldn’t add shutters to them – too busy a look on that small wall. (I’m not even sure I like the idea of adding shutters to the rest of the house – have to look at the photos again. In general, I think unless one is going to actually close them, they are just an old hold-over look. And I like the way old house window trim looks without the shutters. Sometimes with the trim painted to contrast from the clapboards.) But I digress.

    My real question is whether you really want those windows to be casements. I know you are thinking in terms of reuse of the current kitchen window. But think about casement windows in function. Is it windy up there? Would you want to leave them cracked open when the wind could grab the window and push on it? I have this idea that double hungs are more user friendly. You can also open them from the top, which is nice in a bedroom – to get air but not drafts directly on you. I go out and leave them open all the time, and not a a lot of rain comes in if it rains. You may not fit 6 over 6s there, but the squarish 4 over 4s shown in some of your photos might look really nice. I kept wondering how the photoshop would look with whatever windows are below, but then I realized that you won’t really see the lower floor windows much due to the porch.

    I also think double hungs are more likely to keep intruders out. I don’t know if you worry about that up there, but I’m a city girl. It is easy to prevent double hugs from being lifted very high – effectively burglar proof. And I could see someone breaking in standing on the porch roof. Maybe the casement windows are too skinny to allow a skinny human entry, but I don’t think so. I hate having to close and secure windows that aren’t at ground level when I’m out. But maybe this is more of a big city concern.

    The chimney is cute from the outside. Good to keep it if you have any idea of putting it to work. We haven’t seen the basement yet – no idea you had plans to use it other than to hoard building parts ;-) A wood stove would warm up your kitchen. If the kitchen was in the basement when the addition was built, what do you think the room that is your kitchen was used for then – does the house have any clues?

  38. Read the whole post. All the way to the end. You are always interesting. :)

  39. you are awesome and I always love reading your posts.
    I love your home, your ideas, your humor…
    You’re comical & educational… you’re kinda inspiring :-)

  40. whoa! That is a lot of research pics. Maybe some of those houses have too many windows? Could you manage with no windows for the winter, at least? Then you would have more time to think over options and necessities. Just paint the green part white for now. And take out the door. It could be quickly patched,insulated and painted. If the back of the house is all white, no one driving by would even notice your windows. Sometimes, waiting makes solutions obvious.

  41. Yay! So glad you are saving the chimney! I don’t care if it functions right now or not, we are talking character people! I just hate it when people strip off all the good stuff and replace it with crappy modern stuff, don’t you? Your idea for the windows should look great by the way.

  42. For the love of Pete! Please say you painted the green and your just not ready to reveal. It makes me twitchy! Thank you and love you.

  43. Another thoroughly enjoyable post about something that would be boring if written by any other blogger. Thanks for the addendum – those windows look like a great fit. And seeing the mock up makes me think that splitting the window currently there into two would be too small. Can’t wait to see the next steps!

  44. Daniel, you should know the character of your readers by now. If we didn’t thoroughly enjoy partaking in the minutiae of your thought processes we wouldn’t be here. To paraphrase you, we are all the kind of people who enjoy obsessing a stupid amount over the handling of architectural details, but only you have the talent to express it in such an entertaining way. I’m sure the results will speak for themselves and I very much look forward to seeing them.

    • Ditto to all of this! I remember reading a piece Daniel did over on Design Sponge about cleaning marble thresholds that was completely fascinating and entertaining, beginning to end, and which brought me to this blog. I have never had a marble threshold. Such is the power of good writing! This entry was no exception.

  45. I love your posts.
    How I manage to read such lengthy posts on topics I could not care less about is a testament to something. You are adorable, that much is clear, and I find myself fascinated with how much you do and how you do it.

  46. Hi Daniel
    First post ever to a blog but I’ve been following you for years now. I am older than your mother and love you both! I am also an experienced restorer and totally appreciate all the obsessing you do to get it just right! I had a thought for the reuse of the kitchen windows. In Europe they have windows that tilt in from the top. They usually also work as swing casement windows as yours do now.Now all the major US lines offer them as well. They are called tilt-turn windows. This allows air to circulate without rain getting in and is safer because the space is too small for intruders. I am wondering if you could install your original ones that way? Of course they would swing into the room and you might not have space for that … just a thought.
    hugs
    Ro

    • Ro – Those are amazing windows – glad to know about them! They seal tight, they lock, and they solve the problems I noted with rain and security. Though I doubt you would be able to get his effect by hanging an old window in this fashion – they seem like they’d need to be purchased this way.

  47. Those quarter-round windows were super cute, but I agree that the casements probably make more sense and will look fine too. We’ll be looking at adding a couple of transom windows at some point down the road, and although I know it will be awesome, thinking about it makes my head hurt a bit. One of the biggest pain points for me is how I’ll dress them on the inside. Those quarter-round windows could be tricky that way, too. One more win for the casements, especially if you think it may be your bedroom someday!

  48. Ha, you always say that we must be bored but I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we are just as obsessed with your house and all of the minute details as you are. I really thought the photoshopped windows were real and looked pretty great in comparison, but I’m sure whatever you come up with will be great. Now if you could just remodel a room everyday for my blogging entertainment…. :) thanks for an interesting post. ~k

  49. The back of your house reminded me of a house I lived in while living on Minnesota Ave. in Buffalo. Off my bedroom was the tiniest balcony. It barely had space for one chair and the ceiling was very low. The air flow was nice as we didn’t have AC. I live in an house that is from 1898 at the moment. We have the eyebrow windows on the side of the house in the attic. Unfortunately they are fixed shut. I really enjoy your writing and ideas, thanks!

  50. I know exactly what you mean about obsessively looking at architectural details that never ever would have registered before – we’re building a new house that’s Greek revivial inspired, and I’ve been obsessing about the color of the window mullions – black or white. Most of the old houses around here have white mullions, but that’s only because they’re replacement vinyl windows. Found a few examples of black window mullions with white trim and light colored paint, and it looks fantastic, so that’s what we’re going with – but I keep looking for more examples to validate this choice. Before that, it was dormers – do we do shed dormers, peaked dormers, dog-house style dormers, one big peak – lots of rubber necking on back roads went into figuring that out. And roof color…so much “research” to do!

    Anyway, if you’re considering any new windows, do a little research beyond the stuff available from HD and Lowes – You have to do the work to actually get quotes from window dealers, which is annoying (windows and doors are such a racket – no one lists their prices anywhere), but we actually found the Marvin Integrity windows that we’re buying (wood interior, fiberglass exterior), were cheaper and more energy efficient than the Anderson quote that I got from Home Depot. So don’t just assume that the big box stores are the cheapest for this one – and you might find that for just one window, a nicer window is not that much more than a vinyl one. Check out all your options!

  51. Love your idea! one thing:
    1) I had to go research the Amityville Horror house like a total weirdo and now I may never sleep again.

  52. Yes, I am still reading – and will continue to do so!
    I love the examples you have and (contrary to your belief) do find it interesting. I like both of your ideas and I’m sure both will look great. However, if you think you’ll ultimately be happier with the latter, you gotta go with that.

    Can’t wait to see what you end up with – good luck!

  53. Go with the photoshop mockup! It looks beautiful and really suits the house!

  54. Waiting my turn to comment. Enjoyed the post so much. Couldn’t wait to get home to re-introduce myself to the little windows on the front and back side of my attic. They are in fact adorable little miniature double hung 6 over 6’s with wavy glass remaining in many of the panes. A big hug to you too! My suggestion is to work out the interior of the room and choose the closest window configuration you can install.

  55. Cheap ($50!) quarter rounds (my personal fav) on CL:http://philadelphia.craigslist.org/atq/5229427404.html

  56. Daniel! I live in the Norfolk neighborhood you referenced! So neat to see it mentioned on your inspiring blog.

  57. I love it when you say you’re scared.

  58. The mock up you did in photoshop looks just right. Placement/proportion/etc. Can’t wait to see it finished!

  59. Not to make your life even crazier, but if you wanted quarter-round windows, a stained-glass artisan could probably make you something custom. (I know, bite my tongue, right?)

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