Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Eyes of the Home

I should not be writing this post right now. I should be packing or shopping or cleaning or confirming something. I know this because my husband is so in my face that he could blow an eyelash off my cheek. So. much. bossiness. I get it. We're at that primal moment when war behaviour is destined to emerge. The kid's gone so he can't control her process. That leaves me.

Just for the record, I know that when you're moving next Saturday, you have to pack all the things before that day arrives. I don't need to camp for a week.

But that's not what this post is about. This post is about my choice of windows. Unquestionably, I knew what I wanted: Crittalls, from UK. They're steel framed, generally single-glazed (esp. in olde days) because they are designed for a temperate climate. I love the skinny horizontal mullions. I love the black frame, the smallish panes. They walk that tightrope of old, industrial and new. When facing a small, green space, there is nothing more beautiful IMO. They're moody but they let coziness shine through.

Crittall Windows
Photo from the Crittall website linked to above.
Alas, the only Cdn vendor that approximates this look is Pella and the cost was going to be about 54K for 2 walls of windows. Yeah. Partly that's cuz I live in Canada and everything here costs much more than elsewhere in NA and prob than most of Europe. We have few economies of scale.

Ironically, had the original builders not fucked me over, I could have bought these windows 4 times and been no worse off. But that's not how this process goes.

In the absence of the Pellas, the architect suggested something unappealingly generic so Scott and I spent a weekend redesigning the drawings and came up with what we call "a little bit Crit". We pulled this look off for 12K (but note the full window budget was 25K and we replaced all windows in the house except for those on the third floor which was renoed 5 years ago):

Small portion of the back wall of windows - only decent shot I've got, currently. 
These are vinyl outside (to last through the winter), triple-glazed and wood on the inside, painted black.
Notice the absence of casings. We inset the windows and finished with a U channel (in stark contrast to the fancily cased Victorian windows at the front of the house). We offset the vertical mullion and skinnied up the horizontals.

But until earlier this week, while I LOVED the windows, both Scott and I were vaguely dismayed because they didn't look Crittall at all:

This is the other back wall of windows on the second floor - aka Kristin's sewga room, re-envisioned.
See how un-Crittall those gorgeous windows are? By later this week they'll look like the downstairs ones inasmuch as they'll be painted black.

Here's my point: I looked and looked and looked at those windows all the freakin' time and I couldn't figure out where we went wrong. I mean, I was more than happy to get with the windows I got, but (not being a profesh designer and all) I couldn't understand why they didn't look Crittall. And then it hit me - they needed to be painted black.

I know - really self-evident. Perhaps I seem dim. But till I figured it out, it eluded me.

My other points are these:
  • You can design whatever you want. Whether you get it in the end depends on many factors outside of the scope of your control but, in theory, you're in charge.
  • You don't need to spend a zillion dollars - but you do need to be creative. Also, unless you're REALLY creative, you will need to spend to some extent. 
  • Break it down. What do you like about what you like? You really need to see what's going on in a granular way in order to recreate a look.
One other point: As I continue to go back through years of posts wherein I discussed design and what was then the impending renovation, I'm pretty amazed to find that I spoke about doing all of the things I've actually done, to some extent or another. To suggest I don't have a process is flat-out wrong. My process is dialoguing here. You don't need a mood board if that board is already in your mind.

On that note, I can no longer ignore Scott bellowing at me from the third floor. Off to roll up a mattress prematurely.


  1. After doing very minor cosmetic renos on a former home, and ripping out yards of black painted baseboards, I haven't been fond of any kind of black trim. I have to say, however, that the black on the windows is stunning and much nicer than the white. Hope your move goes smoothly, and I am looking forward to more pictures. I don't have a cell phone therefore no Instagram …

    1. I was very in the zone till the wood windows went in (and they were wood coloured, natch) and it reset my vision. I couldn't remember that the black trim was what would make it "Crittall". Weird! But I can only imagine the misery of fixing a house of black baseboards!

  2. A few months ago I noticed a midcentury ranch in my neighborhood was getting new windows and inwardly groaned. Sure enough, they ripped out the original steel windows and replaced them with new vinyl. It changed the look of the whole house and not for the better. All that said, you're right to be picky about windows, but I know about compromise as well.

    1. OMG! What a travesty. They may have felt that the heat-loss was too great to justify maintaining the originals. But I love that look so much, if my house had come with them, I'd have left them alone.

  3. HA! If you ever write a book, I request your reno as your topic. :)

    1. Oh, I sense this is what my book will be about. Scott and I even have the topics, format and title sorted. But it's gonna be a while :-)

  4. I can so relate. Here, it's a matter of getting the items. If Home Depot doesn't have it (we only got that a few years ago) it has to be shipped in. And even IKEA won't ship here. Let alone upscale suppliers. That means things have to be delivered to the actual shipping dock in Seattle, then a 2nd delivery arranged by barge up here to coastal Alaska. I'm trying to replace a (very) non-standard bathroom door. I wanted a frosted glass number, to let in more light. 50% chance it will even arrive intact. All told, shipping costs more than the door. But I am determined, damnit!

    1. I can only imagine what it's like getting things to Alaska (which is basically Canada - in terms of distance from all the cheap shipping!) I'm giving you the good-luck glass-shipping vibes. Let us know how it goes!

  5. Hi, I’ve been reading your blog with interest….and a little dismay. I work for Crittall Windows in the UK (yes….the original company from 1849). You may not realise that we ship our product to the US (and into Canada) on a weekly basis through a network of US distributors. It’s such a shame you had to compromise in the end when you could have had the “real” thing. We come across this a lot where clients have had to (for budget, or because they didn’t realise we were still in business!) downsize their expectations, but unfortunately are not ultimately happy with the final aesthetic. All the best with the renovations. Regards, Darren (Crittall Windows Ltd, Witham, UK)
    (PS: our products are all available with insulating glass units).