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Second storey design tips for windows and doors

When considering a second-storey addition, extension or renovation to your existing home, one of the most crucial design features that many people overlook is the hugely important part that your windows play in the renovation.

A second-storey addition can really open up your floor plan, give you more useable living space and accommodate growing family needs. However, some spaces can still feel constricted due to poorly placed or lack of windows.
This is a mistake that many people regret once they are living in their new space because it doesn’t “feel” the way they would have liked it to. Windows and doors will not only affect the look of your home, inside and out, but where they are placed and their style will drastically effect the final renovation result. A second-storey addition or renovation has the potential to either add huge value to your home,  or result in a huge waste of time and money. So, if you’re in the early planning stages or considering adding a second storey to your home, here are five key design aspects to consider in your window planning to help make your space feel even bigger and brighter, and make living more comfortable.

Choosing windows that complement the appearance, inside and out

Second-storey addition projects in Highgate and Mount Hawthorn utilising tall, narrow windows in the stairwell to create more light and appeal.  image Nexus Homes Group

If you’re planning your new second-storey addition with an architect or contractor, consider the space the window will be placed in. Rooms with tall ceilings could feel bigger with clerestory windows, or a tall, narrow contemporary window could frame the perfect view for your stairwell while increasing internal light. If you are extending or adding a second storey, imagine that extra room without windows. Then consider what windows can bring to the table for your overall home design if used correctly and thoughtfully.

Work with your designer to choose a style that takes into account your room’s best features while also reflecting your home’s exterior architectural character.

Use of modern and heritage-style windows on two second-storey projects in Beaconsfield and Bicton. Courtesy of Nexus Homes Group.

Get the most out of your renovation budget by focusing on windows in your most public spaces, where functionality and appeal are most important.

This will help you decide if it warrants a large picture-framing window, a creative shape, or something small, narrow or made of a different material, depending on the internal function and the direct viewing angle externally. Windows generally aren’t obstructed on an upper level, so it’s important that you invest where it will deliver the best value for function and design.

Creative use of different shapes and sizes on this Swanbourne second-storey renovation. Courtesy of Nexus Homes Group.

Planning your design – big windows, small windows, or a combination of both?

In your design planning, if your second-storey addition houses additional living spaces and bedrooms, consider using large glassed areas that can benefit from good orientation, increased daylight, view or heat gain. On the opposite side of the coin, small windows can serve very functional purposes as well. For example, a bedroom that is west-facing or looking down on neighbouring properties may utilise small, high windows that transmit lots of light while maintaining privacy and minimising the amount of glass exposure, in order to limit heat gain.

High windows utilised to transmit light, increase privacy and reduce heat in this Fremantle second-storey addition. Courtesy of Nexus Homes Group.

Windows that brighten up your spaces

Many older homes have been built without allowing adequate light into the home. This can result in needing to have the lights on in the middle of the day, even though it’s beautiful and sunny outside. Windows that sit way up in the treetops can fill your second-storey addition with light, drawing you in to want to spend time in that space. There are lots of factors that affect the amount of daylight within a room, so when you’re designing your custom second-storey addition, make sure that your floor plan and window placement maximises solar orientation. Consider the following tips when drafting plans with your architect or building contractor:

  • Place your main windows facing north. Northern exposure provides the best light, the greatest amount of solar heat gain in the winter and heat protection in the summer.
  • Choose the window shape that will give the best light distribution for each room. For example, tall, narrow windows give a thin distribution of light while horizontal windows can provide a wider spread of light.
  • Place your windows higher up the wall to lengthen the depth of light into the room. Windows placed closer to the celling produce more sky visibility, transmitting more light. Floor-to-ceiling windows can also make for an amazing aesthetic design feature that can make a room feel a lot bigger.
  • Where possible, place windows on more than just one wall for better distribution of light.
  • Once you’ve got a great design plan for your windows, consider the internal finishes that take advantage of light distribution such as wall and ceiling colour finishes, window treatments and window frames.

Creating natural ventilation and comfort

Certain types of windows can be used to create a specific look and be functional at the same time. Louvres are a popular choice to encourage cross-ventilation and promote a natural air flow throughout your entire house. Who doesn’t want a light-filled space with a soft summer breeze drifting through your home?

This is often overlooked during the design planning stages; however, window size and location has the potential to create a comfortable living space or turn your home into a live-in sauna during summer. If possible, define the orientation and shape of your second-storey addition to take full advantage of prevailing breezes and consider the use of louvres throughout the entire upper level so that air flow isn’t restricted. Finally, make sure the placement of your windows promotes the best airflow across the room. Windows placed high up will cause the air to flow along the ceiling, which can make the room uncomfortable during summer.

Do you want to enhance your view or create more privacy?

If your second-storey addition is going  to take in a picturesque view, then this will be just as important as bringing in more light and solar control. If you’re designing a second-storey addition that commands a view, you’ll want to consider window size and placement according to the nature of the room, and avoid the use of window treatments that can obstruct your view. Depending on how your second storey is designed, the proportions of your windows can be scaled according to the view and how you want to frame it. For example, if you’re adding a second living area that has a northern aspect, consider utilising a horizontal window for an amazing panoramic view. North-facing windows also have the added bonus of creating a more comfortable living environment inside your home.

Before the second-storey renovation. Nexus Homes Group

After the second-storey renovation. Nexus Homes Group

The new addition now takes in a picturesque sunset view that isn’t visible from the lower level. Courtesy of Nexus Homes Group

On the flipside, perhaps you’re trying to conceal the view into your property or your neighbours’. Privacy is an important consideration, particularly nowadays with overlooking constraints into other people’s backyards. This is quite often the case with second-storey additions. Once again, there are a number of options you could take to ensure that you meet council regulations but also allow in  adequate natural light. The use of frosted glass is one obvious solution, but placement of the windows may allow a different and even more appealing outcome, such as short, high windows in a bedroom, or a vertical window where there is a confined view.

With any home renovation project, be it a second-storey addition or extension, it’s super important to have your builder and glass specialist on the same page throughout the whole process. Whether your addition is a more modern design on an older style house, or in keeping with an older heritage look, the windows should tie into the new extension to make the addition appear seamless. As demonstrated, good window design on a home renovation or second-storey project can be both a show-stopper and enhance functionality so that living in your new space will be an absolute pleasure.