How to Best Capture Your Views
A decisive factor in where we choose to live is the view out the window. Whether it’s a broad landscape, a distant horizon, breaking waves on a beach or simply a beautiful tree, capturing your best views can profoundly improve your internal spaces. We’re always tempted to envelop our homes with glazing to maximise every aspect, although, careful design of each window can offer the best visual experience to enhance each type of view surrounding your home.
Master bedroom views at Driftwood
Horizons and Views in the Distance
If you’re lucky enough to enjoy uninterrupted views across a distant landscape, consider emphasising the horizontal aspect of the view. Lift the sill of the window off the floor to block out any immediate views of the ground such as paving or fencing, to focus your eye in the distance. I often prefer to keep a decent head-height for the window, because there is nothing better than watching changing weather patterns in the sky.
If you need openable sections in the window, try to keep them to one side, prioritising the central fixed portion for the view.
Immediate and Short Distance Views
If you live in town or in a dense city, your views might look a bit different but are equally important. Windows might capture a lush garden, beautiful trees or an old brick wall filled with character. Floor-to-ceiling windows are best suited for this type of outlook, and they can be carefully placed to help define and enrich a specific internal space, such as a Dining area.
Floor-to-ceiling windows don’t have to be a single fixed pane, or an openable door. You can design any composition to best suit the space and outlook. Consider using larger fixed panes for the main view, with smaller perimeter openings to provide airflow and ventilation.
A render of a window next to the dining area in our Lean-to house
Sky views are not for everyone, but I love them. It can be a special experience to catch a glimpse of the moon, or see the sun break through the clouds in the distance. The best type of glazing to achieve this is a clerestory window. These are placed in the highest part of the wall, eg. from 2.4m to 2.8m above floor level. Be careful though, if the window is too big or faces the wrong direction, you can cop some glancing blows of direct sunlight. It’s best to test each clerestory window in a solar analysis or 3D model first.
Skylights are another source of blue sky viewing. Similar to the clerestory windows, it’s best to avoid any direct sunlight in stationary living spaces and bedrooms, but they’re great for any area where you’re on the move, such as above hallways and stairs. A skylight above a shower is also a winner.
Skylight above a loft space in a recently completed project in Middle Park
Views in the Bedroom vs Views in Living Spaces
If your new bedroom or living area has the potential to take in a desirable view, try to find the perfect sill height to make sure you can still see out the window when you’re lying in bed or sitting on the couch.
Privacy can also be an issue, if you can see everything out your bedroom window, then there’s a chance that people can see in as well! There are lots of solutions to avoid this, including slatted screens, operable external blinds, window shrouds, and angled steel fins. Each can be designed to perfectly obscure unwanted aspects to prioritise your preferred view.
Design sketch to assess the privacy of a bedroom window at Hunter
Axis and Corridor Views
A simple design trick to enrich the experience of moving through your home is to focus key views at the end of an ‘axis’ in your floor plan. This can be the end of a main corridor, the entry to a master bedroom, or the view that you see when you open the front door.
With a clear understanding of your context and a clever design, you can focus parts of your floor plan on specific views, such as a tree, sunset, pool, or vertical garden.
Driftwood house, the main entry corridor is positioned to look directly up the adjacent water canal when you open the front door.
View of the canals from the front door, down the corridor at Driftwood
While we might be able to choose a site or house because of the views, we can’t always choose what direction the best views are facing. North is ideal, if your best outlook can also help the solar performance of your home. Although what do you do if your best view is to the West, East or South?
Luckily, there are a plethora of tools at our disposal to keep your house performing at a sustainable level, while enjoying large windows where you need them. Often this can involve upgrading insulation or glazing specifications, or installing adjustable external blinds or awnings to protect your home where necessary.
Adjustable blinds and amazing bay views at Clifftop
Capturing the surrounding views is an essential part of any home. Partaking in a considered design process can help you embrace all outlooks available, and refine each experience to best suit every space within the house.
- Words and images by Nick Johnston