Windows: original details

Art deco houses typically had timber-framed casement windows, though steel was sometimes used.

Windows were generally in timber, although steel windows became popular during the 1930s, particularly in multi-unit housing. The two materials were sometimes combined, with steel sashes being installed into timber frames. The timber used for the sashes was most commonly redwood or western red cedar, but rimu was also used.

Window configurations

Window configurations varied, but frequently consisted of one or more multi-paned casements combined in a series of fixed or side-opening units. There were typically between three and five panes in each casement and sometimes a top-hinged opening fanlight. Leadlight glazing with art deco designs was sometimes installed in the fanlights.

A different window configuration, also frequently used, consisted of two opening casements flanking a large, fixed ‘picture’ window.

While bow and bay windows were not common, the curved walls of the art deco house typically had a series of casements arranged in an angle or faceted around the curve (Figure 1).  Where curved glass matching the curve of a wall was installed, the windows were bespoke for the house.

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There was no standardisation of window sizes or configurations. Typical sash sizes for multi-paned units could range between 34-56” high x 20-22” wide (870-1400 high x 510-560 mm wide) and larger picture windows would be two or three times the width of the casement unit.

The exception was government housing, where window sizes were generally of three or four standard shapes/sizes/configurations, and these lasted through to the state houses of the 1940s and 50s. Larger sash windows were generally divided into three panes with glazing bars.

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Windows were set into the external walls without facing boards. Instead, the stucco was finished to the window frame, often with a rounded edge. Behind the junction was a metal back-flashing that was inserted into a saw cut in the timber jamb.
The same window detail without facing boards was also used in weatherboard-clad houses and, with both external claddings, served to reinforce the monolithic appearance of the art deco house.

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Plaster hoods

The window heads of stucco-clad houses were often given enhanced definition by a small projecting, plaster hood across the top of the window. As well as giving a shadow line to the façade, the hood directed water away from the top of the window, which undoubtedly also added to the protection of the window from rain (Figures 2-3).

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Shutters were occasionally incorporated, particularly in the Spanish mission style houses, but these were decorative, not functional.

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Leadlighting, where incorporated, consisted of art deco designs such as sunrises, chevrons and zigzags. The glass was generally clear, in a variety of textures. Multiple colours were very unusual in deco leadlights.

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Miniature windows

As with the earlier bungalow style house built during the 1920s, minature windows were often included. These could be could circular, square, diamond or rectangular in shape and if leadlighted, the designs generally matched the leadlighting of other windows. Alternatively, the miniature windows were sometimes divided into small panes separated by narrow timber or lead glazing bars.

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A common retrofit over time has been the addition of awnings over windows, especially on the northern side and in warmer climates, to reduce the effect of solar heat gain.

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Aluminium windows

Where new windows have been fitted, they are likely to have aluminium frames (Figure 4) and, unless replaced in the last few years, the aluminium frames are unlikely to incorporate thermal breaks. They are also unlikely to be double glazed unless the window replacement has occurred very recently.