Cultural and ideological differences influence design and style choices the world over. We’ve taken a look at Google Trends since 2004 to determine the most popular by region.
Buildings have always needed ‘openings’ to let fresh air and light in, even in antiquity. This has not been without its problems. Openings were vulnerable spots for heat loss and (in the less civilized days) attack.
The earliest so-called ‘windows’ emerged in the Bronze Age. The most technologically advanced made use of wooden shutters. Skilled hunters would stretch animal hides and dip them in oil to make them see-through and waterproof.
The revolutionary impact of glass on windows took baby steps for many centuries. This is because glass production was a technological secret of the great powers. Significant production of glass did not occur until about the fifteenth century BC, where it was typical in much of Asia Minor, Ancient Greece and Egypt.
It would be more than a thousand years, however, before the Romans started the ‘pane production’ method for architectural reasons.
The Romans discovered they could make clear glass with manganese oxide. Though the skills and costs involved meant only the most important buildings could have them. (Some survive in England to this day.)
Glass making for architecture remained relatively static for hundreds of years. Then, at the end of the seventeenth century, the French found a way to make clearer, larger panes of glass. Mass production kicked off with the Industrial Revolution 200 years later. The last great revolution in window manufacturing took place in 1950s Britain. The float process — which involves pouring molten glass over molten tin — is still the preferred method.
The windows we use to brighten up and lavish our buildings have a rich, global history. They are the products of cultural, environmental, and ideological differences the world over. We thought we’d take look at the most influential ones, and where they are most popular today.
First used: The Roman Empire, approx. 700 BC
Fact file: Ancient architects used arches not because they looked nice, but for structure stability. For example, an arch is particularly good at eliminating tensile stresses. Arches were popular in ancient Israel, Iraq, and Greece; made from stone and mud brick.
It was the Romans who first made use of the arched window. The Romans took pride in the construction of ever-taller, grander buildings. To do this they needed support. Arched windows built on top of each other did more to deal with ever increasing weights.
Popularity: Our research indicates that the arched window is most popular in the United States, the UK, Canada and Australia. Given its humble beginnings, the lack of interest in Europe is surprising. We blame historical over-indulgence for its demise there, and a neo-classical novelty in the Anglosphere for its continued interest. An arch window has a ‘softer’ look to it than a straight-cornered window. The addition of grids (as shown) makes it even more aesthetically pleasing.
First used: The Roman Empire, approx. 50 BC
Fact file: The earliest inklings of the awning window were large, retractable fabrics. These fabrics opened out from houses and also from large seating areas. (Including Roman amphitheatres and stadiums.) The Roman poet, Lucretius, famously compared thunder to the sound of “…linen-awning, stretched… [and] beaten about”.
The appeal of the awning was that it helped with ventilation and to keep people cool. The retractable awning was not invented till the late nineteenth century. Before then, it was common to have to roll up the fabric-coverings by hand. Later developments saw the introduction of rope and pulley arrangements. Most of these early ‘prototypes’ for the modern awning window had problems. The cloth often bunched up against the sides of a building (usually a shop), leaving it exposed and prone to rot. But it became much more practical to open and close the awning in response to turns in the weather.
Popularity: The awning window is very popular in Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines, and to a lesser extent, the Americas.
First used: 17th Century, Yorkshire (England)
Fact file: There is no origin myth for this window, also dubbed the ‘Yorkshire sliding sash’ (though it quickly spread throughout Britain after its development). The beauty of this window is that it can remain open even during heavy rainfall. This design is perfect for the Yorkshire Dales climate, which may even have been the impetus behind its invention.
Its vertically-sliding sash cousin was most likely introduced from France. Again, around about the seventeenth century. Most vertical-sliding windows had fixed top sashes. The lower sash would slide under the fixed top sash. There it would wedge in place with the help of a few pegs.
Popularity: Sliding windows are popular in the Americas, Britain and Ireland, Australia, the Philippines, Singapore, India, and South Africa. No doubt in many of these countries they provide relief during hot, wet periods of rainfall.
First used: 1701, Great Britain (source)
Fact file: The double sash window, with its counter-weighting mechanism, is often described as one of the ‘ingenious technological breakthroughs’ in the history of window manufacturing.
The great thing about the double sash window is that both the top and bottom sashes can move on their own. The technology that allows this — a system of counterbalanced weights — is hidden from view. The invention of the double sash enabled more sophisticated and subtle ventilation than ever before. Its design spread quickly over the world. As early as 1720, the British and Dutch had introduced it to many of their colonies.
A 1709 Building Act stipulated that much of the frame of a window be hidden behind the face of the walls. This Act, designed to stop the spread of fire, was only applicable to London and Westminster, yet the ‘look’ spread far beyond the Capital.
In the Americas and some parts of Australia, double sash windows go by the Americanism ‘double hung windows’.
Popularity: Today, the dominant search traffic stems from Britain, Australia, the United States and, to a lesser extent, Canada. Double sash windows are excellent for ventilation; cooling off in the summer, and keeping warm air inside during the winter. This may explain their popularity in the Anglosphere.
First used: The Middle Ages, England and Germany
Fact file: The casement window is perhaps the oldest form of movable window surviving today. The casement sashes open either inward or outward, in the same manner as a door.
Culturally, British and German architects have preferred outward functions for casement sashes. A famous medieval casement window exists today at the Falstaff Inn, in Canterbury, Kent. The French preference is for casement sashes to open inwards. This preference passed on into United States’ culture, where they are referred to as French windows.
Popularity: Casement windows look a little like barn doors when opened out. They are good for homes in warm, hot countries which may explain their popularity in the city-state Singapore (magnified, to the right) and Nigeria. Tiny St Helena (magnified, left) is one of the remotest islands in the world and was the site where Napoleon was exiled. With a population of only 5,000, it is safe to guess casement windows are a common site on citizens’ houses. (And if the Dictator still had some influence about them, they are likely to open inward.)
First used: 12th Century, modern-day Iraq; 15th Century Great Britain
Fact file: The purpose of a bay window is to let in more light than a typical straight-with-the-wall window. There are many different names and shapes for bay windows (including the name ‘oriel window’). There is a famous ‘Oriel’ in the Welsh National Assembly (Senedd) Building where the public can enjoy the sights and a cup of coffee.
Bay windows are common in Arab architecture, known as mashrabiya windows. Their function is not to let light in necessarily, but to provide an opportunity for women to peer out while at the same time remaining invisible. Outside the Islamic world, bay windows were probably manufactured independently in 15th century Great Britain, to make the most of the daylight on another gloomy, overcast day. Their popularity surged during the Gothic and Tudor periods, and the English renaissance.
Popularity: Google Trends’ data shows bay windows are most popular in tiny Jamaica (which is so small we’ve magnified it on the map), and mainly in Eastern Europe including: Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Greece.
If we adjust for the term mashrabiya, then significant countries include the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Oman.
First used: 1964, in the Uniform Building Code (UBC), United States (source)
Fact file: ‘Egress’ is a formal word for “a way out”, or “the action of going out of or leaving a place”. An egress window is not a ‘type’ of window. Any window can be an egress window if it is determined large enough by the authorities to be a good-sized exit from a building in case of an emergency.
It is a requirement of Canadian and United States’ law to have an egress window for bedrooms on any floor and especially for rooms below ground (i.e. basements). In 2003 there was a clash with the Amish community, as New York State officials recognised that the Amish’s double sash windows did not meet new egress requirements.
Popularity: ‘Egress windows’ is a term used in Great Britain, but our Google Trends’ data shows that concern about Egress Windows in almost solely a North American phenomenon.
First used: Antiquity; 1966, United States (the modern patent)
Fact file: Garden windows look a bit like bay windows and the two are often mixed up as a result. The most obvious difference is how people use them. Garden windows are often furnished with plants, herbs, and flowers.
But there is an aesthetic difference. Garden windows take on a different shape to their bay window cousins. Garden windows angle at 90-degrees to make a box-like shape. Garden windows aren’t usually as large as bay windows. Whereas bay windows can be large enough to sit in, garden windows have space only for plants and flowers.
Garden windows are typical of a kitchen; may have a glass ‘roof’ to let more light in, and may use casement sashes as ‘vents’ without obstructing the view. Garden windows by their nature are hard to pinpoint as having a definitive ‘beginning’. Most likely, early garden windows in some form have existed all over the great kingdoms from the dawn of civilisation. The modern patent, however, optimized for light, water, and venting, came about in the mid-twentieth century.
Popularity: The Irish clearly have a taste for Garden Windows, as do the British and the Americans. Canadians, Filipinos, and Aussies. New Zealanders also take a fancy to them from time to time.
First used: 1886, Switzerland, by Gustave Falconnier (source).
Fact file: Architects and designers experimented with glass a lot in the late nineteenth century. This was in part driven by the Scientific Method, which at this point had gripped Europe. Architects began to apply theories of light refraction to their methods of glass production. Glass blocks came about as a deliberate invention to guarantee maximum light, while at the same time guarding privacy.
Glass blocks were sought after for basements to replace hazardous gas and kerosene lighting. They were also popular in ceilings, walls, and floor panels. In the early days, the opaque-quality was down to the glassblowers. They perspired freely, drank a lot of water, and breathed out moisture-laden air, which condensed to make them opaque!
Popularity: The people of Ireland are just as enthusiastic for glass blocks as they are garden windows. (Followed closely by the people of Great Britain.) Glass blocks have good ground in Canada and Australia, and a lukewarm response in the United States.
First used: 19th Century, the West
Fact file: A theory behind the rise in prominence of the hopper window is that it kept dust out of the home. In the nineteenth century, unpaved roads and horseback travelling kicked up a lot of dust. Hopper windows hinge at the bottom and tilt outwards when opened. This inversion of the classic awning window design kept out most of the dust, while still allowing for ventilation and light.
Some of the first hopper windows appeared within transom windows. This may be because transom windows were already higher than most windows, mostly out of the way of the kicked-up dust.
Hopper windows are good for small rooms that need light or moisture relief. They are also one of the more secure window designs. It is very difficult for an intruder to enter a property through a hopper window. It is incredible to marvel at the fact it took thousands of years for this inversion of the awning window to become possible.
Popularity: Hopper Windows are similar to awning windows, except that they open inward; into the house. Given their similarities, it is interesting to contemplate the reverse of prominence in the Philippines and the United States. Hopper windows are popular in the States, but awning windows are less so. In the Philippines, awning windows are common, but Hopper windows are less so.
First used: 1900 by Joseph Walker, Massachusetts, United States
Fact file: ‘Jolousie’ is the French word for jealousy. Jalousie Windows exist to prevent people from looking into a property. More specifically, they exist to stop people looking in and getting jealous of everything inside. They are sometimes mistakenly referred to as Louvre Windows. The two terms however, are technically different.
Horizontal blinds have guarded home secrets and provided ventilation for hundreds of years. The modern Jalousie window design, however, is *only* a little over a century old. Jalousie windows were popular features of mid-century American homes. In the 1950s, jalousie windows enjoyed marketing campaigns as “picture windows that open”. They were often sold as cutting-edge technological windows, despite the antiquity of their design.
Jalousie windows are common sights in warmer climates. Particularly in storm doors, breezeways, and enclosed porches. Jalousie windows allowed for the effortless flow of summer breezes back when air conditioning was still beyond the reach of many.
Popularity: Jalousie Windows are very popular in the Caribbean; especially Haiti and the tiny islands of Guadeloupe, and Martinique (magnified). In the Indian Ocean, they seem to be the window of choice on the island of Réunion. In the Far East the people of Taiwan, China, and Malaysia also seem to be guarding a lot of secrets from envious eyes.
First used: Antiquity; 1938 (the first known use of the word) (Source.)
Fact file: Picture windows have a very contemporary, minimal feel to them. They are a common feature in very wealthy, modern homes — such as those overlooking the valley in Los Angeles. Picture windows get their name from the ‘living portrait’ appearance they give to walls. Indeed, a picture window can be a ‘feature wall’ in itself. Picture windows cannot open and are fixed in place. They tend to dominate a room and flood it with abundant, natural light. If there is a great view to enjoy from the room, a picture window is ideal to maximize the view.
In less affluent homes, picture frames are good ways to let in more light in hard-to-reach places.
Popularity: By far one of the most popular designs according to our data sample, there are almost too many countries to list here. Picture Windows were a common search feature on the Indian subcontinent (well, in everywhere except India, which did have notable search traffic but not enough for inclusion on our map). Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka were all in the top results along with Nigeria and the Philippines.
In Europe the Latvians, Slovenians, Norwegians, Serbs, British and Irish also demonstrated a flavour for Picture Windows. Tiny city-state Singapore, South Africa, and the rest of the Anglosphere like them too.
First used: The Roman Empire; 12th Century France
Fact file: Round windows may have their origins in the Roman oculus. A Roman oculus was a large, circular opening that regulated both light and air in a room. Christian architects borrowed this architectural style, lavishing great churches and cathedrals with them. It was during the mid-twelfth century in France that round windows took the awesome form we see today. The French, devout Christians, wanted to be closer to God — and for rich light to pour in.
Round windows have enjoyed many bursts in popularity, from the Byzantium (Roman) period, to the Gothic Revival of the mid-nineteenth century. The round windows in contemporary homes are, suffice to say, not as glamorous as the ones in many churches. They do, however, still serve the same purposes. They flood rooms with light and air, and often serve as the design focal point for the outside of a structure.
Despite their age-old history, newer designs have transformed the round window. Contemporary round windows can appear minimal. Their shape breaking the monotony of straight lines and rectangles that are so common in a house.
Round windows also have low space requirements. This makes them easy to add to almost anywhere in the home.
Popularity: Round windows are by far-and-away most popular in the Philippines. The United States, United Kingdom, and Ireland are also interested. Personally, we’re surprised Hobbiton never picked up the slack for New Zealand.
First used: 17th Century (1600s), England
Fact file: The sash window has, since its development, become a staple of Western architecture. The oldest surviving single hung sash window dates back to the 1670s, at Ham House in London. Its timeless appeal lies in its ability to look good and stimulate airflow at the same time.
Look at any Georgian style building and there’s a good chance it has single-hung sash windows. Usually these windows follow a “six over six” pattern. Meaning the sash window may have six panels of glass in two rows of three. This pattern shifted in the Victorian-era, when better technology allowed builders to mix up the size and number of panels used.
Single hung sash windows have one operable sash that slides up and down. Spring bolts and sash hooks are just some of the balance systems that keep them operable.
Single sash windows were revolutionary when they first appeared in England. The invention of the double sash window, however, has usurped its predominance. Most people — not all, but most — opt for double sash windows.
Popularity: When it comes to Sash Windows, the results are divided between the two arch-rivals of the Second World War. Japan, the Land of the Rising Sun, came in first in terms of search traffic for ‘Sash Windows’ (with Britain and Ireland not far behind). But when searching for the Americanism ‘Single Hung Windows’ the Americans and Canadians were the only two nations to make a blip on the data radar.
First used: Antiquity, possibly pre-Roman; 17 – 18th Century France (modern equivalent)
Fact file: The skylight looks like a modern concept, but the idea of using sunlight to brighten a room is one of the very oldest. Like we saw with round windows, the Roman oculi made use of open holes in domed ceilings to lighten up a room. The ‘skylight’ probably coincided along with the very earliest constructions of buildings.
Some of the earliest known ‘modern’ skylights — skylights made from glass — survive still in France. Examples include the Galerie des Batailles and the Halle aux blés in Paris. Skylights are growing in popularity. This may be because of the now clear understanding natural light has on our health. Skylights can also be eco-friendly. They drop the need for artificial light, which can reduce energy consumption.
There are many different types of modern skylights, including opening skylights, traditional roof lanterns; pyramid, pitched, and fixed flat skylights.
Popularity: Skylights are popular in Europe. Or perhaps we should say ‘Roof Windows’. As this query had prominent search traffic in the Netherlands, Germany, Czechia (former Czech Republic), Hungary, Austria, and Spain.
In the Far East the term ‘Skylight’ was popular across Sri Lanka, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. The New Zealanders, Australians, and South Africans seemed keen for Skylights, too.
First used: 18th Century, the West
Fact file: A Storm window can be any window as long as it meets certain requirements. This means it is not really a ‘type’ of window, making it a bit like egress and garden windows. Storm windows often overlay another window. This soundproofs the house, while providing insulation. Storm windows were popular back in the days of predominantly single pane windows, especially in cold climates.
There are about 800,000 storm windows in the United States alone. Storm windows reduce conduction by creating a “dead air” space. This space is the gap between the storm window and the pre-existing window. As a result, storm windows are often removed in the summer months to aid ventilation.
Storm windows aren’t as common as they once were. Their decline started in the late 1970s as other windows improved in quality.
Popularity: North American traffic dominates most queries related to storm windows, but they are also popular in the Philippines – which is understandable given the countries location in the typhoon corridor. It may be that, as the Philippines is still developing, many homeowners still have single panes – like American homeowners in the nineteenth century.
First used: 17th Century, Italy
Fact file: A transom window is a window applied to one of the oldest architectural designs in human history: the post and lintel system. The post and lintel system is basically two vertical posts in parallel, with a horizontal stick (the lintel) across and on top of them.
A transom is kind of another name for a lintel. So when we speak of a transom window, we are referring to a window that runs over the top of a door. The transom is the window frame above the door that supports the window panels.
In North America, the transom is usually rectangular and divided by vertical dividers. In Europe, the transom is often semi-circular in shape; with dividers fanning out of a centre in an arch-shape. This shape looks a lot like a glass folding fan. This regularity in Europe is what gives it its European name: fanlights.
Transom windows provide good cross-ventilation, maintaining security and privacy at the same time. Transom windows were popular during the Perpendicular Gothic Period, when English Gothic architecture was in style. It was the Italian Renaissance, however, that influenced their design. The Italians drove window construction taller and wider, a design that soon spread across the Continent.
One of the most famous examples of a transom or ‘fanlight’ window is above Number 10 Downing Street: the office and home of the Prime Minister of Great Britain.
Popularity: Google Trends’ data shows this style to still be popular in Belgium, Sri Lanka, Ireland, the US and Canada, and Great Britain.