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Borrowed Light: The Appeal of Interior Glass Doors and Windows, Shaker Edition

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Borrowed Light: The Appeal of Interior Glass Doors and Windows, Shaker Edition

February 22, 2022

Years back, on a shoot at Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire (see In the Dwelling House: 16 Design Ideas to Steal from the Shakers), the docent leading photographer Erin Little and me through the buildings pointed to a bank of glass windows.

The Shakers had many ways of making their interiors feel brighter and warmer through long, dark winters, she explained. Painting millwork in shades of sunny yellow or marigold was one. Another was slipping interior windows into walls, a way to carry light from room to room. The Shakers called it, she said, “borrowed light.”

The phrase has stuck with me ever since, and when we noticed an uptick in interior windows in projects all over, it seemed fitting: an intentional way of bringing in the light on dim days.

Take a look at a few favorite examples.

paris interior designer marianne evennou has a trademark way with color, but in 9
Above: Paris interior designer Marianne Evennou has a trademark way with color, but interior windows also appear frequently in her work, as Margot noted in The Ultimate First Apartment in Paris: A Brother and Sister’s Shared Quarters Designed by Marianne Evennou. Photography by Gregory Timsit, courtesy of Marianne Evennou.
architectural glass at the top of the wall carries light through; photograph&#x 10
Above: Architectural glass at the top of the wall carries light through; photograph by Serena Eller, courtesy of Mondador and Studio Strato, from Ping Pong House: An Architect’s Own Playful but Serene 19th-Century House in Rome.
glass partitions between kitchen and dining area bring extra light into a small 11
Above: Glass partitions between kitchen and dining area bring extra light into a small carriage house. Photograph courtesy of The Modern House from Subtle Colors in a Former Victorian Carriage House in Hackney.
another marianne evennou project. &#8\2\20;the eye needs to be able to esca 12
Above: Another Marianne Evennou project. “The eye needs to be able to escape,” the designer once told us of her predilection for interior windows. Here is her own work space with see-through partitions; see Home at the Office: Designer Marianne Evennou’s Paris Work Quarters and Pied-à-Terre.
a custom iron and glass door divides kitchen from living area in this rome proj 13
Above: A custom iron and glass door divides kitchen from living area in this Rome project by Studio Strato. Photograph by Serena Eller, courtesy of Mondadori and Studio Strato, from Roma: An Artful Twentieth-Century House in Italy in an Of-the-Moment Palette.
in fixing up a delipidated georgian row house, artist, illustrator, and “ 14
Above: In fixing up a delipidated Georgian row house, artist, illustrator, and “serial house remodeler” Russell Loughlan salvaged a circa-1960s glass-paneled wall around the kitchen and painted it in Farrow & Ball’s Picture Gallery Red. Photograph courtesy of Russell Loughlan. (Read much more about the project in The House on Dolphin Street: A Remodeling Tale of Tenacity and High Style and Kitchen of the Week: A Characterful Kitchen in Kent, England, from an Under-the-Radar Design Savant.)
interior clerestory windows maximize natural light in this redone loft; photogr 15
Above: Interior clerestory windows maximize natural light in this redone loft; photograph by Rory Gardiner, courtesy of Mark Lewis Interior Design, from A “Modern Victorian” Loft in London by Mark Lewis.
glass windows and doors divide spaces in the eclectic amsterdam house of stylis 16
Above: Glass windows and doors divide spaces in the eclectic Amsterdam house of stylist, cook, and author Helma Bongenaar. (There are seven glass doors surrounding the living area, given to the couple by friends in exchange for a dinner—one per course—according to The Guardian.) Photograph by Helma Bongenaar (@helmabongenaar) from Dutch Light: A Collector’s Vintage-Filled Home in a Former Tavern in Amsterdam.
another trick of interior windows? never feeling that a room is closed off. her 17
Above: Another trick of interior windows? Never feeling that a room is closed off. Here, bright windows allow a view from the kitchen in A Moveable Feast: Two French Shop Owners’ Whimsical, Always-Changing House in Reims. Photograph courtesy of Nomibis.
a vintage, reclaimed window separates the kitchen in a guesthouse in reims, fra 18
Above: A vintage, reclaimed window separates the kitchen in a guesthouse in Reims, France. Photograph courtesy of Les Penates Reims; for more, take a look at French Lessons: A Designer and an Antiquary’s Remodeled Guesthouses in Reims.
studio oink use interior windows in their work often, such as this partial glas 19
Above: Studio Oink use interior windows in their work often, such as this partial glass wall, actually inspired by turn-of-century Parisian buildings, in A Luminous, Euro-Style Row House in Washington, DC, Courtesy of Studio Oink. Photography by Matthew Williams for Remodelista; styling by Alexa Hotz.
and elle kemp and martin gane, the couple behind uk based firm ridge & furr 20
Above: And Elle Kemp and Martin Gane, the couple behind UK-based firm Ridge & Furrow, added room partitions made from reclaimed bead board and paned glass windows throughout their own barn conversion; they, too, help to disperse the light. Photograph courtesy of Ridge & Furrow from If a House Were a Well-Worn Coat: A Design Couple’s Snug, Earthy, Reclaimed House in the UK.

For more trends we’re tracking of late, take a look at:

N.B.: Featured photograph by Serena Eller, courtesy of Mondadori and Studio Strato, from Roma: An Artful Twentieth-Century House in Italy in an Of-the-Moment Palette.

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