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4 Characteristics of Modern & Contemporary Windows

Contemporary residential architecture, or that “of the current times,” is in many ways an evolution of mid-century modernism, a design approach prominent in the mid-1900s. Some of the core tenets of mid-century modern design were centered around a deep respect for nature, simplicity, and timelessness. As architectural design has evolved over the years, many aspects of mid-century modernism have endured the test of time.

The use of windows as frames for the view of the outdoors and as a means of maximizing natural light in the home is one such example of the influence mid-century design still has today. Contemporary residential architecture shares a similar appreciation for simplicity and indoor-outdoor living, and thus leverages windows in many related ways.

If you’re in the process of designing a custom modern home, below are four characteristics of contemporary windows as they’ve evolved from the core values of mid-century modernism that you should consider.

Considerations for Modern Windows

1. Materials

Modern windows can come in all types of materials depending on your personal preferences, the overall design of the home, and the durability required in your location. Some common options include aluminum, metal cladding, and fiberglass.


In the past, wooden windows were designed to have thicker frames and detailing where the frames met the glass. Due to the nature of the material, wooden windows typically need to be refinished every few years as well. In contrast, many of these more modern materials can be maintenance free and also allow for smaller window frames and cleaner profiles than more traditional options.

Fiberglass in particular is relatively new material for windows. The benefit using fiberglass is that it outperforms aluminum and metal windows since it does not transfer heat or cold as easily as those other materials.

2. Efficiency

It’s not surprising that modern windows are more efficient than older traditional windows. New windows are often designed specifically to maximize efficiency, which is achieved in a number of ways. For example, modern windows are now dual glazed, gas filled, and have thermal breaks to increase their thermal efficiency.


Thermal efficiency can lead to great cost savings over the lifetime of your home. Investing in efficient windows will cut your cost to keep your house cool in the summer or warm in the winter. The money spent up front on efficient windows will pay off for years to come in the form of reduced cooling and heating bills.

3. Operation

When considering which types of windows to leverage throughout your modern home, you should also consider how they operate. Modern windows often leverage casement, awning, or tilt and turn operation mechanisms.


  • Casement: This operation swings similar to a door and allows the window to open in or out.
  • Awning: This operation swings out from the bottom of the window. Hinge-like mechanisms are located at the top of the window, allowing it to open from the bottom.
  • Tilt and turn: This operation combines the functions of casement and awning windows. Depending on your needs at any given moment, the window can either swing in or out like a casement window to open completely or it can tilt like an awning window to provide ventilation.

Each of these options allow you to create large glass openings that remain highly functional unlike traditional windows which are smaller, paned, and only slide up or down.

4. Details

Finally, consider how the detailing of windows impacts the overall appearance of the home.


Leveraging trim pieces and other detailing around the window can make the home look more traditional. Instead, consider detailing the wall finishes so you don’t need an extra trim piece on the interior and exterior of the home.

Modern residential architecture is characterized by an appreciation for simplicity and a connection to the outdoors. Decisions to forgo unnecessary detailing around windows will maintain this sense of simplicity while also allowing the window to frame the view of the outdoors without distractions.

An Important Design Element for Your Modern Home

As of late, mid-century modern architecture has seen a resurgence of interest when it comes to residential design. This is largely due to the values of contemporary architecture—a connection to nature, simplicity, timelessness, etc—that have evolved from this time period.

If you’re in the process of designing a custom contemporary home, be sure to evaluate the ways that you can uphold these values through the design of your windows. Consider how materials, efficiency, operation, and details all work together to create a final look that is both beautiful and functional.