Contemporary Home Design: Where Windows Can Be Walls

Contemporary Home Design: Where Windows Can Be Walls

Defining just what constitutes "contemporary design" can be one of those ethereal pursuits, digressing into modern and post-modern discussions of art and architecture, ultimately best left to academic discussions in design schools.

But for the average homeowner, we know it when we see it.

Contemporary homes are designed to be noticed, where function and form become equal partners and a wide variety of materials – concrete, glass, wood and steel –  combine to create both contrast and uniformity. Contemporary design incorporates the latest in engineering, technology and materials.

And most contemporary homes make dramatic use of windows, creating smart and sleek sightlines. With contemporary-designed windows, less is more.

"You are seeing a lot more contemporary influences in Cincinnati homes. It is a growing area, both in new construction and remodeling," says Fred Cernetisch, general manager for Pella Windows Cincinnati.

Pella has smartly positioned itself to be a part of any contemporary design motif with the nationwide release of its Architect Series Contemporary line in 2017. It is a series that enhances a sleek frame to complement expansive views, complete with 27 custom colors and custom-designed hardware.

Significantly, the product is engineered to not sacrifice performance for design and to appeal to the creative demands of designers. As Pella’s architectural business development director, Alan Pickett, puts it, "In our research, architects and builders repeatedly said, ‘Stop telling me my design needs to change to fit your product specifications.’ That was the key to all the details we engineered in the Architect Series Collection, including our contemporary designs."

Cernetisch says the contemporary window line has become popular among designers and builders. "In Cincinnati, we are seeing our line used to enhance views, whether it’s the woodlands in Indian Hill or the city skyline from Mount Adams or Newport," he says. "Most importantly, Pella offers enhanced performance values to increase the limits of what a window can do to be a wall."

Cernetisch says expansive contemporary window designs cause people to think differently about their living space, noting Pella partners with architects and builders who specialize in integrating a contemporary window into a design. "You aren’t just bidding out a window, you are putting in a system," he says.

To that end, Pella offers a full range of one-stop shopping services that include design analysis, engineered installation drawings, custom extrusion design, field services and thermal analysis.

Living in a wall of windows does present heating, cooling and condensation issues, all things Pella takes into consideration for an installation. "For example, we can analyze visible light transmittal and the amount of solar heat gain on different sides of the house. We can vary the amount of coating material based on where the window is going in the house," Cernetisch explains, "taking into account location, square footage and types of flooring used. All of that needs to be integrated."

Pella has also developed a material to coat steel so it won’t condense, eliminating a major concern.

Many builders are pleased Pella offers a contemporary line designed and engineered for the U.S. market. Over the last couple decades such windows were often imported from Europe, which has been ahead of the U.S. when it comes to contemporary design. But, Cernetisch says, that often led to installation problems with builders not familiar with the product.

"With our line, we typically get involved with engineered drawings that guide the installation process. And we often install these projects because of their complexity," he says. "We can take a napkin sketch, or an architect’s plan, and send it to our engineering team. They will create drawings that explain how it has to be installed, where the limitations are and what methods and accessories are going to be required to achieve this look."

For new home and apartment construction, Cernetisch says contemporary design is a growing part of the Cincinnati housing market, even as the city relishes its traditional, often 19th century-influenced architecture. "You are seeing the contemporary-influenced look in Hyde Park infills and in some multi-families in Over-the-Rhine. I think designers are doing a great job integrating some of these glass palaces in with the historic neighborhoods. They can fit really well in a diverse urban setting."

Cernetisch is also seeing more remodeling ideas that incorporate a contemporary flair in smaller projects within a traditional structure. "We are seeing a quite a bit of contemporary remodels on traditional homes, such as a room addition on the back of the house. It may be a room designed as a conservatory or something providing expansive views. Some put a contemporary touch in just the front door on a house."

And Cernetisch encourages homeowners in traditional homes to consider a contemporary style even for replacement windows, noting you can achieve a striking look using a contemporary product that might fulfill a vision better than a traditional window.

"With a lot of replacement windows, you lose visible space because there is so much frame, that sometimes it has to be mounted within a frame. With our contemporary product you may actually pick up glass space within an existing structure because of the design. You can take a window from the Contemporary line and it may not look contemporary after it’s installed in the setting, but you will end up with more glass, cleaner sightlines."    

When Pella started its Contemporary series, it also launched a traditional window line (Architect Series Reserve) touting its research into making the windows historically accurate, mimicking classic styles for preservation projects. Either way, Cernetisch thinks Pella is a legacy company that has adapted to new design trends while preserving heritage styles.

"This 90-year-old company has aligned with a marketplace that is trying to make it easier to do things. We are singularly focused on being a window and door supplier.  Thus, we excel at being well versed in traditional and contemporary construction methods to help achieve any vision."

The Pella Architect Series Contemporary is available only at the Pella showroom, 9869 Montgomery Road, Cincinnati, OH 45242. For more information, visit or call 513.623.5197.

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