What’s wrong with this picture (above)? At first glance, it’s obvious that there are two styles of windows that are vastly different. (There are a total of four different styles, but I’ll get to that later.) This causes conflict to an otherwise attractive façade. A fine example of a 1940s luxury Montreal duplex, a recent owner has spent quite a bit of money on a corner window without considering the rest of the windows. Perhaps he plans to change the others to match in the future – we can’t know for sure. Sometimes homeowners make the mistake of fitting a room with the style of window they’d like to see on the inside without considering what it would look like on the outside. The result is often the disharmony you see here.
If the owner wanted to do the house justice, he might have scoured the neighbourhood for examples of this style with their original windows intact. There are a few around, but it takes a sharp eye to find them.*
For example, the plain windows on the façade are not original. These are all sliding windows, probably installed in the 1970s. The original windows would have been wood, with either wood or aluminum storm windows. They were a mixture of double hung and picture windows, as can be seen in one intact example (the third style) on the side of the building. They would not have had the mullions the present owner has added in that now-busy corner window. The balcony doors on the second floor to the left would have been French doors; sliding doors did not exist then. (The fourth style is found in the modern casement window seen on the side.)
When an architect designs a house, he or she finishes it with windows that complement – not compete with – the façade. It’s fortunate that all the original architectural details are intact. As for the windows, they definitely constitute something not to do.
To add to the disharmony of this quiet cul-de-sac circle, look at the mess to the right (above). While none of the original window styles have been copied in either side of these semi-detached duplexes, at least the one on the right has a set of handsome windows that are relatively harmonious with the Georgian architectural style. But what have they done on the left? Not only did the owner insert black frames of a modern design in stark contrast to its well-mannered neighbour, he or she enlarged the openings so they amplify the grotesqueness.
For a bit of calm, let’s look at this handsome Westmount stone house (below). The owner went with hung windows that more than likely duplicate the original style. The minimal use of mullions in the upper sashes provides the façade with interest: more mullions would make it too busy; none would make it dull. It’s a splendid example of preserving some of Montreal’s rich architectural legacy!