Framing the View
Windows will, indeed, be the main conduit through which you connect your lakefront home to the outdoors. Windows frame a view and become a portal that ushers in that view. For scenery in relatively close proximity, keep glass low to the floor so you can see from the inside that there’s a close surface outside, whether it’s flowers, lawn or decking.
Low windows are also advantageous for bringing a distant lake view closer. If you position your great room glass low to the floor and don’t put anything in front of it architecturally — so there’s no handrail, no deck, no porch — you can adjust the bottom height of the window so that in key sitting areas, you see your wood floor going to your window, and the next thing you see is water.
There’s a certain sense of proportion you’ll need to achieve with window size in relation to the square footage of your home and the rooms inside. The bigger the home, the larger the rooms. This means the requirement for glass gets larger, especially if you want a jaw-dropping view that starts in the foyer and runs straight through to the great room and beyond. In a 4,000- to 5,000-square-foot home with a 24-by-24-foot great room, it wouldn’t be unusual to have 20 feet of glass from left to right.
No matter what size your home, to truly open up a room to the outdoors, the glass should be wider than your peripheral vision. This doesn’t necessarily mean installing a single wall-to-wall window. Rather, combine a set of windows in a row. In the dining room, for example, a common arrangement is to have 9 feet of glass made up of three 3-foot windows or two 4 1/2-foot windows.
Another option is to wrap a corner of the home with a couple of windows. This opens up the periphery and suggests a panoramic view. With cozy chairs tucked into the corner, it might feel like you’re sitting outdoors. The ideal scenario, of course, is being able to enjoy the view from any vantage point in your home, not just when you’re standing with nose pressed to glass.
When it comes to connecting to the outdoors, anything that allows visual continuity from the inside to the outside is good. And that means more than window and door openings. Using the same ceiling materials, such as trusses that appear in the porch roof and inside in a vaulted ceiling, works wonderfully — as does carrying the same flooring from the great room or kitchen onto the deck. In the case of floors, the more you can keep them the same level, the more the rooms will feel connected.
A dark interior makes the outside seem brighter and cheerier. It’s all perception, but it’s true that the outdoors won’t look so gloomy if it’s darker inside. Architects know this, and in areas with lots of cloud cover — such as the Pacific Northwest — they often will design a relatively dark room with large windows.