Should I modify floor to ceiling wall of glass in living room?

kitbunApril 8, 2013

My husband and I are building a house on a narrow lot. Our plans call for a wall of glass along the entire span of the west wall of the living room (10' high by about 14' wide).

The house has just been framed and I'm wondering if it's a mistake to have this wall of glass. Since the family room area is so small (roughly 14' x 14'), I'm thinking it makes more sense to have a bank of large picture windows along the west wall with a smaller (6' wide) sliding glass door close to the kitchen, which would allow me to push a sofa or loveseat against that west wall below the windows to allow for more seating.

My husband is opposed to this change since the "wall of glass" was to be a beautiful focal point and architectural feature for the room. He would rather just push furniture close to the glass wall or have smaller or fewer pieces of furniture. But I think it looks strange to have furniture pieces against a glass wall and I would also like to be able to have comfortable seating in the family room for more than just 3-4 people. Our plan is to have a wall mounted flat screen tv against the north wall with an L-shaped or U-shaped arrangement of furniture around it.

Please weigh in on your opinion. Is it better to have a more beautiful architectural feature (wall of glass) or a window arrangement that allows us to push furniture against the west wall without blocking any glass to allow more seating?

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You say there will be a wall-mounted TV in this West facing room. How do you plan to close off the wall of glass so that the TV can be seen ?

A common problem on this forum ,especially for new builds, has been window treatments are a huge problem after the fact. It has been pointed out that the window treatment discussion should take place well before the windows are framed thus making the purchase of custom window treatments an un-necessary expense since one could make sure that measurements were adjusted when the windows were framed. In your case it would seem that a media room would have to have room darkening capabilities to the extent of completely blocking all light from a huge expanse of glass. I just wonder if you already have that plan...if so great.

I like less furniture so I guess I am with your DH as I love a focal point of glass. But with a media center one wants lot of seating for the media to be watched :) I would think less seating or awkward seating would be a big no-no. Also I still wonder how you will avoid the hours of intense setting sun. Perhaps this is a very wooded lot ? c

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 1:54AM
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I have several windows along a west wall and I spend every afternoon closing the blinds so I'm not blinded. Never would I want a whole wall!

I know large glass walls look great in modern style homes, and I do love a great view, but keep in mind what it will take to keep the glass clean inside and out.

As trailrunner pointed out, window treatments are going to be a challenge........and I don't want to think of the cost. What is the view from this window??

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 2:20AM
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Ditto above. And what climate do you live in? Even the best insulated windows can be cold in the winter if you have seating nearby.

Also what does the window wall face? Streetside or neighbors and you could end up feeling like you live in a fishbowl.

Unless the view is spectacular and you are building on a secluded lot, you may want to think this one thru carefully.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 4:54AM
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Another point to factor into the equation is what that large wall will look like at night. It will become a large black wall. Think about all the photos you see of window walls - they're are taken in daylight.

You can install drapes which will give you the option of closing them or you can add landscape lighting - do you have trees that can have uplights, a stone wall, planting beds? Since this is a new build you might not be ready to focus on the outside.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 7:33AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

The west wall is the worst one for making glass as there is little that can be done to control the sunlight. Every afternoon, the sun will come beaming in and heat that space up like crazy and it will shine deeply into the house as the sun sets.

On a south wall, the sun beams in deeply in the winter as it is lower in the sky and shines on the roof instead in the summer so little direct sunlight shines in in the summer. Far more energy efficient.

We built our home to be energy efficient and have only 3 small windows facing west. The big windows are on the south side.

If you really want the wall of glass, you may want to consider sliding panels that will better insulate the room and allow you to block off the windows for all the reasons stated above by me and others....

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 8:36AM
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There are a number of things that could be done in the planning stages for light modulation. You could have a louvered awning type projection on the outside of the house (This has a name that I can't remember).

You could have solar shades or a combination of solar and privacy shades that rolled up into a recess at the ceiling if the joists run the right way. You could leave a bit of wall on each side of the glass wall for more conventional treatments to stack.

The glass could be ordered with film or you could have film placed on site to reduce glare.

This isn't a pre-existing window that you are faced putting treatments on. This doesn't exist yet--so I would look at the options of doing it and doing it correctly rather than backing off and doing ordinary windows automatically. You still may decide to do smaller regular windows, but I would not rule it out automatically.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 8:56AM
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It will be a huge load on your HVAC. Even with coatings and expensive windows. You just can't get around the fact that it's a bad idea, especially in a climate that uses AC.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 9:37AM
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Those are for million dollar views. When you say narrow lot, what is next door?

West can be blinding hot! Lots of great points above. Noise is another one to consider.

Your architect is on board with the idea? What do they say?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 9:55AM
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My best friend has a wall of glass facing west, and she has come to despise it. All plans for entertaining revolve around "where will the sun be" so her guests aren't blinded. :(

You might prefer large enough windows so that you can enjoy the view, but can also cover them when necessary.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 11:08AM
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My view is to the west. Consequently, most of the windows in my house are on the west side. I use roll down solar shades to control the light and help abate the heat during the afternoons even though I have dual paned, manufacturer slightly tinted windows. I am lucky that the way my windows are built, there are small ones on the bottom that open which helps vent the heat out.

Some additional negatives not already mentioned by other posters are that the sunlight takes a toll on my upholstered furnishings and when it streams in, you can see every mote of dust on every surface. I float my furniture so there is no issue with furniture against the window wall. I have floor outlets which obviates one of the reasons people don't like to float furniture. Also, my living room is a little larger than yours which also makes floating furniture easier.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 11:42AM
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Fun, are you seeing UV damage even with UV glass?

True about the dust. I imagine you can see it floating in the air too, the way it does in a stream of sunlight. How about being cold or drafty? Were you able to get around that?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 12:03PM
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A friend of mine has a wall of windows on the west wall in their living room. When I sit down to chat (mid-afternoon on) I have to ask her to close the curtains because the glare on the eyes is really hard, and I literally cannot see the person's face sitting in front of the window.

Even with shade as the background it still gives out a blinding glare to the person facing the window.

Although it sounds pretty (if you have a good view), it's not practical. The only way I'd do it is if I had good window treatments.

And what about hail when it storms? lol

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 12:23PM
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Thanks for all of the replies. To answer your questions:

1) Energy efficiency concerns are not really an issue. We are in Redondo Beach, California (Southern California).

2) Afternoon light is not too much of an issue either. There is a 2nd floor balcony overhang above the glass wall. And there are tall buildings surrounding us and a few tall trees in the backyard and many tall trees in the neighbors yard that block most of the afternoon light. If anything, our challenge has been to bring more light into the house since the 30 foot house to the south of us blocks most of our direct light. We have added some large skylights above the stairwell to bring in additional light into the interior as well.

3) There is not too much fishbowl effect since the window faces a fenced backyard and the land slopes down west towards the ocean.

4) The space is not meant to be a media room. My husband and I do most of our tv watching at night in the bedroom. It will be our primary indoor entertaining space along with the adjacent kitchen and dining areas. That said, we are not big entertainers since we are both somewhat introverted and we are a small family of 3. But we would be at least hosting occasional extended family get togethers of 12 or more people.

5) There is a small ocean view from the corner of the west living room wall between 2 ocean front high rises. Otherwise we will have to make our own view with nice landscaping which we cannot afford to do right away but probably will be able to do in about 2 years.

6) The house is a California modernist style and my husband feels strongly about maintaining the wall of glass (with absolutely no drywall) as an architectural feature. He thinks that even adding a small section of drywall (i.e., roughly 7' wide by 32" high - just enough to lean a sofa against) would ruin the look. He says that we can pull in chairs from the adjacent dining area and kitchen island when necessary. Also, since this is a year round indoor/outdoor climate, we will have space in the backyard for entertaining too.

There is no principal architect on this project. It is more of a design/build situation. We had very strong ideas going in on what we wanted and a limited budget, so for better or worse we designed it mostly ourselves with the help of the builder's drafter. So far we are thrilled with everything. We are about 2/3 of the way finished with the framing, rough plumbing, rough electric, roof and HVAC finished. At this point I'm leaning towards going with my husband and leaving it as a wall of glass since he feels so strongly about it, but I'm wondering if I will regret not having maximized the seating area in the living room.

Any and all opinions are welcome. Thanks.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 12:24PM
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Snookums2, yes, I have damage even with UV glass. I can't imagine how bad it would be without UV protection. If I were more rigorous about rolling down the shades every day, I probably would have less damage. Part of the problem is the fabric. It contains silk which is particularly prone to sun damage. When I re-upholster, I will use a more UV resistant fabric.

Kitbun, it sounds like your overhang will help a lot. I have a reverse floor plan with the living area on top and that was the room that I was describing in my upthread post. My lower floor does have some overhangs from decks on the top floor and that makes a huge difference in those rooms.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 12:43PM
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I actually quite like the look of a wall of windows with seating in front of it, especially a couple of chairs. With the overhang, it sounds like a good way to maximize your light. I can't really see the details on your floorplan, but I might look at changing the swing on the door on the north side so it doesn't cut into the room even further. Either get an outswing or consider a slider, if you could.

What about switching your dining and living space and placing your table there, in front of the windows?

I can't seem to be able to post pics lately, but will try here. If it doesn't show, go to Houzz and search for wall of windows or floor to ceiling windows living room and you'll see lots of ideas.

This post was edited by olychick on Tue, Apr 9, 13 at 12:51

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 12:49PM
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I have a lot of western exposure, and I second (or third) most of what the others have said.

The setting sun is brutal. Forget watching tv without some sort of window coverings.

I have beautiful hardwood floors...but holy cow do they look bad for a few hours in the afternoon. :) Every speck of debris practically glows.

I have spectacular views to my west, so I would still chose to do my big windows there. But absent some compelling reason to have a large expanse of glass there, I would think long and hard about what you are trying to achieve. My southern views are pretty mundane, but the light through those windows is so much more enjoyable.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 12:52PM
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I agree with your husband and would not impair the integrity of the glass wall with drywall for a sofa.

That said, the concerns raised by others above should be considered. Although you say heat is not that much of an issue, the greenhouse effect may prove you wrong. The "black hole" effect at night would also be a little unsettling. If it were me, I would contract for custom window coverings that are motorized and operable with a remote control, and roll that cost into your mortgage if possible by having your builder order and/or install them. Although I personally would not do curtains in that kind of setting, there are plenty of beautiful, natural element woven shades that can incorporate blackout material on the window side. If the materials are chosen well and designed properly, this glass feature could become just as attractive as a beautiful textured surface when the shades are down.

Would love to see pictures of the house and your wall of glass when it is finished!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 5:44PM
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