Undeniably, indoor-outdoor living is one of the biggest architectural trends of recent times. When remodeling older homes, it's one of the core focuses many architects are tasked with achieving, and when it came to my own kitchen remodel, it's something I wanted for my space, too.
The problem I had for my own kitchen was that it's small. To be able to embrace an indoor-outdoor design through sliding or bifolding doors, I'd have had to sacrificed usable countertop and cabinetry space - something that just wouldn't have made sense for my home.
However, in my research for a layout design, I came across the idea of 'bifolding windows' - windows that open up in the style of bifolding doors. For my remodel, it was the solution to create that connection to my backyard so that I can interact with people using the outside space when I'm in my kitchen and better bring the qualities of my green space into my home.
But this wasn't just a one-off solution, and I came to see that bifolding windows are a bit of an trend in their own right, used by architects in homes of all sizes, and for a multitude of reasons. So why are bi-folding windows are burgeoning as an architecture trend, and when are they best used? I asked an architect for the lowdown.
When is it a good idea to use a bi-fold window?
For a small room, the bifolding window offers a connection to your backyard without changing the footprint of your room. This is probably most important in a kitchen, where you may be wanting to fit as much countertop and storage in as you can, but beyond the kitchen window, it's an option for any room in the house.
You may, for example, want to create an indoor-outdoor feel for a living room, but having the back of a sofa on show to your backyard may not be ideal. Again, it's a way to achieve the effect, without having to change your layout to fit the window.
For architect Ben Callery, a bifolding window is also a way to add an extra indoor-outdoor quality to a dining space, as he did for this modern addition to a family home in Brunswick, Australia. 'In this example, the benefit of the bifolding window was that it allowed us to have a built in seats hard up against that opening,' Ben tells me. 'We have a built in seat inside and outside and the bifold allows people to occupy that threshold between inside and out. It also creates a really nice interaction between people sitting inside and those outside.
This is a different story to the one that lead me to consider a bifolding window for my small kitchen. This addition also has bifolding doors, too, so it's not lacking the connection to the backyard otherwise, but here it plays a separate role. 'Where we’ve used the bifold door is obviously great for flowing in and out,' Ben explains, 'but the window makes more of a spot to perch.'
'Using the combination of bifold windows and doors allowed us to completely open up the whole rear façade when they want to,' he adds. 'Where there are doors aligns well with the table and kitchen so that people can flow straight outside onto the back deck with food and drinks. Where the window is makes more of a cozy nook to sit and look out to the backyard.'
Are there any drawbacks?
I would, however, be the first to say they're not the perfect solution, and Ben agrees that there are some drawbacks to bifolding windows.
'Firstly, they take up space when they are open,' he tells me. 'You have a door leaf (or two, three or four) left sticking into the space which can be clumsy and awkward for circulation if not well considered. Usually bifolds open out, but they can also be made to open inwards. Either way, you need to consider the circulation around them when open.'
This window stack eat up some of your view to outdoors if not considered as part of the design, but you'll also find that bifolds, both doors and windows, also have larger, thicker frames than modern sliding doors. This obstructs your sightlines to the backyard more when they're closed, too - for some, it's too much of a compromise compared to some of the other glazing options on the market.
They're also a little less versatile than standard windows in that they only really have two forms - fully open or fully closed. Cracking a window is possible, but not quite in the same way as your everyday casement windows, which can have its drawbacks, from less control over your home's internal temperature to keeping insects out of your home. 'Retractable flyscreens are ideal for bifolding doors and windows,' Ben offers as a suggestion. 'They can be used when needed and pushed right back out of the way when the doors/windows are closed.'
All-in-all, bifolding windows work best when they're a replacement for a standard window. If you have the space for sliding or bifolding doors, these options will still create a better flow to your backyard, but where they're not an option, or where you're looking to complement them and really open up your kitchen to the backyard, knowing that these windows are an option might just shake up your remodel plans for the better.
3 of the best bifolding internal doors
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Luke Arthur Wells is a freelance design writer, award-winning interiors blogger and stylist, known for neutral, textural spaces with a luxury twist. He's worked with some of the UK's top design brands, counting the likes of Tom Dixon Studio as regular collaborators and his work has been featured in print and online in publications ranging from Domino Magazine to The Sunday Times. He's a hands-on type of interiors expert too, contributing practical renovation advice and DIY tutorials to a number of magazines, as well as to his own readers and followers via his blog and social media. He might currently be renovating a small Victorian house in England, but he dreams of light, spacious, neutral homes on the West Coast.
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