Bay windows and oriels

What exactly are they?

Anyone who has had even minimal involvement with building design is likely to have heard of “bay windows” and “oriels”.
But what exactly do these terms mean?

From an architectural point of view, a bay window or, more technically, an oriel refers to a protrusion on the facade of the house, which can cover one or even multiple levels of the building. Strictly speaking, the term “oriel” should only be used for protrusions that do not start from the ground but are set on an upper floor. If the protrusion starts from the ground floor, in architectural terms this is called a bow window. Colloquially, however, people tend not to distinguish between the terms bow window and bay window, while the term bay is used as a synonym for a variety of spatial extensions, irrespective of where these are positioned on the facade.

Nowadays, it’s taken for granted that a bay window will extend the field of vision; historically, the structures known as oriels were built mainly for defensive purposes Attached to the corners of a building, these stone protrusions allowed those inside to see out at angles of up to 270°.

In castles and palaces, oriels were also often used as private chapels. It was in the Late Gothic and Renaissance periods that oriels and bay windows came into the home, where they helped to optically enlarge the interior space within a living room.

A historical artefact or an on-trend feature?

The fact that the construction of oriels and bay windows has a long history becomes clear when you wander through a typical medieval old town. In many places, such protrusions – in a variety of shapes and sizes – are common features on the facades of older buildings.

But what’s the situation now? Are bay windows a topic that those looking for a new build today need to consider? There’s a clear answer to that: yes! Now once again, bay windows are bang on trend, as for many people the benefits of such structures are obvious. Whether as an oriel in the proper sense of the word or as a bow window, thanks to the ample use of glass both options can serve as a visual link to nature and supply the adjoining interior spaces with natural light.

And architects are also taking advantage of such sophisticated structural features in their designs.

As Alexander Huf, architect at HUF HAUS, reports:

“From an architectural point of view, in open-plan layouts bays can help to zone areas clearly with little effort and thereby ensure a structured sense of space. Combined with plenty of headroom above, they create vertical visual connections between the ground floor and upper floor and provide for a bright and friendly atmosphere. With a bay window, the room seems to move virtually into nature and forms a connection with it. Quite unconsciously, such a room tends to become the centrepiece of the home.”

Fun fact

About 70 per cent of all HUF clients opt for a bay window, with most preferring this be fully glazed and with a view of the garden. In many cases, this glass extension is the focal point of the home and of family life.

A window into nature

Just as a bay window can come in many different shapes and sizes, so it can be used in many different ways. For instance, Michael Baumann, Sales Director at HUF HAUS and also the owner of a HUF home, opted to use a bay window as a dining area. He fully appreciates the benefits this brings: ”My all-round full-height bay window extends the living space while also creating covered outdoor seating. This makes your experience of the different seasons that much more intense. Our bay window is our own personal window into nature, so to speak.”

Five individual house projects

Barbecues even in winter

These clients, a family from Berlin, opted for a bay that’s used as a dining area. The structured timber frame architecture creates a clear demarcation of the space as a living, dining and kitchen area. The open-plan feel is retained thanks to the airy gallery and the harmonious transitions. The double-height bay window, which extends right the way to the roof soffit, gives the whole house a bright and friendly atmosphere. Externally, meanwhile, the clever positioning of the bay creates a covered grilling area, which barbecue aficionados will certainly enjoy using in the winter, too.

A sophisticated extension of the living space

Those opting for a modern bungalow-style layout will benefit from a fully accessible design concept that has to be carefully thought out. In order to create architectural excitement, the owners of this glass-fronted bungalow opted for a bay window that opens up the facade and creates an additional room. With its sophisticated design, this provides the space for a second bedroom without compromising space in another part of the house. Protected and yet enjoying an unobstructed view of the green garden, this bedroom is sure to give its occupants sweet dreams.

A stage for decoration and lighting

In this house, the fact that the client is a lover of interiors, design and photography is apparent soon as you set foot in the entrance area and look around. A bay window extends the living space outwards and serves as a stage for a large wood and metal dining table, surrounded by sleek white “Walter Knoll” designer chairs. The classic “Eos” lights from Vita Copenhagen cast just the right light over the scene.

In harmony with nature

In this HUF house, the bay window gives the family a breathtaking view. Thanks to the combination of natural materials, green styling features and individual plants, it allows the dining area to virtually merge with the surrounding natural scene. The generously glazed roof expands the field of vision by another dimension. In fact, it’s hard to see how any more light could be achieved! Even in the late hours of the evening, you’d be happy to linger here and soak up the magnificent panorama.

Doubly brilliant

One couple from Austria decide to include two bays in their HUF home. In a quite sublime way, this dining area offers beautiful panoramic views over the lake and is seamlessly integrated with the loggia outside. As well as the tried-and-tested concept of using the bay as a dining area, the occupants here also opted to have a bay window in their work room. Surrounded by natural light and in a glorious setting, work is now that much more fun – like being on holiday, in fact.