It was in 1860 that Francis Henry Crittall, an ironmonger in Essex, first used this method to create steel-framed windows. Despite being around for nearly 160 years they Crittall doors, windows and room dividers still feel as contemporary as ever.
WHAT ARE CRITTALL DOORS?
Medieval blacksmiths were the first to forge windows out of metal, but the wrought iron they used was an expensive luxury reserved only for religious buildings and homes of the elite.
Through controlled production, cast iron became popular in the mid-18th century. However, the windows were more sensible than stylish – cast iron frames were favoured in schoolhouses and asylums because they were very secure and the somewhat austere view they offered the outside world wasn’t worthy of consideration.
Thanks to the Industrial Revolution, mass-produced steel became more readily available and an inexpensive choice for a wide range of hard-working properties, from warehouses to factories.
It wasn’t until after the First World War that steel-framed windows found widespread use in domestic homes, as their linear aesthetic was seen as strikingly modern, reflecting the Art Deco era’s love of minimal decoration and no-nonsense materials.
Today, the popularity of warehouse conversions and loft-style living have made steel windows popular again. Technological innovations have meant frames can be lighter, stronger and thinner than ever before, offering a cleaner, more contemporary look than traditional wooden alternatives. Thinner profiling blurs the line between inside and out, creating the illusion of greater living space – perfect for convincing the neighbours your house is bigger than theirs!
ARE CRITTALL DOORS EXPENSIVE?
Be aware of the long lead time – they could take months to arrive, so need to be ordered early in a renovation to prevent hold-ups. Priced at about £2,700 sq m, authentic steel Crittall doors are costly, but stunning.
Aluminium replicas of Crittall doors do exist and, although they are not the same quality, they are much more cost-effective and have quicker lead times, which impacts less on the building schedule.
CAN YOU DOUBLE GLAZE CRITTALL WINDOWS?
Because of their association with Art Deco, there’s a misconception that Crittall windows and doors are only single glazed, which isn’t true.
CAN WINDOWS AFFECT PROPERTY VALUE?
Yes, absolutely. You may be tempted by the cheaper window frame options out there, but putting in the wrong type of window can create a bad impression to any prospective buyers. This particularly applies if they jar with the original features of the house – the result being that purchasers will be less inclined to pay top prices for it.
1. LET THE LIGHT IN
Crittall and steel-framed windows is a wonderful way to let lighting into a small space. It is also a clever way to display the greenery from the outside, creating the illusion of an indoor/outdoor space.
2. BRING IT INSIDE
By using Crittall doors and windows internally as well as externally, you can unify an existing period property with a contemporary extension. They also allow a space to be filled with light. Fire-rated Crittall internal doors are also available.
3. CREATE A ZONE
Although there has long been an emphasis on open-plan living, architects and interior designers are increasingly looking for flexible ways to break up big spaces. Crittall doors and steel-framed windows give industrial edge and allow light and views while creating different zones. They work in a loft or factory conversion, but also in period properties with modern interiors.
4. LIGHT UP A DIM SPACE
‘While open-plan living looks great, it throws up a few problems such as noise and a lack of cosiness and warmth,’ says Mike Stiff, director of Stiff + Trevillion architects, which uses Crittall glazing in many projects.
‘Glazing allows light to flow, while keeping homes warm and providing quiet zones.’ The approach also succeeds when opening up a home, as a glass wall can replace a solid partition – often a neat idea for an entrance hall. ‘Glazed partitions are really successful where a completely open-plan space is not required, but a visual connection to an adjacent room, the outside or to a window is beneficial,’ says architect Phil Coffey.
Be aware of the implication of some building regulations, though. These can escalate the cost considerably and also limit the possibilities with design,’ he adds. Speak to a builder or a local architect via architecture.com.
5. STYLE AWKWARD CORNERS
Crittall windows are a great alternative to French patio doors, but can be difficult to dress. Using a white recessed ceiling track that bends around the corner looks neat, while grey linen curtains soften the industrial-style windows.
6. INTRODUCE AN INDUSTRIAL EDGE
For a contemporary twist on traditional, metal frames could be a good way to go. ‘Evidence suggests our wellbeing depends on frequent exposure to light,’ says Russell Ager, Managing Director at Crittall Windows. ‘Steel-framed windows are ideal for this, allowing large expanses of glass with elegantly slender frames and the slimmest profiles.’
Metal windows generally have a powder-coated finish, making them low maintenance, and there’s a growing tend for dark colours. Graphite in particular can look attractive against both brick and render walls.
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