Americans love capes, saltboxes, and other “traditional” house types. At the same time, very few of them want to live a colonial lifestyle. Today’s home buyers demand more open, interconnected spaces than the spaces found in authentically traditional houses. As an architect friend of mine likes to say, Americans really want “contempolonials” — houses that are traditional on the outside but contemporary on the inside. This conflict affects the design process in a number of ways; one of the most apparent has to do with window placements as seen from outside the home.

If the client wants a traditional centered home shape, the facade that faces the street typically has the expected symmetrical window layout (see Figure 1). But almost invariably, the perfectly centered street-facing windows give way to more eccentric placements at the sides and rear, where large areas may have no glass (think closets,...

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