In a previous column, arguments were presented for the importance of muntins in windows. So important are these slender, diaphanous grids, that they warrant a closer look. The sheet glass used in windows was invented in 11th Century Germany, but due to its expense, was typically only used in churches and in homes of the wealthy. Technology of the time was only able to produce small pieces of flat glass, commonly known as “panes“. To create a window, these small panes were bound together with a lattice of flat iron bars.
When Northern Europeans arrived in the New World, the forest rich land offered wood as a less expensive window material than iron, which at that time would have to be imported from Europe. It was also discovered that wood, unlike steel, could be easily shaped into various profiles and these profiles could sculpt light. And why sculpt light, one might well ask? Because in doing so, various gradations of light and shadow are produced. These gradations soften the visual transition from the very light glass surface, to the shaded surfaces of the muntins. This light sculpting effect invited a number of different muntin profiles. The shape of each type of muntin created its own composition of lights and darks, with infinite gradations. Some of these muntin shapes can be seen in the muntin profiles found in New England windows (below).
It is a sad commentary on the aesthetic poverty of our age, that so few window manufacturers today appear to give much consideration to muntin profiles. Indeed many window manufacturers offer muntins that are no more than just flat bars, devoid of any profiles at all. Since the view through a window over a pot of tea, into a sun dappled garden, is one of life’s most gratifying simple pleasures, window muntins surely warrant attention in a home that aspires to beauty.
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Featured image: New England Muntins in Windows, Near Scape Design.