Off Center Bay Window Off Center Bay Window

Q: We're renovating our kitchen and dining room, and I'm afraid that we may lose the bay window we love in the process. The dining room is now small, just 10 x 11.5, and the bay window adds a bit of floor space. We'll be enlarging the dining room by about three feet.

The problem is that the structural supports won't allow us to move the bay window on the new 13.5 foot wall so that it's centered. Therefore, if we keep the window, it will be off-center. One option is to replace the bay window with regular windows, but I love the bay window, and the little diamond-shaped bit of floor area that comes with it. But I'm afraid it won't look as good off center.

Any suggestions?

A: While there are plenty of things in life to make one anxious, something being off-center shouldn't rank too high among them. It's a common misconception that centered is better, but nothing could be further from the truth - most of the time.

Of course, if you look at classical architecture, you'll see plenty of evidence of the beautiful balance that comes from precise symmetry. There's the Parthenon, built in 446 B.C., with its colonnade of Doric columns extending around the periphery of the entire structure. Each entrance has an additional six columns in front of it. Several hundred years later, the Pantheon was built, between the years 118 and 126 A.D. It too is a great example of symmetry at work, from the perfectly round oculus at the top of the ceiling to the eight evenly-spaced columns at the face of the building.

But let's face it. You're not living in ancient Greece, or Rome, and the good thing about this is there's little chance the gods will be angered if your dining room bay window is off-center.

And you can always do something to fool the eye, so that the room doesn't appear to be lopsided. I think the concern is that it will look as if you wanted the window to be centered, but someone miscalculated, a little like a kid's sign for "Lemonade," with the "ade" all squished up at the end.

One idea is to have your contractor place a window a few feet down the wall from the bay window. If the bay window was in the center of the original 11.5 foot wall, and now you have another three feet to work with, you could see if the contractor could insert a tall, one-and-half foot wide window a few feet from the bay window. This will alleviate the problem of the bay window looking as if it should have been centered and wasn't, while also bringing in more light, which will help the room seem bigger.

Or you could work with it cosmetically. There are many ways to have balance in a room; you don't need to balance a window with another window, or wall space with more wall space. For example, a bright, striking painting, or a big, nicely-framed mirror, hung on the new, "extra" wall space, will draw the eye away from the bay window, and give the room more balance.

And so will plants. With that bay window, the room probably gets pretty good light. If you don't already have tall plants, and you think you could develop a green thumb, placing a small ficus tree or a big peace lily on a stand in front of the new wall space will also add some balance to the room.

Finally, consider the window treatments for the bay window. Far too many people cover up their bay windows with curtains. Unless privacy is a real concern, I advise you to try going without a curtain here - it will make the window all the more attractive, and will help with the room's balance, as you're just balancing the window and not the curtains as well.

And then, relax. Look, you've got three more feet to play with!

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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