What is a Picture Window?

Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

When choosing new windows for your home, you’ll be faced with a wide variety of options. Price, personal aesthetics, the surrounding architecture, and the weather conditions in your geographic area are all factors to consider when buying new windows for your home. However, picture windows are often an attractive choice for many types of homes.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

A picture window is a large fixed window that is either without glazing bars or features glazed bars only near the edge of the window. A picture window gets its name because it is designed to provide a clear view of your surroundings, acting as a picture frame for the scenery outside.

Since it features a wide expanse of glass, a picture window is great for bringing natural light to your home. Adding a picture window to a room is also a wonderful way to highlight an attractive outdoor view. You may even choose to replace a combination window (two windows side-by-side) with a single picture window for a more modern and contemporary look in your home.

Aside from the very large windows that reach from floor to ceiling and feature slats for ventilation, many picture windows are inoperable. However, this makes them highly energy efficient. An inoperable picture window is also a smart choice for people with allergies who must take steps to limit the amount of airborne contaminants within their home.

When looking for picture windows, it’s best to choose models with Low-E glass for energy efficiency. High solar gain glazing is a practical choice for cold climates, while low solar gain glazing is said to perform better in warmer climates. Regardless of where you live, rigid vinyl cladding tends to be the most durable choice. Installing picture windows can be somewhat expensive, so you’ll want to make the most of your investment.

Choosing window treatments for a picture window can be a challenge. While most people choose a picture window with the intention of allowing the maximum amount of light to enter the house, there are still times in which you’ll want to preserve a sense of privacy. For very large picture windows, mounting vertical blinds outside the window frame and have them draw back onto the wall is generally the most practical choice. When you’re finished, you can add a pretty valance in a color that coordinates with your home décor to help complete the look.

Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

Dana holds a B.A. in journalism and mass communication from the University of Iowa. She has loved being part of the wiseGEEK team ever since discovering the joys of freelance writing after her son was born. Dana also hones her writing skills by contributing articles to various blogs, as well as creating sales copy and content for e-courses.

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Discussion Comments


One thing to bear in mind with picture windows is that they can really be a waste of energy. Especially those older picture windows, they tend to let in a lot of cold air and run up your heating bill.

If you've got windows like this, you may want to consider getting more energy efficient replacement picture windows -- not only are they better for your power bill, but it helps the environment too.


I have some side by side windows that I'm wanting to replace with vinyl picture windows, but I'm worried that I'll compromise the structure of my house by taking out the struts in between the windows I've got now. Is there a way to compensate this if I put in a picture window, or is my house maybe not particularly suited for a picture window?


I'm glad you mentioned how picture window treatments can make such a difference in the way your picture windows look.

There are really thousands of picture window treatment styles, so you can really play around with all the different fabrics and designs.

I personally think that sheer picture window curtains and drapes look so nice in front of a big pane of picture window glass, but of course you should tailor your picture window ideas to your own sense of decor. This can be especially true with bay picture windows, since they are generally more complicated than simple pane picture windows.

One thing to remember though is that picture windows work both ways -- so if you don't want people looking in and getting an unexpected "picture" then consider some thicker drapes.

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