Located on the eastern shore of the South River in Annapolis, Maryland, this three-floor, 3,000-square-foot home was designed by local firm Kezlo Group with views of the water in mind. The homeowner, Dr. Craig Vander Kolk, and the lead architect, Jason Winters, developed a teardrop-shaped footprint with a defining feature at its tip: a massive triangular atrium, which is open to all floors, leans outward in the plane of the exterior façade. They chose products from Western Window Systems to make it a reality. To better understand the complexity of the project, and why Western Window Systems’ moving glass walls and windows were an ideal fit, we gathered the home’s key team members—Winters, project manager Pete Edmunds of Lundberg Builders, and window specialist Gary Logue of The Sanders Company, which sells Western Window Systems’ products in the area—to discuss how they joined forces to create this statement-making home.
The goal of this house was to capture views of the surrounding natural environment. How do windows and moving glass walls factor into making that vision a reality?
JASON WINTERS: The easy solution to [capturing sweeping views] is to put in all glass, all the time. This project was more nuanced: the client wanted large panoramic openings in some areas, and smaller gunshot views in others. There are different ways to present views to the water, and that’s what this house is all about. Having the flexibility in windows’ size and scale, and the ability to eliminate additional clunky framing that might get in the way of the views, was critical to the project’s success.
PETE EDMUNDS: In the residential market, it’s hard to find a window that’s varied enough [in size and shape] to achieve a scale [that builders] can manage. And with commercial windows, you end up with a window that’s too big and can’t fit in a lot of residential situations. Western Window Systems offers the best of both worlds: they’ll create a window that fits into a given space, in any sort of shape. And this project required lots of irregular window shapes and sizes.
The glass-filled atrium is the crown jewel of the house—it’s 45 feet above grade and sticks out like the bow of a ship. What were the structural challenges of incorporating windows into it?
JW: Because of the atrium’s pointed, triangular shape, the windows sit in walls of varying thicknesses at an eight- or nine-degree angle—we weren’t just setting windows and having everything pair up nicely. So there was an additional technical challenge of finding a window that could achieve that.
GARY LOGUE: Right. Each window is leaning outward, in a custom shape—a lot of companies never would have made them due to that. But everything Western Window Systems does is custom. It wasn’t unusual for Western Window Systems to make shapes like this, and that’s what architects like about them.
PE: The windows are actually floating in between structural members, and placed like art on a wall. The glass acts like the curve of an eye, where you are looking out onto a surface that’s not straight. There aren’t too many windows in this market we could do that with.
Beyond Western Window Systems’ penchant for customization, what else made the brand appealing?
PE: Gary’s showroom was key to getting our client to appreciate the versatility of a Western Window Systems product. The scale of its windows is hard to capture unless you can see it in person, and his space is set up so you can see it all: the details of the sill, the size, how it will look in the final analysis.
GL: Typically me and the rest of the Sanders team are the representatives for Western Window Systems. In this case, we set the team up with a visit from one of its national sales representatives, so he could see the unusual aspects of this project. He helped us through some of the communication [between the client and the brand].
JW: Craig and I visited Gary’s showroom several times. From the front end, it was helpful for Craig to ask questions about how the windows are made. Cost was also a factor. That’s what the allure of Western Window Systems was: its price point and performance were consummate with the variety of applications we needed. You’re also able to open [all of these windows]. Every time I drive by the house [now], the windows in the kitchen and bathroom are open—but the home still has a clean, contemporary look. There’s something about being able to incorporate a residential window you can engage with instead of just big, fixed windows. It brings the scale of the house down.
What specific products were used in this project?
GL: We used 50-foot-wide Series 900 Hinged Doors and custom Series 600 Multi-Slide Doors that offer expansive views and bring the outside in when the doors are open. We also incorporated the Series 600 Windows combined fixed glass and operating casements, plus custom Series 600 Windows that extend from the first floor to the angled ceiling.
This home sits on the water. How do the windows protect against the elements?
PE: Western Window Systems’ anodized aluminum windows have a finish that the homeowner doesn’t have to worry about. They’re also rigid enough so that once you sit the window properly, there’s almost no way the operable windows can go out of adjustment as the house ages.
What role do the windows play in achieving the project’s surreal effect?
JW: While you have different geometry with the windows, they all look and feel like a collective family. That’s an important part of holding the house together.
PE: I’m actually doing another job with Western Window Systems now. We continue to use its windows because of the product.