A Palladian window is a specific design, a large, three-section window where the center section is arched and larger than the two side sections. Renaissance architecture and other buildings in classical styles often have Palladian windows. On Adam or Federal style houses, a more spectacular window is often in the center of the second story - often a Palladian window.
Why Would You Want a Palladian Window in a New Home?
Palladian windows are generally enormous in size - even larger than so-called picture windows. They allow a great deal of sunlight to enter the interior, which, in modern times, would maintain that indoor-outdoor intent. Yet you would rarely find a Palladian window in a Ranch style home, where picture windows are common. So, what's the difference?
Palladian windows project a more stately and formal feeling. House styles that are designed to be informal, like the Ranch style or Arts and Crafts, or created for the budget-minded, like the Minimal Traditional home, would look silly with an overly large, Renaissance-era Italian window like the Palladian window. Picture windows often come in three sections, and even three-sectioned slider windows may have grids with circular tops, but these are not Palladian style windows.
So, if you have a very large house and you want to express a formality, consider a new Palladian window - if it's in your budget.
Definitions of Palladian Window
"Window having a broad arched central section with lower flat-headed side portions." - G. E. Kidder Smith, Source Book of American Architecture, Princeton Architectural Press, 1996, p. 646
"A window of large size, characteristic of neoclassic styles, divided by columns or piers resembling pilasters, into three lights, the middle one of which is usually wider than the others, and is sometimes arched." - Dictionary of Architecture and Construction, Cyril M. Harris, ed., McGraw- Hill, 1975, p. 527
The Name "Palladian"
The term "Palladian" comes from Andrea Palladio, a Renaissance architect whose work inspired some of the greatest buildings throughout Europe and the United States. Modeled after classical Greek and Roman forms, such as the arched windows of the Baths of Diocletian, Palladio's buildings often featured arched openings. Most famously, the three-part openings of the Basilica Palladiana (c. 1600) directly inspired today's Palladian windows, including the window in the 18th century Dumfries House in Scotland shown on this page.
Other Names for Palladian Windows
Venetian Window: Palladio did not "invent" the three-part design that was used for the Basilica Palladiana in Venice, Italy, so this type of window is sometimes called "Venetian" after the city of Venice.
Serliana Window: Sebastiano Serlio was a 16th century architect and author of an influential series of books, Architettura. The Renaissance was a time when architects borrowed ideas from each other. The three-part column and arch design used by Palladio had been illustrated in Serliana's books, so some people give him the credit.
Examples of Palladian Windows
Palladian windows are common wherever an elegant touch is desired. George Washington had one installed at his Virginia home, Mount Vernon, to illuminate the large dining room. Dr. Lydia Mattice Brandt has described it as "one of the house's most distinctive features."
In the United Kingdom, the Mansion House in Ashbourne has been remodeled with a Diocletian window AND a Palladian window over the the front door.
The Wedding Cake House in Kennebunk, Maine, a Gothic Revival pretender, has a Palladian window on the second story, over the fanlight over the front door.
- "Serliana," The Penguin Dictionary of Architecture, Third Edition, by John Fleming, Hugh Honour, and Nikolaus Pevsner, Penguin, 1980, p. 295