The jalousie window (pronounced jal–uh-see) exploded onto the scene in the middle of the last century. I find that people either love them or hate them, with no middle ground for compromise. It’s almost so polarizing that jalousie windows have become the third forbidden topic at family gatherings right after politics and religion.
In many ways, it is the perfect window- with more glass and less frame to block your view. More ventilation as well with all the movable slats. You could even open the windows during a torrential downpour and stay dry inside.
I figured that as much as I address windows on this blog, the jalousie windows deserves its time in the sun as well. I’ll give you my opinion at the end, but for now, let’s looks at the jalousie window, its history and future.
The History of Jalousie Windows
Believe it or not, the idea for the jalousie window is not as new as you might think. They were patented in Nov. 26, 1901 by Joseph W. Walker of Malden, Massachusetts. The fact that a New Englander came up with the idea surprises me a bit since jalousies were so prevalent in mild climates, but hey, gotta give the guy credit.
Even though the patent was approved in 1901, the idea didn’t catch on until the middle of the last century. Jalousie windows were mostly found on homes in southern climates where the winters were more mild in nature. In colder climates, they appeared on enclosed porches and three-season rooms.
They were a new and futuristic product for a new time in America where the future was all the rage. Couple their exciting new design with the fact that they provided a lot of potential air flow, as well as more unobstructed views of the outdoors, and people were sold.
Mid-century homes, historical cusp homes, and older homes looking to enclose their porches for more space all signed up and jalousie sales went through the roof from the late 1940s through the late 1960s before the energy crises of the 1970s finally sealed their fate.
The Problem with Jalousie Windows?
As an architectural element on a mid-century house, there ain’t nothing wrong a well maintained jalousie window. Okay, well, maybe just a few things, but architecturally speaking, they are a timely and attractive option. But there are two big problems with jalousies.
- Security – Jalousie windows are possibly one of the simplest windows to break into. The individual glass slats can actually be removed quite easily and quietly by simply prying a metal tab up. You don’t even get the sound of breaking glass to wake you up and let you know someone is breaking in. Once burglars figured that out, it wasn’t long before they started making the rounds.
- Energy-Efficiency – Once we started air conditioning our homes, the jalousie was a terrible source of air leaks. In all fairness, jalousies were designed before air conditioning was in every home, and in that situation, they work great, but they are, without a doubt, the most leaky window ever made with no hope of weatherstripping, since the gaps are between each pane of glass.
I have a very two sided relationship with jalousie windows. When I see a unique mid-century modern house with jalousies, I marvel at its sleek crisp appearance. But when I see a Craftsman Bungalow with a front porch enclosed with jalousies, I cringe and fight back the urge to grab my sledge hammer.
To me, jalousies have their place and that place is on a mid-century house. Installed on any other architectural style, they look cheap and out of place. But that’s just me. What are your thoughts?
For more reading, there is a great catalogue uploaded to archive.org all about Ludman Jalousies that even comes with cross sections, pricing, assembly and installation instructions to help you repair your jalousies. It also contains some great pictures and illustrations.