From Design to Decoration: An Ultimate Guide to Window Sills
Dating as far back as ancient Egypt, window sills have been an integral part of architecture and home construction for centuries. Though they may seem like a mundane, unimpressive feature to some, simply seen to be a standard part of home design, window sills actually serve an important purpose and have a rich history behind them.
Keep reading below as we delve into the ins and outs of window sills, covering everything from their design, purpose, etymology, evolution and even ways you can decorate your own window sill.
Window Sill Design: What is the Purpose of a Window Sill?
Though they may appear to simply be aesthetic features that are added to homes for the sake of upping the kerb appeal, window sills are actually designed in a specific way to serve a wider purpose than this.
Before we go on to explain this in more detail, however, let us first clarify what we’re referring to by ‘window sill’. Though the term ‘window sill’ is commonly used to refer to the interior section of a window’s ledge, this part of a window is technically known as the stool. The sill, then, is the technical term for the exterior ledge you see underneath a window.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move on to their purpose.
One of the primary functions of window sills is to offer protection from the elements. They extend from the wall, and if you look closely you’ll notice that they have a slight downward slant to them. This is so that rainwater can flow off the sill away from the window and towards the ground. Without window sills for this purpose, water could otherwise sweep into your home and cause damage to your walls, floors and other structures.
Alongside these, window sills also serve a structural purpose. They act as a framing support for the windows of a home, which could otherwise shift as the foundations settle - this could lead to cracks and an unlevel structure, whilst the windowsill acts as a brace that reinforces the wall to stop this from happening.
A Brief History of Window Sills
As we briefly mentioned earlier, the earliest known use of a windowsill is said to have been in ancient Egypt, where they are thought to have been used for ventilation purposes. Unlike the windows with frames and glass panes that we have today, their version of windows were made by creating small openings in walls and filling these with wooden shutters. Window sills were then designed to prevent rainwater from entering whilst allowing air to still flow inside.
Fast forward a few years, and window sills were being used in the Roman empire.
However, rather than simply serving a functional purpose, windows and window sills in this time evolved to become more decorative features. This is when glass panes came into the picture.
The Romans are known to be the first civilization to use glass in their windows, though this is unlike the transparent glass today - rather, the glass was a translucent greenish-blue, had imperfections and was made as smaller pieces that fit into ornate (often with a lattice design) stone wooden frames.
As such, stone window sills were also used, and these, too, were ornate. This decorative choice was a lavish display of wealth by those that could afford it.
This blend of functionality and decorative features was continued during the Middle Ages, in which window sill designs became larger and more elaborate with the rise in popularity of Gothic architecture. There was an emphasis on verticality, with walls being thinner and buildings and windows being taller. As such, this led to longer and deeper window sills being designed to support heavier glass panes.
The earliest recorded use of ‘window sill’ being used to describe the lower part of a window opening was from the early 15th century. It is thought that ‘sill’ is derived from the Middle English sille, which came from the Old English syll, meaning ‘beam, threshold, large timber serving as a foundation of a wall’.
Modern Window Sills
Nowadays, as with many things, there is a large variation in the design of window sills. They have evolved from being concerned simply with functionality or being overly grande, now instead being designed with multiple factors in mind, such as affordability and how well they match the design of the overall house.
The materials used for window sills have evolved again, also. In modern times, it’s common to see many window sills made using PVC, as these match the window frames. This keeps the appearance of windows and window sills consistent. Furthermore, PVC is an affordable option that can be mass produced when building lots of new houses, making it favourable for new construction builds.
These are built with durability in mind, meaning they also require less maintenance. They also tend to be a lot narrower and sleeker than more traditional stone or wooden sills.
Though PVC has risen in popularity, stone or red brick is still commonly used on some houses as well.
Cast Stone Window Sills
One of the reasons that stone is still a popular choice for window sills is down to its durability and aesthetic appeal. Unlike wooden sills, for example, stone window sills don’t require any form of sealing or treatment in order to withstand the elements. Their strength and durability allows them to withstand the test of time, allowing your property to benefit from the structural support they offer whilst enhancing its visual appeal.
Just like PVC, these are fairly easy to maintain. They don’t stain easily, retain dirt or fade with natural wear and tear. On top of this, their resistance to weathering effects makes them the longest lasting material out of any that are used for window sills.
Thanks to the improvements in modern quarrying technology, number of suppliers and recycling and reclamation procedures, natural stone is very readily available. This allows it to be a popular choice among many when choosing to make improvements to the structure or exterior of their property. Cast stone, especially, makes for a great option.
Cast stone is the use of precast stone that replicates naturally cut stone, making it a cost-efficient option yet still brilliantly effective and natural looking. Furthermore, suppliers, such as Shropshire Brick & Stone, are able to create bespoke window sills of any length, width, height or size, so that they can fit your home perfectly.
You’ll be glad to know that having a stone window sill can also increase the value of your property thanks to its aesthetic value and durability, which is worth considering if you ever look to resell!
Tips for Decorating Your Window Sill
It is common for many people to decorate or utilise the space offered by the interior window sills (or stools, as you now know) in their home, but that’s not to say that you can’t spruce up your exterior window sill, also.
One design choice that is popular to decorate a window sill with is a window box. These are a type of planter that hang off or sit on your window sill, then are filled with the flowers of your choice to add some colour to the exterior of your home. Trailing plants and flowers are a great choice to put in these, as they naturally drape beautifully underneath the window, so as not to block the window itself.
As for seasonal decorations, the window sill is great for holding different displays or decorations depending on the different holidays throughout the year. For example, you could use it to drape fake cobwebs across for Halloween, or to place a winter garland to match your wreath at Christmas.
Reconstituted Stone Suppliers
Is your home in need of some TLC? Or perhaps you’re simply looking to spruce up the exterior of your home. Either way, investing in cast stone window sills would be a great option for you.
Whether you’re looking to breathe life into a residential property or add a timeless look to a commercial development, we can craft stone window sills to bring your vision to fruition here at Shropshire Brick & Stone.
Get in touch with us today to discuss the bespoke cast stone solutions we could create for you.