Bi-fold patio doors by Weather Shield bring the outdoors in.
Bi-fold patio doors by Weather Shield bring the outdoors in.

Dealers are currently enjoying a healthy market for residential windows and doors, and at least one industry watcher expects the trend to continue for a few years. The Freedonia Group, a leading international business research company, is forecasting demand to rise 6.9% per year through 2018, assuming a strong general economy.

Should Freedonia’s projections prove accurate, manufacturers will have incentive to introduce more new window and door products. To find out what styles they’ll be focused on, we asked leading door and window manufacturers about their strongest sales trends and how they plan
to adjust their lines. 

Merging Indoors and Out

The most cited category is in modern or contemporary styled frames and large glass areas with fewer grills or other elements that obstruct the view. The driver here is homeowner emphasis on decks and other backyard spaces. Large windows and sliding doors with expansive glazing areas help visually bring those outdoor spaces inside.

“We’re seeing a merging of indoors and outdoors with larger windows and doors that make the transition seamless,” notes Christine Marvin, director of marketing at Marvin Windows and Doors. She says that this trend has helped raise sales of big sliding and folding doors that open up entire walls of space.

Marvin also says that more buyers are opting for simpler designs that de-emphasize the frame. 

Manufacturers are still trying to nail down the definition of contempory, which depends in part on geographic region. “It’s still ill-defined and we’re seeing variations,” says Weather Shield brand manager Dave Koester. “For instance, I had a conversation with one developer at the International Builders Show about Desert versus Prairie contemporary. What the two seem to share in common, other than lots of glass, is that there’s no defined pattern. That’s very different from, say, a Victorian home, which has a distinct style.”

Koester adds that all window and door companies now have offerings that can be broadly defined as contemporary. 

Therma-Tru is finding success with modern panel doors.
Therma-Tru is finding success with modern panel doors.

He isn’t the only one reporting a noticeable shift in tastes for frame colors. “We’re seeing an increase in demand for tan windows as opposed to white, says Laura Sikes, marketing manager with Hy-Lite Windows. 

Buyers who want natural wood are more likely to choose lighter grain patterns than in the past, according to Donna Contat, director of brand management at Therma-Tru. “Oak is heavy grained; we’re seeing a move to more defined grains like mahogany and fir.” Panel designs are also simplifying. “We’re getting more demand for two panel doors as people get into a more modern look.”

But there’s disagreement about whether buyers’ interest in contemporary design has legs. Is it a short-term trend or a long-term movement? “We’re investing in the fact that it’s a long-term movement,” says Koester.

Others believe that the appeal of the most minimalistic contemporary products will prove limited. “It’s true that we have seen a growing interest in modern design of the type you would see in a condo or an apartment in Chicago or Los Angeles,” says Mark Albrighton, senior director, exterior products, Masonite. But after interviewing hundreds of homebuyers in different parts of the country about the subject he doesn’t believe it will be an enduring trend.

The Importance of Energy

More glass is bringing a renewed interest in energy efficiency. “As the economy has healed and cost of energy has gone down you would expect to see a de-emphasis of energy efficiency,” says Koester. “But energy codes have also gotten stricter, so the fact that you have more glass makes window performance critical.”

For instance, he says that there was a short trend of residential builders and designers experimenting with contemporary-styled commercial style windows, but that they couldn’t hit the energy targets. Now architects, designers, and homeowners are asking manufacturers for residential products that meet those targets. 

Traditionally Modern

Contemporary window options from Hy-Lite let light in while providing a stylish element to the bathroom.
Contemporary window options from Hy-Lite let light in while providing a stylish element to the bathroom.

One enduring trend seems to be in Craftsman entry doors. “Craftsman came on strong five years ago and hasn’t gone away. It’s full speed ahead still, with Craftsman doors pulling across all home styles,” says Albrighton. However, he does point out that Craftsman’s rectilinear lines put it in the modern or contemporary family of styles, and that it coordinates well with traditional interiors as well as with minimalistic windows facing the back deck. “I call it Traditionally Modern,” he says. 

Many Craftsman doors come with decorative glass, but smaller lot lines have also fueled a growth of decorative glass on the sides of the house, where homeowners want privacy, according to Sikes. The trend there matches the rest of the house in that designs are getting simpler, with more rectilinear grid patterns. “We have talked with a lot of designers about ways to improve our product offering,” says Sikes. “They want to see more decorative windows with straight, angular lines and fewer with floral elements and other curves.”

Tying Things Together

There also seems to be a growing demand for window and door packages. “Customers are wanting their windows and doors to look seamless across the house,” says Koester. “They want the entrance door hardware to look like the casement hardware, and they want the finishes and styles to match across the house.”

Albrighton thinks that manufacturers and dealers can add more value to customers by making it easier for them to sort through the package options. “It’s really difficult for customers to picture and select a entry door along with coordinating interior doors.” He says that Masonite has been revising its website to emphasize door packages. “We’re working closely with the channel on how best to present this information.”