Why Do Cottages Have Small Windows?

Have you ever noticed that traditional cottages often have notably smaller windows than modern homes? Ever wondered why? Well, you’re not alone.

So why do cottages have small windows? Cottages often have small windows because they were traditionally designed for energy efficiency and warmth, since smaller windows minimize heat loss. Moreover, their design also dates back to periods when glass was expensive, thus larger windows were not economical.

This article will delve into the historical, architectural, and practical reasons as to why cottages have smaller windows than modern homes.

Tiny cottage windows at the front of my thatched cottage
Small cottage windows at the front of my thatched cottage

A Brief History of Cottage Windows

Cottages emerged during the medieval times in Europe, their design heavily influenced by the socio-economic conditions of that period. Quintessential English cottage design is marked by distinct characteristics such as thatched roofs, cozy interiors, low ceilings and small windows.

The diminutive size of these windows wasn’t a mere architectural accident; it was a necessity, a reflection of the times.

small cottage windows in my bedroom of my cottage
Small windows in my 17th century cottage

In medieval times, glass was a luxury few could afford. Furthermore, it was tricky to produce, especially in large sheets. Hence, windows were typically small to minimize the use of this expensive resource.

Another historical factor lies in the infamous Window Tax implemented in England in the late 17th century, where homeowners were taxed based on the number of windows or the total window area in their houses. To cut costs, many opted for fewer, smaller windows.

The Architectural Significance of Small Windows

From an architectural standpoint, the small windows are a critical element that contributes to the distinctive aesthetic charm of a cottage. They offer an appeal of homely intimacy, evoking an atmosphere of warmth and snugness.

Besides, they also aid in maintaining the structural integrity of the building. Larger windows would require more supporting structures, thus complicating the otherwise straightforward, sturdy design of traditional cottages.

The Practicality of Small Windows Today

In modern times, the essence of small windows in cottage design is more than just a nod to historical architecture. Small windows provide an excellent balance between daylight and insulation.

small windows in the lounge of my 17th century thatched cottage
Small windows in my lounge of my thatched cottage, good in summer… bad in winter!

Their size reduces heat loss in colder months and keeps the cottage cool during summer. Moreover, they afford a degree of privacy, given that cottages are often nestled in close-knit rural communities or popular vacation spots.


Cottage architecture, with its unique small windows, is a fascinating blend of history, practicality, and aesthetics.

The quaint charm of these cottages, characterized by their small windows, serves as a testament to human ingenuity and adaptation.

So, next time you find yourself admiring a picturesque cottage, remember – those small windows are not just design features; they tell a story, a tale of times gone by and of enduring practicality.