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All the Lessons We Learned in Our Mountain House Window Replacement “Journey”

I once asked an architect what he would prioritize, even splurge on, during a renovation. He said, without hesitation, “windows and doors.” It stuck with me, and my team (and friends, and husband) have heard me repeat this over and over because the second I heard it, I knew it was so true. As a stylist with professional expertise in pillow fluffing and vase swapping, I hadn’t really thought about what these elements do to a home but I can tell you now, it makes all the difference in this world. Our Marvin windows (and even some doors) transformed this mountain house. If you like window porn, are in the design field or if you plan on or have ever considered replacing your windows, CONSIDER TODAY YOUR WINDOW BIRTHDAY.

My story:

When we set out to replace our windows I had few, simple and yet very important and universal objectives:

1. Highlight the architecture of the space. Windows are an integral part of architecture, therefore, they needed to be thoughtful and, frankly stylistically perfect.

2. Add as much natural light as possible. Natural light is a designer’s best friend and also a huge part of well-being for me, which means Marvin is basically my boyfriend.

3. Create cohesion throughout the house. We sought to reduce the finishes to create a warm minimalism aesthetic as we wanted the warmth of wood everywhere possible.

4. Bring nature inside. We wanted to let the trees outside be a part of the color palette…to let blue sky speak to our throw pillows…we wanted the wind to be appropriately beneath our wings (because yes, we considered the wind direction before we decided which way the window opens–more on that below).

The reason I approached Marvin for our windows was because of three things that I had heard over and over (plus my own main priority):

1. Their customer service is amazing. From the first appt to delivery, you have a hand to hold. Being an enduring teenage romantic, that sounded nice.

2. Their product is so high quality and perfectly packaged, it’s very often the favorite of general contractors. I didn’t take a national poll, but my contractor Jeff Malcom (3rd generation contractor, 40 years experience) raved so much that I felt it appropriate to ask for this quote:

“What a pleasure to work with Marvin, particularly through the ordering process with the representatives having really good knowledge of the product line and helping us with sizing, hardware etc. When the units arrived on site, they were exactly as expected and easy to manage. They all come with good back-up data and the installation information is simple to follow. The detail work from the factory on the windows was excellent as far as the assembly, fabrication, the fit and the finish of all components is at a high level of craftsmanship—something seldom seen nowadays with building products. And more importantly, they operate very well for the homeowner. In a nutshell, Marvin’s current window and door products are excellent and we certainly have only high recommendations to use them moving forward here in the alpine climate of Lake Arrowhead!”

Get a room (with a window), Jeff!

And yet he’s right. Good windows are an important investment so trust me that you want them to be high quality, and endorsed by an unpaid expert in installation like him (I paid him, I just mean he wasn’t paid by Marvin to say any of this, and that guy couldn’t stop raving about the brand).

3. Their range of styles is great, but I particularly loved their simple, modern windows. Sure, I knew they had a solid reputation in the industry, but as a designer, what I first fell in love with, what made me approach them to begin with and what also makes me want to write long quotes about them like my contractor is the beauty of their solid wood, contemporary style windows.

There was a love connection, sure. But replacing the windows wasn’t as easy as just saying, “Great! We’ll take the natural white oak!” No. Every room had its own functional and stylistic considerations and that’s what this post is about.

Let’s begin with the mother window of this house. The one that birthed this partnership in the first place:

The Living Room A-Frame Window

Emily Henderson Mountain House Marvin Windows Living Room Side By Side

Lesson Learned

For big, important windows like this, know it will take a while to correctly engineer (plus requires scaffolding and a good lead time—not to mention a decent budget) but boy is it important. 

These windows were in bad shape being 60 years old and I’m not convinced were ever well made in the first place and yet they supported the entire house, as many A-frames do. Replacing them was a must, and before winter. We needed to make sure that the windows and, more importantly, the frames did the job of support, as well as adding beauty.

I’m not going to say those were fast, cheap and easy. Those windows are big, important and needed to be properly taken care of with a high-quality frame and panes, which is why working with Marvin was so important. Because we couldn’t remove the original frame (it was actually supporting the roof and thus house), we had to clad over the frames, beef them up on all sides so they were proportionate and add support.

You can see in the before that the frames were small, the panes were thin (and thus we were victims of the elements) and, being so big and tall, they required some serious professional engineering considerations. Thank GOODNESS for the Marvin customer service team that helped create and ensure they would be ordered (and received) properly. Marvin doesn’t install, your contractor does, but they deliver things in a way that make installation as seamless as ever is possible (sounds boring but they come in these crates with handles which means that your contractors don’t have to try to lug around a box full of glass without handle. This is one of the things our contractor truly raved about to no end).

The front A-frame windows were quite the undertaking, but most of the other windows in the house weren’t as dramatic (in both beauty and effort). Let’s discuss the dining room windows for contrast.

Dining Room Windows

Emily Henderson Mountain House Marvin Windows Dining Room Side By Side

Lesson Learned:

Consider how people walk around a window or if opening them out would run into or constrict how/where we walk. 

These original windows were add-ons and vinyl, which is fine if the rest of your house had vinyl windows but ours was a janky mishmash of vinyl and aluminum. They sat low to the ground and could have been bigger and better, so we used the opportunity of replacing them to make them the best they could be (which is a BIG lesson in general if you’re replacing windows in your home…always think about how you can make them BETTER, even if just in function for how you use the room). We did just that. The best tip that our rep Richard suggested was to look outside the window and go through the process in our minds of how someone might walk or if anything else could get in the way of the open window. With the French door in the family room, if I new windows opened the wrong way, they could have easily hit those doors or been in the way of the BBQ area, but the plan he suggested helped to avoid that, making sense for both how the windows would function for the inside and for the outside.

Onto the kitchen.

Kitchen Windows

Emily Henderson Mountain House Marvin Windows Kitchen Side By Side

Lesson Learned:

If you don’t need something fancy, opt for simple yet functional.

The kitchen’s only window was off to the side and we knew that I needed to stare at nature while stirring any given soup, so we ripped down those cabinets (and donated them) and put in a big beautiful sliding window.

Choosing the function of the window was where Marvin’s well-educated customer service came in, in our case a lovely man named Richard, who works with BMD, Inc., a Marvin distributor in our area. I could have easily chosen a casement (opening outward), but he suggested the Ultimate Glider with a stationary panel in the middle for easier access and so if it were windy, it wouldn’t blow unnecessarily into the house.

We didn’t want unnecessary hardware on the windows, and the slider just has these super simple finger pulls that open the window so smoothly, which we ended up loving (because most times, simple operates best).

Family Room Sliding Door & Windows

Emily Henderson Mountain House Marvin Windows Family Room Side By Side

Lesson Learned:

Think about how YOU want to use a room (as opposed to what the current house dictates).

This EPIC Ultimate Multi-Slide Door—which we show off far too frequently—really transformed this room. The family room was dark before we got our hands on it and we were looking for an opportunity to create an indoor/outdoor feeling.

These scenic sliders are easy to open and close, have a pretty wood frame to the interior and thick double pane glass so the room stays really warm in the winter. The exterior is clad with aluminum so it’s super durable.

There are options for screens that we didn’t need because bugs aren’t a problem up here, but if you are thinking “but what about those mosquitos!?” don’t worry, this is an option (and one you can actually add later). You can even get a retractable option that hides out of view when you’re not using it.

Something to note for yourself if you are deciding on these types of doors: Make sure you’re planning enough room for the door track. We originally had built-in cabinets planned for next to the benches by the fireplace, but we had to scrap them once we realized we had to move everything over because we didn’t plan for an additional 18 inches of track in the room.

We also added two windows flanking the new fireplace that add even more light and air flow which I knew would be important for our family and how we wanted to live in this house. Light has always been my design “secret weapon” but beyond aesthetics, it’s really just vital to a warm, welcoming home.

Emily Henderson Moutain House Family Room Lores12

This room was transformed, sure, it wasn’t just the windows but boy are they simple and beautiful.

Master Bathroom

Emily Henderson Mountain House Marvin Windows Master Bath Side By Side

Lesson Learned:

Making a window abnormally large can become a statement, almost like an oversized piece of art.

This room was the biggest opportunity to rethink the original windows. Yes, we still wanted three windows but our architect, John Lyles, encouraged us to make the middle window oversized, much lower than the rim of the tub, thus making it a feature. You don’t have to twist my arm.

We chose two Ultimate Casement windows flanking an Ultimate Picture window. The casements allow for us to open and get airflow, but the picture needs no screen and no hardware (and can save some money on manufacturing). It’s really about looking out those big beautiful windows out onto the natural views of the protection woodlands in our back yard. I wish I could download my brain into yours to help you understand how important being surrounded by trees and nature are to me, what it does for my soul. It’s like a big reset button, honestly.

The casement windows open away from each other, which is good for direction of wind and something to consider so you don’t create a wind tunnel (ask your Marvin rep to help with this).

I don’t need to say much after that photo. Except please see the sill set-back and lack of molding. The wood looks so high quality even inside the frame. It pained me to cover up the top with a window shade, but with three windows and a bath-time routine that generally requires nudity, it seemed like a good idea.

Downstairs Guest Bathroom

Emily Henderson Mountain House Marvin Windows Downstairs Guest Bedroom Side By Side

Lesson Learned:

Create better function for yourself and your space by shifting and enlarging.

As you can see in the “before” shot up there, the original window in the downstairs guest bathroom was standard sill height (3 feet from the floor), and a bit smaller in width. Because we knew we wanted to do something dramatic in here (black walls), we opted to maximize the light in the space by making the new window as wide and as tall as possible while still thinking about privacy (it’s a bathroom with a shower, after all).

We moved the sill height higher so the neighbors wouldn’t see our guests in all their natural naked glory (and because it sits much higher now, we didn’t need to put in a window treatment—I promise you can’t see in here…we checked).

Something to keep in mind: If the window had been in the shower (like in the upstairs guest bath), fiberglass would have been required, but because it was further away from the “wet” area, we could stick with the white oak interior we used throughout the rest of the house. If you’re working with Marvin, though, their rep will be sure to point out all of those things along the way.

Kids Play Attic

Emily Henderson Mountain House Marvin Windows Attic Side By Side

Lesson Learned:

Embrace the exterior shape of your home, and then have some fun with it.

The window up here was aluminum and janky. and while we didn’t NEED to replace it, since the kids wouldn’t be up there a lot and it was a sliding window, it was a “when in Rome” situation.

We replaced the high and narrow window with a simple picture window rotated 45 degrees, like a diamond, which worked better with the exterior roofline enhancing the view to the outside and letting more light into the space. It could be lower since it embraced that upside-down triangle of the roofline. We are finishing this space very soon, but trust me that the whimsy of the window adds to it so much.

Kids Attic Bts

And that’s it. I’ve probably said it in any reveal of this cabin so far, but these windows have really, truly changed this house and how we live in it. Window replacement can feel like a journey, for sure, but having a window and door expert to consult when you’re replacing or choosing new windows makes all the difference. If you’re interested in talking with Marvin about your own window replacement project, you can start here.

Please let me know if you have ANY questions about the process, the windows we picked, why we did what we did in certain spaces…ask away.

*”after” photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

**This post is in partnership with Marvin but all thoughts are our own. Thank you for supporting the brands that help to support this business. 

Check out all of the Mountain House reveals here: The Kitchen The Kitchen Organization | The Kitchen Appliances | The Powder Bath | The Living Room | The Downstairs Guest Suite | The Loft | The Kids’ Room | The Upstairs Guest Bath | The Dining Room | The Family Room | The Master Bedroom | The Master Bathroom





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4 years ago


4 years ago

I’ve loved the look of your windows since their very first showing. I’ve been waiting for a Powerball lottery win to replace mine in a 1920’s colonial! Since my exterior is brick with stone headers (and the home is very symmetrical and traditional) I’m missing your flexibility to tweak the dimensions and placement of each and every window. The exterior make-up of a home definitely dictates the extent of window alterations.

4 years ago

Gorgeous!!! Wondering what is the paint color of the main area? Thanks!!!

4 years ago

This post is really selling me on replacing unnecessary fireplaces and upper cabinets with windows. All the light, please!

4 years ago

I know this is a sponsored post, but I have to say, it’s done beautifully: it’s a partnership that totally makes sense, the windows look amazing, and there’s a lot of helpful information here. Just wanted to give credit where credit is due!

(Although I have to admit that I’m curious about how the finances work here: were the windows completely free for you? Or just discounted?)

4 years ago
Reply to  Hannah

ah, thank you 🙂

4 years ago
Reply to  Hannah

So, as Hannah asked, were the windows free?
What a difference would make for most all of us out here.
Nice information here though.

4 years ago

I’m very curious about the construction side of the exterior when it comes to changing window location or size. How do you make it look seamless/not patched where you have siding? What if you have brick or stone; does it make it more expensive? How do you finish it out on the outside if you can’t find your exact siding?

4 years ago
Reply to  Rachel

Same! This post had me wondering about the exterior of the house too. Did you replace the siding on your entire house, part of your house, or were you able to find siding to match? Was there any brick to contend with? Beautiful windows though and totally worth the additional work!

4 years ago
Reply to  Renee

Hey guys – so yes, we had to match the exterior siding which I was nervous about but was totally easy to find (ours is a reverse board and batten). I believe we ended up replacing the back of the house and one side, and keeping the front and the other side the original. I think they might not match perfectly but once painted you can’t tell at all.

4 years ago
Reply to  Renee

Agree! Great interior content but what happened to the outside

4 years ago
Reply to  K

Agree! I am looking at MCM ranchers as my next home and it is amazing how they all have these teeny tiny up-high “jail cell” windows. First thing I want to do is enlarge them…but what is the process on the outside? Seems like this could be a fab blog post. Thanks, EH & Team!

4 years ago

Will Marvin be able to help me find a contractor for install in my area? That seems crucial
Love. This. House.

4 years ago
Reply to  Stacy

Hi Stacy,

Yes! We do have an Authorized Replacement Contractor program. Depending on your location, this tool can help you find a contractor in your area:

Hope this helps!

Rachel Smith
4 years ago

What about screens? I’d love to have the windows open in my home, but don’t want the gnats, flies and mosquitoes inside. Do these windows have screens that were taken off for the photos? Our screens are attached with awkward clip fasteners and often break or fall out of the frame which is really annoying. It would be nice to hear if Marvin has a good solution for letting the outside air into the house without the bugs.

4 years ago
Reply to  Rachel Smith

We actually didn’t take them off all the rooms – just where you could really see them (I think living room, kitchen and dining – not the bathrooms), it is just honestly prettier for the reveals. They are pretty subtle, honestly. We didn’t opt for them for the big scenic doors, because honestly mosquitos aren’t a huge thing up there and we have AC so the point of those doors for us was to have easy access in and out all day. But its something we could add.

4 years ago
Reply to  Rachel Smith

Marvin has the best looking and best functioning retractable screens (we have looked at lots of different brands of windows over the past year). Invisible when not in use.

4 years ago

I love these windows so much. This post makes me start daydreaming what I would do if I wont the lottery.

4 years ago

What a fantastic post about windows. One of the things we loved when we found our home are the windows. Lots of glass and natural light. We are going to be doing our master bathroom reno hopefully soon and we have two windows we want to make into one big one. Saving your blog post…thanks for sharing this great info. Emily. xo Elizabeth

4 years ago

I noticed there is a lack of baseboards. This is the first that I’ve seen like this. Just curious, how does this work for keeping the walls clean and crisp. In my experience, baseboards get scuffed fairly easily, but tend to be scrubbed easier than walls. Have you had any issues with this?

Alexandra Rose
4 years ago

Beautiful! I love Marvin and the white oak you chose is so pretty. As I was looking at the two bay areas (dining room and master bath tub area) I was thinking that it would be so pretty to panel them out in wood, like super chunky wood trim that would visually connect the three windows together to make one moment.
Lovely job!

Mary Beaman
4 years ago

For any of you wondering about the pricing of Marvin windows, know that they run pretty steep. My dad owns a business that does windows and shower doors for a living. We JUST bought a house that needs all new windows and includes some gorgeous a frame style windows in a living area. When I showed him these and asked him if he ever worked with Marvin, he said yes and made a face. I pushed him to tell me why. His response was that they only sell through their dealers, so they get marked up from the dealer to him, and then in order to cover his overhead and labor costs, he has to mark them up again for the customer, making them double the cost of a lot of other (still higher end) choices. So, yeah, just know that. I’m not saying it as a bad thing. That’s how business works most of the time. My dad just hates having that huge price difference for similar products. That being said, the windows are gorgeous!!! I absolutely agree with Emily about windows and doors being the ideal place to splurge and great customer service goes a long way in… Read more »

4 years ago
Reply to  Mary Beaman

Thanks for the info Mary. I appreciate understanding how everything works.

4 years ago
Reply to  Mary Beaman

Great info, I wish Emily would have included it in her adverstisment.

4 years ago

My dad sold windows for nearly 20 years (a good bit of that as a Marvin rep and he still raves about their products), so I really love this post so very much.
The end result of your partnership with Marvin shows what an important investment good windows are.

Julie S
4 years ago

I wouldn’t have thought a windows post would be so interesting but IT WAS. I really enjoyed seeing a mini whole-house tour and the cohesion of the architectural elements of windows! Just want to say it really feels like you, Emily! You got some of your soul in there. Very very cool.

4 years ago

Thanks for your post and pictures! I love your desk. Can you tell me what brand it is and where I might find one. It’s just what I am looking for.

4 years ago

Lovely transformation!
Please write something about that gorgeous kitchen door. I want one!

4 years ago

You speak of cohesion throughout the house, can you also do that with color, carrying the same
Color throughout the house in several

4 years ago

I would love to see the windows from the outside of the house!

4 years ago

Thank you, Emily, your windows are beautiful and the post is very good. What I learned when I changed my windows: the stationary panels are very beautiful with slimmer frames, and at ground level you can make them as big as you want because you can always clean them from the outside.

At higher floors, you can put them, as you did, between two normal windows, only taking into account that you can clean half the panel from the right and half the panel from the left, so the middle stationary panel cannot be very wide.

Regards from Madrid

4 years ago

HI there! We live in Lake Arrowhead and replaced all of our windows, sliders, and prow front glass over the summer for one of our reno projects. What a difference! And, I agree completely that a beautiful window is like a piece of art. I won’t mention who we went with, only that they are a comparably product to Marvin. . Our prow front looks very much like yours, only a little smaller – we also have an A frame and just love it. Our total cost was 26K. 16K was for the product and 12K went to the install and the entire process took about three weeks.
I’m not a fan of screens, but we use them because it’s very dusty up here. The majority of it comes from the trees. My husband loves everything all open with the breeze coming in, but I couldn’t handle the thin layer of dust that accumulated on the floor and furniture every day. The screens do help considerably.
Enjoyed reading your post! Hope to see you around sometime:)

4 years ago
Reply to  KyRebekah

Thank you! It’s so helpful to have actual numbers.

4 years ago

Gorgeous – I completely agree that windows and doors make or break a room/house/building!

Mostly this post made me think how psyched I am for Christmas decor reveal at the Mountain House! Keeping my fingers crossed for a full week of Christmas content. 🙂

4 years ago

Roooah – kay – WHAT is that black half bathroom with matched marble 12×12 floor tiles??? I can’t decide if cutting a slab into 12×12 tiles in this way is genius or sacrilegious. On the one hand, less slippery than a slab. On the other hand – why not cut it smaller so it’s legit less slippery bc 12×12 still so slippery? Also – feel like it’s a photographic miracle that bath appears so light and bright (as someone who has done 2 baths with black walls – I love it, but it is “cozy”) whereas this appears like photoshop madness with trees visible outside windows and flooded with light?

Also, has to be so much $$$ to cut a slab in this way to make tiles? Would anything be lost by having ‘normal’ marble tiles without veining match? If I tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

I legit can’t tell if this is genius or madness. Please make a post on this mystery bathroom!

4 years ago
Reply to  Tracy

Here’s the post with the black guest bathroom! I think the floor is beautiful, but definitely not something I’d spend the extra money on.

4 years ago

Thank you for your Great and Very informative blog about window treatments I think it would help make our house look nicer. For more information

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4 years ago

Brilliant! Such helpful tips, and what an amazing difference the windows made!