The biology of Swiss windows

October 18, 2013, 10 Comments

Innie windowAre your windows innies or outies? If you’re reading this in Switzerland then most likely they are innies. That is, they open inwards, into the room. After staying in countless hotels in Switzerland, and visiting many different flats and offices, I have yet to find a Swiss window that is an outie. There must be some windows that open outwards but if there are, they are very shy.

Looking back to my life in Britain, I can’t remember a window that was an innie. At the various houses and flats I lived in, and ones I visit on my return trips now, the windows are all either outies or sash, ie old-fashioned ones that slide up and down, which are also rather rare in Switzerland. Sliding doors don’t count.

ShuttersOf course it’s all down to shutters and curtains. Swiss houses (and hotels) usually have shutters outside the window, so logically you can’t have an outie window as it would crash into the shutter. The bonus is that you can have the shutter closed but the window open. In Britain shutters are typically things for shops at night; they’re much too cold and impersonal for homes. Instead there are curtains on the inside of the window, so logically the windows open outwards.

Innie verticalAfter decades of curtains and outies, I have slowly adjusted to shutters and innies. The bit I like best about my Swiss windows is the fact that you can half-open them vertically, so that the window tilts inwards. It’s enough to let in some air but still safe to leave all day. Imagine a vertically-tilting outie window – it would simply be a funnel for all the rain to come straight into the house.

Now I know Switzerland isn’t alone in its innie world. I’ve been to Italy and Germany often enough to know that it is Britain that is the exception, although last month’s holiday in Bavaria did reveal a surprising number of outie windows. I’ve also experienced the worst of both worlds, Swiss hotels that have innie windows with curtains (usually trying for that English ‘look’), which just do not work well together. A tangled mess.

Time to open the windows (inwards) and let in some fresh air.

10 Comments on "The biology of Swiss windows"

  1. Flohnmobil Friday October 18th, 2013 at 10:24 AM · Reply

    We were housesitting in Sweden this summer, made acquaintance with outies and got to hate them. Not exactely comfortable, if you have to clean windows opening towards outside, have your bedroom on the second floor and a dove which prefers to live in the tree right above your window!!!

  2. TripFiction Friday October 18th, 2013 at 11:00 AM · Reply

    Ah, superb observations. We gathered the innie in part were so that you can clean them, which makes total sense! Look forward to your next post

  3. allotria Friday October 18th, 2013 at 05:25 PM · Reply

    We live in Sweden and have yet to find a house with “innies”. The windows are either “outies” (which I think is stupid) or the type that swivel horizontally opening on the bottom part first and to the outside. Think of them like the half open one you pictured above but upside down but you can swivel them all the way around so you can clean the part which is normally on the outside comfortably from within the room.

    • Diccon Bewes Monday October 21st, 2013 at 08:36 AM · Reply

      Definitely easier to clean innies. Especially if you don’t live on the ground floor.

  4. Stella Tuesday October 22nd, 2013 at 06:59 AM · Reply

    O sure, innies are easier to clean. But wat about the broad nonnie aside of the innie?
    I hate the rather new innies (hm, 2004), mostly because of the synthetic material. No drilling, so no more window catches, wire netting, curtain rails, plant hangers afixed to the windowframe. A wide open window is only slortly wide open; it drops slowly to nearly closed and the innie takes swing space from the room. Vertically half opened it is raining in too at mine.
    I fear the swinging when somehow nor aside nor under and/or above the hinges are placed well and so the window swings skew inside and won’t be corrected. Happened both in a hotel in Luzern and at home (NL). The first time, I feered the window would fell on my head.

    See no improvements |-(

    Now I remember that other Swiss room with common wooden innies and green wooden outies. It was rather difficult and a bit dangerous to close that outies. So I let them open, functioning as pretty decoration seen from the street. Looks much better than the blinded fronts on your photos.

    Swiveling windows are here the Velux roof windows:
    They spend much more daylight than dormer windows.

  5. Vovka Ashkenazy Wednesday October 23rd, 2013 at 03:03 PM · Reply

    Dear Mr. Bewes,

    Having perused your excellent book, “Swisscellany” (2012), I was most disappointed when reading the Famous Foreign Graves chapter to find that Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli and Alexis Weissenberg were not mentioned in the Ticino section.

    Hopefully this might be rectified in any future reprints.


    Vovka Ashkenazy
    Pura, Ticino

    • Diccon Bewes Friday October 25th, 2013 at 04:36 PM · Reply

      Hello. Thanks for the feedback. Sadly it was impossible to include all the famous foreigners buried in Switzerland, as that would have been a whole book in itself. So we chose the names most likely to be recognised by the widest audience, both in Switzerland and abroad, and neither of these pianists made it. But thank you for the suggestions.
      Best wishes

  6. T Martin Lesh Friday October 25th, 2013 at 08:54 PM · Reply

    All the foldout windows in the US are outties … I hate them ! Give me those good ole sliding up and down windows any day . They’re easier to open and close . You can place a window fan in one when wanted . Use any kind of window covering you like ( indoor shutters +1 ) With the modern ones that fold out ( for maintenance ) they’re easier to clean as well . So given the choice between innies – outties ( which is what my present and previous homes have ) and the up and down sliders ( modern version ) Up & Down sliders .. hands down

  7. Laura Wednesday October 30th, 2013 at 12:17 PM · Reply

    I love innies! And the way you can half-opened them vertically is very useful in the kitchen (if there is some steam etc)…Swiss windows are not that bad compared to other countries. And at least the shutters allow you to sleep!

  8. julien Tuesday December 31st, 2013 at 12:23 AM · Reply

    I’d like to see you do a write up why does Switzerland have so many ugly post war housing? , often in the most beautiful areas , what was the thought process behind that ? It seem so un swiiss to me .

    speaking of I can’t believe you think Bienne is uglier than La Chaux de Fonds , I think Bienne is quite beautiful even with all that concrete !

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