A true Palladian window is a very large window divided into three tall rectangular sections. The central and largest window is topped with a semicircular arched window with a base the same width as the section. It is flanked by two narrower windows. The windows are often enclosed by pilasters or columns. Today, the term Palladian window is also used to refer to a tall rectangular window topped by an arched window.
Palladian architecture, including the Palladian window, is a style of architecture loosely based on Andrea Palladio's interpretation of classical Roman temple style. Working between 1530 and 1580, he built many beautiful villas for the rich and powerful, and he wrote a book about architecture. The style he developed was popular across Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. Inigo Jones translated Palladio's books into English and build the first major Palladian style house in England, the Queen's House at Greenwich. Thomas Jefferson studied Palladio's writing and adhered to his principles in designing Monticello and many public buildings. The Palladian style continued to evolve, and today the Palladian window is very popular.
Because Palladio worked almost entirely in Venice, the Palladian window is also called a Venetian window. Sometimes a Palladian window is labeled a Serlian window, because it was mentioned in the writings of architect Sebastiano Serlio. It was Palladio, however, who popularized this window design.
The Palladian window is an elegant and graceful design, viewed from either inside or outside the building. Early Palladian windows were not covered in any way, because they were carefully placed to ensure privacy and control light. Today, however, some kind of window treatment for Palladian windows may be necessary to make the occupants comfortable.
Some Palladian window treatments involve covering the lower windows and leaving the arched window bare. Hanging draperies and shutters are popular choices, as are blinds. Custom window covering in a matching style can be ordered for the arched window if the homeowners prefer a unified look. Sometimes the central window is left bare while the flanking windows and the arched window are dressed in a matching style. Another popular solution is to cover the arched window only, or to ornament it with fabric wound around the curved edge.