Steel-framed glazing: what you need to know about this iconic look

Quintessentially British, perfect for any property era or interiors style, highly practical and completely customisable – it’s easy to see why homeowners up and down the country love steel-framed, also known as steel-look or steel-inspired, glazing.

This style was introduced nearly 200 years ago by Crittall Windows. Steel-framed glazing features iconic slimline black bars typically with square or rectangle panels of glass. If you’ve been scrolling through Instagram, perusing interiors magazines, or looking at kitchen brochures, chances are you’ve come across it.

Kitchen extension with central island and dining table next to it, steel-framed windows painted in red and wall art.
Vibrant red Crittall Windows glazing helps create a truly unique kitchen-diner. Architecture by Mel. Architect. Photography: Emily Marshall.

Steel is traditionally the material used for this type of glazing. It lasts in excess of 60 years and delivers unbeatable strength, thermal efficiency and security. Plus, it is available in a range of sizes, shapes and colours.

Minimalist kitchen design with wood units, black handles, built-in oven and big windows.
As part of creating a contemporary, one-bed home, interior architecture and design studio Muchmore Design, along with architect partners Resi and Design Squared Architects, were tasked with preserving the original features of this converted warehouse, including the light-blue steel-framed windows. Photography: Chris Snook.

However, while there are many benefits to steel, it can come with longer lead times, potentially up to 12 weeks. Prices can start from approximately £1850 per sq m, or expect to pay around £2500 for a single steel door. Still, it’s worth noting costs do vary, depending on factors including size, type of glazing, door furniture and colour.

Tall steel-framed glazing painted in white that lead to the garden.
Robert Speight of Urbane Design put a different spin on the usual black bars, by including white steel frames, from Crittall Windows – creating a light-filled space with a nod to industrial style.

Alternative materials

With steel being such an investment, homeowners have now found other ways to replicate the look. The most common steel alternative – costing around three times less – is aluminium. And, “with a life expectancy of around 45 years, aluminium is a popular choice as it’s a low-density metal, which means that it is very strong whilst also being lightweight,” says John Shaw, managing director at Vibrant Doors.

“Like steel doors, aluminium doors are also finished with a tough polyester powder coat finish (typically black to replicate the famous look, but there are other options out there, too) which, by design, is incredibly hardy – being scratch- and stain-resistant.”

Walk-in pantry with steel-framed glazing. The kitchen is painted in a neutral shade with small handles and sleek built-in appliances.
This pantry was designed so that everyone could see its beautiful interior. Kitchen by Kitchen Architecture; interior design by Clifton Interiors. Photography: Darren Chung.

Unlike steel though, they’re also corrosion resistant. This means they aren’t susceptible to rusting, making them a lower-maintenance option, too. The lead times are typically shorter than steel as well, starting from around four to six weeks.

It’s worth noting that when used to create the steel look, aluminium has its finish applied before it is cut. So, when the windows are made, you can see the joints in the corners. Steel is welded together before the frame finishes are applied, resulting in it looking like one continuous piece of metal.

Bright kitchen design with green island and rustic dining table with chairs and bench.
Surrey Alpine Windows installed two sets of steel-look Heritage French doors in powder-coated Black RAL 9005 aluminium. Triple glazing was included for added security. Each door set costs around £2450, including installation. Renovation by Pure Projects.

Wood is also an option. Being a highly sustainable material, it adds warmth and texture to a design, with the added benefit of exceptional thermal performance. “Steel and aluminium are very much of the moment, but timber has been used for doors and windows for hundreds of years,” explains Robert Speight from Urbane Design. “You can copy the colour, frame style and shape of steel doors with timber – but they will not look like steel. This is due to the strength to weight ratio: timber frames will often be larger than aluminium or steel.”

Timber also requires much more maintenance than powder-coated aluminium or steel, as the frames will need repainting or re-staining regularly.

Entryway to a hallway with timber glazing painted in pink.
These timber doors were painted in Atelier Ellis’ Ghost to complement the history of this Georgian rectory in Suffolk. They bring in natural light into the main hallway coming from the entrance hall, which, in turn, adds a sense of grandeur to the entrance way. Interior design by Caisley. Photography: Sarah Griggs.

Steel-framed glazing formats

Whichever you eventually go for, there’s an array of formats to choose from. Think completely bespoke, French doors, single doors, end gables, fixed screens, sliding and bi-folds. You can even line up the glazing bars on your windows to interior finishes such as those on cabinetry or banquette seating. However, you’d need these to be planned during the design phase of the project.

Open-plan kitchen diner with grand island and expansive steel-framed glazing.
The steel-framed windows, from IQ Glass, were designed with a black finish to accentuate the dark tones across the kitchen furnishing. Project by MW Architects. Photography: Alexander James.

These types of frames are becoming increasingly popular internally, too. From being a stylish way to separate a kitchen from its larder or dining zone, to helping introduce more natural light into dark hallways, and even providing a screen for your walk-in shower. If you’re considering internal glazing, then have them fitted with toughened safety glass and check their fire rating (FR).

White bathroom with zellige tiles on the wall, marble tiles on the floor, handleless storage units, countertop basin and steel enclosure.
Designed by Day True, this bathroom achieves timelessness and beauty through a sophisticated blend of monochrome tones, rich textures and intricate patterns – all tied together by the black-framed shower screen.

We recommend going to see your glazing choice in person before purchasing. And, get at least three quotes from different suppliers and compare them like for like. Looking at reviews will also help you make your decision on who to hire, as this style of windows and doors – while undoubtedly worth it – are investment pieces for your forever homes.

Written by Georgina Townshend and Vicki Evans.

Featured image: The entire exterior wall of this kitchen renovation by Amy Stoddart Studio has been covered with steel-framed glazing from Perla Windows, making for a dramatic, modern space. Photography: Chris Snook.

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