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Popularity of Awnings in 2015

Posted: Monday, June 8th, 2015 | Filed under: awnings, modern window treatments, Types of window treatments, window treatments
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Exterior AwningsWhen you think about the neighborhoods and downtown areas of Manhattan in the 19th and 20th centuries, brightly colored awnings generally come to mind.  Although they had great visual appeal and lent character to streetscapes, they also served a functional role, protecting passersby and products from the sun while still allowing light to pass through.  Even on a rainy day, downtown areas could bustle as shoppers paused to check out their favorite window displays.  Over time awnings on commercial buildings evolved to become more embellished pieces with logos and names designed to grab attention.  The stripes that are common today in exterior home awnings also were popular back then.

The history of awnings goes back much further than the 19th century, however.  Ancient civilizations in Rome, the Middle East, and Africa used awnings for their practical purpose of blocking out the harsh sun.  Even the Colosseum was planned with a retractable awning system, the masts for which were held by stone plinths above and between the windows.  One-third of Colosseum spectators were shaded by these awnings, the size of which was limited by the length of pine trees and the weight they could bear.  Visitors today can still see where the masts would have been slotted.

In the Middle East and Africa, woven mats and hides were used to make portable shady spots to escape from the desert sun.  There is evidence that woven mats served this same purpose for homes and stalls at the market.  Cloth making was a major industry in ancient Egypt, and hieroglyphs even indicate that pharaohs purchased extravagant awnings for their sons to use during their time away at the university.

When awnings became popular in New York City, they served variations of the same ancient functional purposes.  This is why the usage of fabric awnings waned for a period of time once air conditioning became more readily available for home and commercial use.  When awnings were part of a building exterior, aluminum ones were chosen during this time due in part to the modern architectural styles that reigned.

Today awnings are enjoying an incredible resurgence in popularity.  In contrast to the canvas duck that was popular during the first half of the 20th century, modern awnings generally are made of acrylic fibers and polyester materials that are resistant to fire and mildew.  Despite the more contemporary fabrics of which they are comprised, the actual construction of the awning has not changed much over the course of the last century.  Aluminum, galvanized steel or zinc-coated steel pipes form the basic frame, which is secured using hardware such as clamps.

Whether you have a traditional or more modern home, researching historic photos of awnings can provide design inspiration.  Think of the Victorian stripes that embellished homes during the Victorian period or the coverings used on Mediterranean style homes.  Even Tudor homes and colonials of yesteryear often incorporated these distinguishing window and door coverings.  If you are considering an exterior update grounded in a unique history that also serves a functional and decorative purpose, awnings are the ideal option.

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