What is a Stained Glass Transom?

M. Ingalls

A stained glass transom is a colorful rectangular or fan-shaped window most commonly found above the main entrance to a home. This window, usually sectioned by trim, is normally hinged to the horizontal crosspiece over a doorway, called the transom beam — hence its name. Windows made of stained glass are created in a variety of decorative styles, from images of flowers to geometric designs. Stained glass transoms were first used in Victorian-style row houses, where they not only added a fine ornamental element, they also let in much-needed light and could be opened for ventilation purposes.

Stained glass.
Stained glass.

Transom windows were commonly used in office and apartment buildings before the advent of air conditioning to help provide ventilation while affording privacy to the occupants. In modern times, the transoms popular in residential construction are usually purely decorative windows. As in the past, however, a decorative stained glass transom is still valued for the light and color it can infuse into the surrounding space.

As an art form, stained glass has been around for more than 1,000 years and was first used in churches and other sacred spaces. These windows were often extremely ornate and depicted stories and even displayed text and verses. Stained glass refers to both the colored glass used as a material and to the art glass windows made from it. The glass is colored by adding metallic salts during manufacture, which impart different hues and tones ranging across the color spectrum. The colored glass is then crafted into windows by arranging pieces into patterns and pictures, which are held together by strips of lead and surrounded by a frame.

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Once considered a more formal architectural appointment, the stained glass transom has become quite commonplace; it is often widely available and used in many types of residential design styles. The decorative window accent can help to transform a space by creating an interesting focal point above the door or high on a wall. With patterns ranging from simple to ornate, art glass transom windows can be purchased pre-made and ready to install or custom-designed and fitted by specialty glass companies and individual artists. A floral design might suit a more traditionally styled home, while a sunburst pattern could enhance an Art Deco building.

A stained glass transom can also add interest to an otherwise nondescript area. It also can help to unify a variety of architectural spaces. In cases where there might be other homes nearby, the use of a stained glass transom can provide beauty and privacy and can become a distinctive and attractive addition to a home.

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