How to Choose a Stained Glass Window that Perfectly Accents Your Home

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a small stained glass window with green and purple sections

A medieval castle. An ornate British monastery. A quaint country chapel. Stained glass stirs up evocative visions of traditional, decorative spaces from the past. But the word on the street is that stained glass is about to make a major comeback—and not just for churches.

With a wide variety of modern glass pieces available, you can even use stained glass in your super stylish contemporary plan home (after all, you’re going to have to do something with all those windows!). Minimalist works with less florid colors bring stained glass straight from the Gothic era and update it for today’s decor. In some cases, it can even be made energy efficient. Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of selecting a stained glass piece—no matter what your interior design style.

Decorative window

Spaces that Work Well for Stained Glass

First thing’s first: your stained glass panel should make for an eye-catching statement piece, but you don’t want that statement to be jarring. Stained glass works particularly well in certain parts of the home. For instance, around an entryway door as a transom window, or as a privacy window in a bathroom. Windows on staircase landings and along hallways also make nice spots for stained glass.

If there are multiple windows, such as in a long hall or living room, clear or etched pieces with stained accents add just the right amount of color and decoration to a space without overwhelming the eye. You may even want to use stained glass for a skylight or in a sunroom, indoor porch, or other area that receives plenty of light—there’s nothing like watching the sun stream through the hand-colored glass in one of these beauties!

Weighing Your Home’s Architectural Style and Historical Period

Anytime you add a decorative accent to your home’s exterior, you’ll want to make sure it integrates well with your property’s architectural style. A large leaded piece with plenty of iron flourishes and whorls might look a little out-of-place in a California hacienda. Likewise, an angular modern piece with asymmetric accents might not jive well with your Queen Anne cottage.

That’s not to say that you can’t use a piece from a different time period—sometimes the contrast provides a nice balance, particularly if the rest of your exterior is fairly minimalist. In particular, a stained glass panel in a front entryway pairs well with almost any architectural style.

Art Nouveau stained glass window in Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic.

How to Give Your Stained Glass Modern Appeal

Stained glass pieces can start to look old really fast if you’re not careful. To keep the effect fresher, you may want to select works that take a more modernist approach. For instance, a window with a more geometric pattern—such as square, diamond, or rectangular inserts—looks and feels more contemporary. On the other hand, a piece with a flowing, irregular design on its face also lends a space a more “of-the-moment” appearance.

Color can also be used to bring your piece into today’s era. Instead of vibrant reds and blues, look for pieces with subtle, paler hues. Or go with a panel that just has a few colored pieces as accents. In fact, some homeowners forego the stain part altogether and opt for works with clear, etched, or gray accents.

Custom Studio or Prefab?

When it comes to actually buying your stained glass panel, you have two ways to go: you can purchase a factory-made piece that comes in a prefab design, or you can have a stained glass studio design and build a custom panel for you.

Going custom obviously allows you a lot more flexibility—your only limitation is the artist’s skill! You’ll also wind up with a completely unique and personalized piece—the only kicker is the price. Depending on the size and complexity of the work, you could wind up spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars when all is said and done. Pre-fab pieces offer a more affordable alternative, but they sometimes don’t have the skill or the unique flavor of custom work. Still, money talks, and saving a couple thousand dollars is a lot!

English old bedroom with yellow walls and white bed.

Can Stained Glass Be Made Energy Efficient?

Stained glass panels are probably never going to match the energy efficiency of thermal vinyl windows. For one thing, the separate inserts may not be as airtight, especially if they were made by hand. The glass and window panes also can’t compete with today’s factory produced windows. However, there are some ways to make your stained glass window just a little bit easier on your home’s heating and cooling. For instance, some custom studios will build their windows as a double paned window or triple pane glass windows, so that there’s a little bit of insulation inside the panels. There are even one or two specialty glass makers that offer low-E glass in their pieces.

To get the look of stained glass without sacrificing any efficiency, however, many homeowners choose to go with hung stained glass panels that fit over the existing window. These can be purchased from many different popular retailers—and they usually don’t cost more than $300 a piece.

With tons of options, better efficiency, and more modern designs, it’s safe to say that stained glass is here to stay—at least until the next Renaissance, that is!

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