Transom Windows: Where Are They Used and Why?

Transom windows got their name primarily due to their placement. They’re positioned directly over the transom, which is the solid beam separating the top of a window or door from the lower part of a wall.


Transom windows have been long used as key architectural elements. Commonly seen in various historical styles, perhaps most famously in New Orleans homes, they’re treasured for their flexibility in design. And based on their particular application, they’re often used to gain more light into a room, allow better airflow, or to simply create distinctive visual appeal.

Transoms in history

Even yet today, you can still see many examples of classic transom windows in several older buildings located high within the room to enable warm air to better circulate to other closed-in spaces. This worked well in the winter if the doors were closed to keep other rooms toasty warm, and in the summer to cool down adjacent rooms and hallways. In addition to function, these unique features were also working double duty by funneling more light into darker spaces. Besides their practical uses, transom windows were additionally seen in posh, wealthy homes, though usually for more aesthetic reasons. Featuring intricate wood muntin patterns or elaborate stained glass designs, transoms were often used as an obvious show of wealth and prominence.

Transoms add architectural style

After being utilized in certain spaces where a sophisticated shape or particular style door came together with another oblique architectural feature, transoms began to grow in popularity. They often serve as a conduit between a door and the eaves overhead.

Traditionally, transom windows are widely known as being shaped like a fan. They’re often beautifully showcased in custom Mediterranean style homes. Not only are they a visual feast to look at, but also let you see more of the beautiful scenery just outside.

Architects will generally tell you that transom windows are very purposeful in dividing the framing of a window from the framing of a door. While this is certainly true, they’re also works of art from a modern point of view.

Still, in most cases transom windows are primarily decorative. Transoms are often seen in Craftsman style homes. Structurally speaking, they’re not necessary. But, from a visual design perspective, they make the house a home and add to the overall ambiance of the space.

Light and ventilation

Many transoms are used for the purpose of bringing in more ambient light. As the light of day begins to fade away, rooms with transom windows may get those last beams of sun coming through from the space above the door or window at day’s end.

Transoms that open up serve as key ventilators between two spaces and often have a very important job to fulfill, while lead glass transom windows are commonly used as attractive embellishments. Add a bit of hardware and use them to open and close for outstanding airflow. Transom is one of the few window types that can add seriously classic style to a room.

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