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Stained glass front doors: The beauty, history, and are they right for you?

If you are looking for a unique front door that speaks of the design of your home and is different than your neighbors’ than you are in the right place.  This post is all about stained glass front doors.  These doors will add character to any home and give your guests an immediate conversation piece.

From old farmhouses to contemporary builds, a stained glass front door will let in the light and remain a work of art that you get the pleasure of admiring each time you come home.

We are going to begin with a short history of stained glass, including stained glass windows, and then go over a variety of stained glass front door options.  We are also going to run through some basic home designs and suggest which stained glass front doors would be the best for each style.  With a big statement such as stained glass front doors, you want to be sure it matches the style of your home.

I’ve also included a section on decorative glass front doors.  While these are not the traditional stained glass, they are quite lovely and may give your home the style you are looking for with a price tag that is not quite as high.

blue stained glass window

History of Stained Glass

There is a legend that tells the story of ship wrecked Phoenician sailors setting their cooking pots on blocks of natron (similar compound as baking soda) and building a fire under it.  In the morning, they found that the heat had melted the sand and soda mixture and cooled into glass.

Some credit this to the first glass made, but many consider it to simply be a legend.  The history of stained glass is extensive so as an intro to this post about stained glass front doors, we are going to briefly explore the main points without going into too much detail.

Personally, I love history and I am open to any way that I can connect to the past.  If you are the same way, then a stained glass front door may be for you!

The earliest known man made glass is found in the form of Egyptian beads dating back to 2750-2625 BC.  They were made by winding a thin string of molten glass around a removable clay core.

The stained glass that springs to mind when we hear the term didn’t come about until the fourth century and was used by the Ancient Romans to make decorative wares.  The Lycurgus cup is an example of one of these ornately decorated vessels.  It is believed that droplets of gold and silver are responsible for coloring these glasses.

stained glass front doors

Stained Glass Windows in Churches

By the 7th century glassmakers had turned their attention to windows.  The stained glass windows of this age were relatively small with thick metal frames and continued with this style until the 12th century.

St. Paul’s monastery in Jarrow, England, has one of the oldest examples of multi-colored glass. The church was founded in 686 AD. The earliest stained glass piece in the form of a picture is that of the head of Christ discovered at the Lorsch Abby in Germany.

It was about this time that Gothic style architecture began to replace Romanesque, which brought on the beauty of stained glass windows in churches that we are in awe of today.  Gothic style was much more light and airy than Romanesque giving way to the large and intricate stained glass that adorned churches throughout Europe.

By the mid-14th century, a change in Renaissance art was also seen in the world of stained glass. The bold lines and strong figures that were common began to phase out with a more realistic painting on glass. These designs were less of an architectural element than in the Romanesque and Gothic periods.

Not to be left out, Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Egypt also had thriving glassmakers by this time and Islamic architecture was full of rich color and intricate designs.  These windows adorned palaces, mosques, and other important buildings.

Jabir ibn Hayyan was a Persian chemist who recorded 46 original recipes for colored glass in his book Kitab al-Durra al-Maknuna (The Book of the Hidden Pearl).

During this time, the most common way of making stained glass was mixing potash and sand to 3000 degrees Fahrenheit. Various metallic powders were used to created different colors. The glass was then flattened into big sheets. Stencils of sorts were then laid on top and used to cut the glass into the desired shapes.

The glass was fitted into strips of lead called cames. The cames were then soldered together to create panels. These panels were then put into the walls.

There was a decline in the use of stained windows during the 1600s and this lasted several hundred years. The biggest reason for this was religious. The Catholic church had supported and encouraged elaborate stained glass windows in religious and political buildings. Now, with the strong Puritan movement, they were discouraged.

Puritans did not believe in elaborate decorations and were more than willing to destroy the beautiful windows. Very few new stained glass windows were made during this time.

Stained Glass in Modern Times

Moving onto the 19th century, the was a revival of the Gothic style and along with it a renewed interest in stained glass. As with all evolving arts, stained glass took on a new form.

Frank Lloyd Wright was an architect who loved to include geometric designs made from stained glass into his projects.  His style was one of craftsmanship with an emphasis on connecting to nature.

In a different use of stained glass, Louis Comfort Tiffany began making stained glass lamps, which were all the rage until the mid-20th century.  While they do not adorn the modern home, they remain a coveted collector’s item.

Once again, stained glass came to a standstill during the depression and WW2 of the 1930’s and 1940’s, but revived again with a new twist in recent years.

One may think of stained glass as a thing of the past, but that is far from true. Contemporary artists such as Christopher Janney and Tom Fruin continue to wow us with large stained glass windows and three dimensional designs.

Stained Glass Front Doors

Stained glass front doors have the ability to provide privacy while still allowing light to come in.  They are also a work of art which adds to the value of your home.  

So, how do you choose a stained glass front door?  How do you know which one is a good fit for your home’s style?  You want it to look cohesive and create a positive aesthetic, not stick out “like a sore thumb.”  Am I right?

Here is a list of different style homes, a brief description, and a suggestion for stained glass design:

  • Craftsman (remember the above mentioned Floyd Wright?) style first became popular during the early 1900s and is known for its use of natural materials.  Prairie or mission style stained glass is the best match for a craftsman style home.
  • Victorian style homes are characterized by elaborate design most popular from 1860-1900.  Mackintosh, floral, and Art Nouveau with colored glass are a good match for victorian style homes.
  • Tudor style homes were popular in the 1600s.  Clear leaded glass fits this style best.  A diamond leaded glass is a lovely match for a Tudor style home.
  • Mediterranean or Spanish Colonial became popular in the 1920s and 1930s and are still very common today.  They are characterized by low roof lines, large arches, and stucco siding.  Beveled glass windows fit this style best.
  • Colonial style homes are well known as they’ve been around since the 1600s and is still a beloved design.  These homes can often be considered antiques themselves and a wide variety of decorative glass (both clear and colored) are a good fit for this style.
  • Farmhouse style homes were once a symbol of wide open prairies, but are very common as new builds today.  This style focuses on simplicity so simple designs are best.
  • Ranch style homes have a more modern look with leaded and beveled glass being a good fit.
  • Cape Cod homes bring about thoughts of a quaint little cottage and are a great fit for stained glass.  Having come around in the 1600’s antique and vintage stained glass make a beautiful addition to this style home.
  • American Foursquare homes became popular in the late 1800’s and remain today as beautiful “fixer-uppers”.  This style is simple and was popular during the arts and crafts movement making glass with clear lines and geometric shapes best.
  • Contemporary homes refer to homes that are in the present.  These homes feature large windows, recycled or green materials, and a seamless transition from outside to inside.  Stained glass is a great choice for this style especially if you play around with color or clear abstract designs.

Here are a few of my favorite stained glass front doors with color from Doors by Decora.  They have a lovely selection of doors that are not your run of the mill big box store styles.  These doors will definitely set your home apart from the others on your street.

A beautiful thistle set into a mahogany wood door.

This lovely double door has a floral design in a leaded textured glass.  The wood is mahogany, but other wood is available.

As stained glass often does, this door tells a story and brings the outside in.

This tree of life design is stunning!

The leaded glass set in the red oak wood is lovely and a versatile design that would fit a variety of architectural styles.

This craftsman style door is inspired by Floyd Wright.

This contemporary design is perfect for a contemporary home.

Decorative Glass Front Doors

You can get a similar look of a stained glass front door at a more budget friendly price with these decorative glass front doors from Home Depot.  They are well made and come in a variety of sizes and finishes.  

Check out my favorites below!

The bronze reflective beveled glass and the gray textured glass gives this door a beautiful look. It will fit a variety of styles and dress up your front porch with little effort.

Oval glass door

This fiberglass door, below, is 36×80 inches.  The decorative glass gives it a craftsman style feel which provides a lovely look that allows light in, but provides you the privacy you need.

Front door with square stained glass inset

This beautifully etched door has a simple and yet elegant design perfect for several styles.  It gives your front door a luxurious feel without going over the top.  Made of fiberglass (I know, not wood) so it is durable and stained a dark cherry color.  A lovely addition to any home’s exterior.

Fiberglass front door with oval glass inset

Made of mahogany, this door is lovely on its own, but the insulated decorative glass adds the perfect touch.  The clean lines lend themselves to craftsman or contemporary style, but would also look great in a ranch style.

triple pane decorative glass door

Final thoughts on stained glass front doors

One last word on stained glass front doors.  Make them your own!  This is your house and it represents you.  Choose a color you love, allow your personality to show, and embrace the beauty of the home you love.

Whether your stained glass front door contains simple beveled glass or an intricate design that holds a special meaning to you, it is sure to add the personality you want in your home. Thinking outside the box (such as the big box store kind of box) might be just what you need to make your home feel unique. H

owever, that isn’t in everyone’s budget or timeline, so I hope you take into consideration the beautiful doors that will make your home feel special.

And speaking of loving your home and allowing it to show your personality, check out our posts on modern and traditional farmhouse front doors, Spanish style doors, and Victorian style front doors.

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