The Ultimate Guide to Bright, Colorful Stained Glass

By August 30, 2016Windows
colorful stained glass masterpiece

Quick Summary

The beauty of stained glass spans the centuries. Traditionally thought of in places of worship, even museums or institutions of higher learning, this vibrant art breathes personality into homes to this day. And, this occurs not only in the ways you might expect.

Yes, stained glass goes beyond windows in interior home design. Art glass projects now grace fireplace fronts, backsplashes, porches and more. Anywhere you want to make a statement, stained glass may be the perfect option for you.

Several reasons exist to incorporate a unique stained glass feature into your home. With unending design possibilities and easy care, this is one home project you will want to move to the top of the honey-do list. Well, the “Honey, let’s contact RWC” list.

Read on to find out what the attraction to stained glass is, which design elements to consider and how to get started on your project today. Read further to be inspired and dream of designing your own stained glass window, cabinet door or entry feature. Your home may just begin to feel colorless without it.

Quick Links

Introduction – Stained Glass: More Than Meets the Eye

Beyond Windows: Thinking Outside the Box

What Is the Attraction?

Type, Texture and Color, Oh My!

Stained Glass Design Hints

Installing a Stained Glass Masterpiece

Beauty Secrets 101: Caring for Stained Glass

Is Stained Glass for You?

Conclusion: Stained Glass for Your Home



Introduction – Stained Glass: More Than Meets the Eye

What We See

Drive by an old cathedral. Walk into a museum. Visit a national library. At any of these locations, you see stained glass. You are awed by it. Perhaps, it even slows your busy steps for a moment to admire it or wonder about its images.

Color streams into your eyes as light pours through well-crafted designs. While the beauty alone holds your attention, the story of each piece intrigues you. Architecture mixed with art and storytelling, stained glass windows and features often demand us to stop and take in the view.


What We Know

Typically, stained glass is associated with history. In fact, many real-life examples are seen among the medieval buildings in the world’s northern hemisphere. Perhaps this adds to the awe of its beauty. After all, these pieces were created without the modern technologies we now utilize. Still, new and modern takes on this ancient art bring it into the current century.

Not surprisingly, sheets of stained glass predominantly come from production within Europe and the United States. The process is painstaking. The years gone by and the advancement of tools has not eliminated the detail and precision required to create a lasting feature. Soldering together individual pieces of glass alone requires patience and the design knowledge before even getting to that production point is inspiring.

Stained glass at all begins with basic science. Silica sand and small amounts of soda ash and lime primarily comprise glass. While glass seems to be solid, its internal structure defies that of other solids. This quality earns it the reputation as a supercooled liquid. This is the foundation of stained glass.


What Stained Glass Is

Known as “illuminated wall decorations,” stained glass features take decor to a higher level. At their base level, these projects begin with glass colored by the addition of metallic salts during manufacturing to produce vibrant or soothing colors. Arranging small pieces of this material into patterns and images within windows, doors and even 3D art and sculpture, gives us what we now recognize as stained glass. Traditionally, strips of lead or cames hold the pieces together within a rigid frame for a lifetime of enjoyment.

Many of these beauties have withstood the elements and time since the later years of the Middle Ages. Western Europe boasts proud displays of this surviving pictorial art, and the craft is not relegated to reminiscence as it is still produced today. Also known as art glass in modern times, masterpieces old and new continue to delight.



Beyond Windows: Thinking Outside the Box

Many people identify stained glass on sight. Traditional halls of worship and education boast the most sightings. But, today, the use of this art expands to homes and more. Plus, its presence stretches beyond the window frame.


Traditional Buildings

Commonly used in churches, stained glass windows fill decorative and informative purposes. Many times the beautiful pieces come donated in honor of loved ones. A few significant examples include the Cathedral of Chartres in France, York Minster in England, Florence Cathedral in Italy and St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney, Australia.

Jewish temple architecture also provides stunning works of stained glass art. Again, these windows are dedicated by families with a significant financial donation. For inspiration, look at the Ten Commandments in the Congregation Anshei Chesed in New York.

Historically, stained glass has also graced the construction of institutions of learning, government and justice. The windows of the Hungarian room at the University of Pittsburgh, the Federal Palace in Switzerland and a metro station in Montreal offer stunning examples. Museums, funeral homes and hospital chapels offer other traditional opportunities for this craft to be put to use.


Nontraditional Buildings

Through the years, other institutions and buildings have come to embrace the beauty and statement of stained glass windows. Banks, retail shops and train stations may boast this art. And, even more mundane, offices, schools and restaurants display art glass windows.

Even zoos provide a juxtaposition between wildlife and refined art. Finally, libraries offer the quiet with which to view restful stained glass masterpieces as you study or read.


Modern Homes

Through time, the features of stained glass took a more personal spin, becoming part of home decor. Originally popular in Victorian homes, stained glass finds its way into many styles and eras of houses today. Prairie-style homes and the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright boast such pieces.

Also, these windows are not limited to one particular room. In the home, stained glass finds its way into kitchens, living rooms, attic rooms, bathrooms and entryways. One might even find these window features on porches or gazebos in the great outdoors. In truth, as Doctor Seuss might say, “They are here, there and anywhere.”


Beyond Windows

Transoms and interior windows give a slight twist to traditional stained glass installations. However, sculptures such as “The Four Seasons” in Australia offer inspiration that stained glass is not only for windows. And, modern design takes this art to new levels in the home.

Stained glass can be found in cabinet faces, hutch doors, fireplace covers, between-room features, hanging art, ceiling domes, skylights, doors, backsplashes and more. If you can dream it, art glass highlights it. And, this feature provides pop and personality to any space.


What Is the Attraction?

So, what is the pull of this colorful art? Why the draw to include it in buildings, institutions and (now) homes? The reasons seem as varied as the design options. Let’s consider a few.



The most obvious reason may be the beauty of stained glass. The mix of color and design intrigues the eye and touches the soul. Stained glass offers a stunning focal point or statement no matter its location.



Art glass increases the stand out features of your home. Home buyers look for these types of unique, original characteristics in a house. These features add value. In fact, one such window can mark a home’s value up five to fifteen percent.


Light Effects

The play of color as light pours through a stained glass panel bathes a room in magic. No matter our age, it seems we do not outgrow our fascination with illuminated color. Remember chasing the rays bouncing off surfaces as light bent through a prism in your childhood? Or, searching for a rainbow as the sunlight beamed through falling raindrops?



The options for modern stained glass are endless. Adding a pop of personality and unique design to any room proves an almost no-brainer. Plus, the ability to customize offers even greater versatility. The story a piece tells and the colors used give homeowners the freedom to display this feature anywhere.



A soft, oily cement known as mastic is forced between the glass and cames of a stained glass piece makes the finished work weatherproof. This ability to stand up to the elements (with a bit of care) brings longevity to this investment. One look at cathedral windows offers a glimpse as to the generations beyond who will enjoy the same art glass masterpiece for years to come.



Stained glass boasts privacy mixed with beauty rather than the coldness of a closed door or a shade drawn. This art allows light to filter in while keeping curious eyes out. And, for less desirable views beyond a window, an art glass design offers a better one.



With the trend of large, open living spaces, sometimes a little division is needed. A stained glass floating window or room divider allows light to keep the space feeling airy without lacking character and coziness. Plus, the feature can be moved elsewhere when desired.



Designing a stained glass piece allows you to get personal. Qualities of your family can be woven into the design. Creating art that uniquely expresses your personality or your family’s story leaves you with a treasured reflection.


Life Marker

Milestones mark our lives and provide meaning to our existence. Stained glass commemorates particularly special events such as marriages or people you choose to honor. Color and design come together in a piece which lets you tell this story again and again.



Stained glass pieces span the generations. The durability and longevity of art glass designs allow them to last, creating a legacy for family and those after you makes this investment priceless.


Type, Texture and Color, Oh My!

One search of this topic on the Internet overwhelms. The options for stained glass increase by mixing just three components of type, texture and color are endless. It’s no wonder why so many unique designs exist.


Glass Types

Traditionally, stained glass falls into two main categories: cathedral and opalescent. The clear glass option that offers views of the other side is called cathedral. On the other hand, opalescent stained glass does not allow you to see through the glass. Tiffany skillfully used this material.

Both types boast several options between them. Combinations of color and texture in each category offer consumers endless design possibilities. Translucent, streaky and wispy glass are just a few examples.


Glass Textures

Smooth glass delights the touch. But, several textures mix in stained glass work to tantalize the sight. For example, rough rolled and hammered products offer slight to dramatic, irregular patterns with ribbed and herringbone bringing peaceful uniformity. Baroque sheets swirl with heavy texture. And, the popular waterglass mimics water’s rippling effect.


Glass Color

The rainbow introduces the colors available in stained glass. The many types come in a range of color options. But, this is no surprise. After all, one glance at row upon row of art glass windows down the side of a Roman cathedral reveals the chromatic nature of this material.

Designs make use of varying degrees of hue to achieve the desired look. Glass offers the choice of full-on, vibrant color, partial color or minimal, subdued color. In the case of type, texture and color, a trained stained glass designer can assist you in creating a piece beyond your expectations.


Lead, Copper or Zinc

Came strips join cut pieces of glass together in this craft. These links can be made of lead, zinc, copper and even brass. Weight, size and project complexity determine the metal used in each design. Copper, zinc and brass offer greater rigidity, though metal-covered lead does the job as well in projects requiring more support. Design experts know the best materials for enduring projects.


Stained Glass Design Hints

Traditionally, the composure of a stained glass piece reflects its location and a theme or the whim of its designer. In the design, the window structure, nature and size of the glass and the technique must be considered. A few additional tips can assist you in creating a one-of-a-kind piece that you will love for a lifetime.


Avoiding Tacky

While vibrant color proves the hallmark of stained glass, garish design is not the goal. Carefully choosing subdued and bold colors along with a tasteful mix of texture combinations births a beautiful masterpiece. Limiting choices and guarding design themes produces beauty, not tacky results.


Sticking With Subdued Color

Bright, bold color awes in cathedrals. However, subdued color tends to work best in home designs. Pops of color highlight rather than distract from the pattern.


Preventing Overuse

Stained glass pieces offer unique beauty. The key word remains “unique.” A striking art glass door installed under a gorgeous stained glass attic window loses a little something. And, the sculpture on the foyer table offers limited impact. When making stained glass decisions, choose wisely and limit placement. In other words, let one or two pieces shine rather than dulling their impact with overuse.


Respecting Views

By nature, stained glass obscures the view beyond it. After all, beauty distracts. Keep this in mind when choosing a location for your masterpiece. For instance, a stained glass window works better in a front door or from a top two-story entry than it does in the kitchen where it blocks a gorgeous mountain view.


Salvaging Light

While stained glass obscures views, it also lets in light. Intentionally using such pieces in bathrooms or other areas where privacy is desired allows for natural light and keeps these often small places from feeling claustrophobic.


Installing a Stained Glass Masterpiece

The process of installing a quality stained glass masterpiece can be laid out in a few steps when consulting a professional.


Project Consultation

Working with professionals to design and install your stained glass piece involves an initial consultation. This meeting best occurs in your home or on the project site. Knowledgeable consultants provide information about stained glass and the details of a working relationship with their company.

The following aspects should be included in your first consultation:

  • Taking measurements and photos.
  • Presenting the products which best fit your desires and finances.
  • Determining the complexity of the project in collaboration.
  • Discussing the preliminary project design.
  • Estimating the proposed installation.


A written project proposal, including costs and timelines, details the meeting’s content. This plan ensures you and the design company are on the same page. Depending on the complexity of the project, the proposal could be immediate or may require a short timeframe to prepare.


Design Consultation

Once you approve and agree to move ahead with the proposal, a design consultant is assigned. Further discussions, job-site appointments and information, even photographs or images may be requested of you. These conversations and extras help the designer better understand your project and ensure your excitement over the finished product.

In developing a design draft, the consultant may get your input along the way. Once completed, you are invited to see the draft in a face-to-face design review which includes:

  • A full-size line drawing template.
  • The actual colors viewed on a light table.
  • Finalizing the color, texture, lead and bevel sections.
  • Approval of the design.


Now, you are ready to move into the exciting anticipation of production.



From the design draft, all materials are ordered through the project consultant. Your project is then scheduled for production by skilled craftspersons. Finally, your stained glass piece is fabricated, cleaned and inspected.



If the project requires placement into a fixture or frame before installation, this service begins after the stained glass piece is produced. Due to the custom nature of this process, it cannot begin prior to receiving the finished stained glass. Realistically, this assembly adds several weeks to production.



In all the waiting, you can calm your anticipation by preparing the area for installation. This may involve removing and clearing furniture or other objects from around the work area. Your project consultant may offer other ways to prepare for your unique piece. Patience always remains one such requirement. Beauty takes time. It will be worth it.



Finally, the call comes! Installation is scheduled. The day arrives and your new stained glass beauty arrives via delivery and is installed with care by professionals. Be sure to enjoy a few moments sitting with it after the work crew cleans up and leaves you.


Beauty Secrets 101: Caring for Stained Glass

For years of enjoyment, stained glass requires care and maintenance. Yet, the abundance of spectacular, centuries-old stained glass pieces in the world indicates that longevity is a hallmark of this art. Simple attention promises more than a lifetime of beauty.



For regular cleaning, a soft cloth is the answer. Microfiber cloth works well. Stained glass requires no more than dusting in your weekly routine. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.


Distilled Water

There are days when dusting alone does not seem thorough enough. Perhaps the stained glass has seen its share of years or weather. For those desiring a deeper clean, distilled water on a soft cloth gently cleans the surface. Distilled water is important to avoid streaks and spots. Dry the stained glass with another microfiber cloth to complete the process.


Types of Cleaners

But, for continued residue, you can safely take your cleaning another step further. The important qualities to look for in stained glass cleaners include:


  • Ammonia-free.
  • Vinegar-free.
  • Non-abrasive.
  • pH-neutral.


Cleaners which fit these qualities include Seventh Generation Natural Dish Liquid, Ecover’s All Purpose Cleaner, and Method Daily Granite or Window Wash.

A soft cloth well wrung works well again. Firm pressure that does not pose a cracking risk can be applied. And, a damp cotton swab cleans edges and corners. Again, be sure to choose distilled water for a more gentle clean. Finally, apply product to the cloth first and not directly to the stained glass piece.


Things to Avoid

Let’s review a few things to avoid.


  • Over-cleaning.
  • Too much pressure.
  • Ammonia.
  • Vinegar.
  • Abrasive cleaners and cloths.
  • Acidic products.


For cleaning jobs beyond the scope of distilled water or gentle cleaners, a professional may be required. Taking chances with unfamiliar products or home repair causes undue damage to stained glass. Consult a professional for areas of uncertainty to maintain the beauty and longevity of your piece.



Caring for your stained glass also requires watching for needed repairs. Over time, depending on the location and exposure of your stained glass, some problems may present themselves. Addressing these issues promptly avoids damage to your masterpiece. Some clues to repairs include:


  • Breaks or cracks in the glass.
  • Loose or falling out glazing from the lead came.
  • Wobble of the glass.
  • Shrinking wood doors and sashes.



Is Stained Glass for You?

The facts are in. Images and ideas swim in your mind. How do you know if a stained glass feature is right for your home?


Consider Location

Look around your home. Take a walk within its walls at differing times of the day. As you do, consider these questions:


  • Is there an area where sunlight flows naturally to highlight this feature?
  • Are there rooms in the home requiring privacy in an attractive way or without blocking light?
  • Is there a less than attractive view I desire to improve?
  • Do I have an event or person I desire to remember or honor?
  • Is a focal point or statement needed in my entryway, kitchen or elsewhere?



Assess Budget

As with all projects, considering your budget is vital. Be sure to gather your facts by talking with a professional to accurately determine your financial ability to take on this project. Also, stained glass’s complexity and size effect its price. Before you dream up a brilliant idea, be sure it fits your budget.


Consult a Designer

A designer helps transform all these black and white words into vibrantly colored reality. Consulting a designer brings a realistic and budget-conscious dream into view. He or she helps find the perfect fit between you and a stained glass feature.



Conclusion: Stained Glass for Your Home

Stained glass color, texture and design options open doors for an art glass project in your home. Whether you look to create beauty, make a statement, add value or guard privacy, stained glass gives it to you.

The front door, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and living room provide the perfect place to host a stained glass masterpiece for generations to come.  This personal expression of you, your family or someone you love builds a unique feature into your home.

Imagine waking to early morning light streaming through an art glass portal in your master bath. Picture yourself sipping coffee beneath a unique transom above the kitchen French doors. Maybe you see yourself opening your home to guests through a spectacular stained glass window embedded in your front door. Or, once again, you share the story behind this custom piece of family history gracing your family room.

No matter the project you are dreaming up, stained glass offers a unique statement in it.

RWC works with SGO Designer Glass of West Caldwell along with you to create one-of-a-kind stained glass masterpieces. Practical works of art which you can enjoy for years and which others cherish for generations prove a beautiful investment. Contact RWC today to speak with a design consultant and get started on your project.

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