Hallway:  Corridor & hallway by John Toates Architecture and Design

Transom windows: a useful design element

SHILPI CHAKRAVARTY SHILPI CHAKRAVARTY
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A transom window is positioned directly above the horizontal top frame of a window or door. Transom windows have been employed as key architectural elements since long. When ceilings were higher and heating & cooling systems more rudimentary, transom windows formed an integral part of a home's ventilation system. Commonly seen in historical styles, mostly in New Orleans homes, transom windows are valued for their flexibility in design. According to their specific application, they are usually installed to allow for more luminosity into a room, for better airflow, or simply to create a unique aesthetic. Be it for light & ventilation in bathroom or for letting in extra sunny warmth into the cozy bedroom, transom windows offer numerous appealing possibilities. Contemporary housing uses transom windows mostly for decorative purposes and oftentimes these windows are fixed in place. Nevertheless, they can be installed to open with a casement hinge.

Transoms became more popular after being installed in spaces wherein an intricate style/ shape of the door met another crosswise architectural element. In some cases, these windows work as a conduit between the door & the eaves above. A large number of professional experts consider transom windows among the most utilitarian decorative architectural detail. Read more details about these windows in this article… … .

Modern transom windows.

Modern transom windows, also known as transom lights, are chiefly meant to complement the architectural style of a home. However, some offer a good ventilation option as well. With height ranging from a few inches to a couple of feet, modern transoms boast of a width normally spanning that of the door & any additional sidelights. While many transoms are rectangular, arched transoms, also called fanlights, are popular choices to dress up pass-through doorways in interior walls & for exterior entryways.

For those looking to add this charming architectural detail in their newly designed modern home, stock transom windows are available to fit standard door widths. Alternately they can also be ordered specially to fit custom sizes. Depending upon the space available and the most tasteful looking option in hand, the size of transom windows can be decided. Small transom windows are fast catching up of late, owing to convenience of size.

Exterior and interior transom windows.

modern Conservatory by Vale Garden Houses
Vale Garden Houses

Orangery with Bronze Casements

Vale Garden Houses

Oftentimes sold as a part of an entire door system, exterior transom windows are simpler to install. Because these windows are manufactured as a single sealed unit, they offer added weather protection. Although insect hassles & weather concerns make operable exterior transom models comparatively less popular these days, if you must have one, it is a good idea to go for a motorized window which can be opened & closed via a wall-mounted control panel. Some high-end units with moisture sensors are also available, that automatically close the window if it starts raining.

Interior transom windows recreate that nostalgic look while enhancing the feeling of openness between rooms- a welcome effect that makes a living space appear larger. These windows are available in both non-operable and operable options. The non- operable ones are mostly fixed & purely decorative in purpose. 

An interior transom can also be employed to divide an otherwise open room into 2 distinct functional spaces, for example—transom between a kitchen & dining room. These windows can also be positioned above interior doors to allow the flow of natural light between rooms, something very commonly seen in farmhouse-style dwellings.

Transom windows- practical & stylish.

Many times, lead glass transoms are used as embellishments. But with proper hardware, they can be easily made super-functional, swiveling backward/ forward to facilitate good air flow. This bedroom has its fair share of transoms for added illumination & warmth to create a more comfy ambiance.

Modern architecture offers a number of examples of ventilating transoms sitting most often in spa-like bathrooms. Located all the way up near the ceiling, this chic detail brings in diffused light for beauty as well as function while also ventilating this most-of-the-time moisture-laden space.

Classy transom windows: some significant pointers.

modern Conservatory by Style Within
Style Within

Side return extensions

Style Within

There are indeed very few architectural structures & details that have survived centuries of technological advancements & passing trends like transoms have. Whether it is transom windows over doors or other windows, this style has survived since its introduction in 14th century Europe when homeowners appreciated that an opening over an entrance would be high enough to avoid any prying eyes while allowing for a glimpse of the sky & some fresh air. Improvement in style & functionality came about with the development of leaded glass followed by sheet glass as well as hinges & iron bars to make it easier to operate the windows. Although transoms were out of fashion in the 1970s & 1980s, present day home-owners are rediscovering how these windows help inject an original touch to a space alongside adding in a little more natural light.

Starting cost for transoms is under US$100 for non-operable vinyl, aluminum or wood frames, and it gets pricier for operable or intricately designed ones. In some models, cladding is offered over a wood frame- this adds to the cost of exterior transoms AND also to essential weatherproofing; these oftentimes boast of a better quality and can go upto hundreds of dollars. For new residential constructions, it is not unusual to pay in thousands for a design which includes a door, sidelights & transom- all within a single sealed unit. 

Though installation varies according to the door & ceiling height, interior/ exterior wall, and weight-bearing scenario, the standard procedure for incorporating a transom is to do away with the drywall and/or exterior cladding above the door, and then remove a section of wall studs so as to re-frame that very section for accommodating the new addition. Once the window is set, a new drywall is installed on that section. For an exterior wall, the exterior cladding is then replaced. The last step is to install the window trim. It is important to make sure that the transom window is a structural fit to your home and not simply an unsightly decorative piece. High ceilings are more suited to transoms as compared to the standard 8 foot ceilings, although a couple of narrow window models may fit in over doorways in the typical non-load bearing interior partition walls. But, it is crucial to carefully determine the rough-in framing space needed for that specific model. Load bearing walls may need opening up of the entire wall section to change the framing & add more structural support, so it is advisable to seek professional help in choosing a transom window for an existing wall. Once you know the style & specifications of transoms most suited for your home, you can customize it further to your preferences.

Want something more for your windows? Here are some innovative ideas. And if you are looking for some professional guidance on home inspiration, homify free consultation is where you will find all your answers!

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