Why You Should Be Decorating With Stained Glass

The look can be incorporated into so many styles.

Stained glass in the living room of a Bellport, New York, house designed by architect Chris Fogarty.
Howie Guja

We know what you're thinking: Stained glass looks great in churches and…actually, just churches. But the charming material is having a modern resurgence in popularity. A Tiffany lamp sold for just over $3 million last month at auction, and when A-list design firm Roman & Williams revamped New York’s Ace Hotel—arguably the city’s coolest hangout—they maintained an original stained glass ceiling instead of ripping it out. Plus, Brooklyn artist Tom Fruin has made a career of creating contemporary stained glass installations around the world. Consider this our official argument for using it throughout your home.

Tom Fruin's stained glass installation in The Jackson, a condo building designed by architectural firm Fogarty Finger in Long Island City, New York.
Tom Fruin's stained glass installation in The Jackson, a condo building designed by architectural firm Fogarty Finger in Long Island City, New York.
Alexander Severin

Of course, incorporating stained glass in residential interiors isn't exactly a new fad. Frank Lloyd Wright loved putting what he called "light screens" in homes like Buffalo's Darwin Martin House. There, he created 400 geometric compositions meant to evoke trees, wisteria, and other natural forms originally found on the property. When you see how the colored glass refracts and transmits sunlight in various patterns throughout the space, it's easy to see why Wright preferred them to regular old windowpanes—and why lots of other aesthetes are getting in on the current resurgence.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Martin House Tree of Life stained glass window
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Tree of Life light screen.
Courtesy of Frank Lloyd Wright's Martin House | Photograph by Biff Henrich

London-based illustrator Chrissie MacDonald began accepting commissions for her stained-glass pieces after receiving all kinds of compliments on her artful take on the practice, a Pop-Art interpretation that’s anything but fusty. Los Angeles musician-turned-artist David Scheid has spent the last few years building a reputation as the city's go-to stained glass designer for both residential and retail locations.

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Chris Fogarty of New York firm Fogarty Finger also makes a strong argument for incorporating stained glass in an updated way. When the architect purchased what he calls a "crazy old" Queen Anne house in Bellport, New York, he was determined to somehow maintain the home's stained glass windows, which were an amber color with a rainbow array of other glass mixed in. "The windows were kind of chaotic," he remembers.

Stained glass in the living room of a Bellport, New York, house designed by architect Chris Fogarty.
Stained glass in the living room of architect Chris Fogarty’s Bellport, New York, house.
Howie Guja

So he did what any modernist with an appreciation for historical resonance might, replacing the middle amber panel with clear glass and moving and coordinating the colored pieces with paint finishes in each room so that the spaces felt more orderly and thoughtful. It wasn't necessarily an easy fix—there are more than 50 kinds of stained glass in the house, so "you have to go through layers of decision and knowledge," as he puts it—but the result is worth the effort. "You can see why people buy Marvin windows—they just come and you're done with it—but stained glass has so much character," Fogarty says.

What say you?

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