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Selecting the Perfect Transom and Sidelites

by Rachel Lyon, Editorial Director for The House Designers®

A beautiful entry makes an impact, so if there’s an opportunity to brighten and style it with something that draws the eye, it’s good policy to take it. A sidelite or two can completely change the look of the front door, and a transom window above is a great way to allow natural light into the foyer. There are also different types of glass to suit every kind of architecture, so here are some tips to help you decide how best to dress up the front door!

Therma-Tru Doors Classic-Craft Canvas Collection

This Classic-Craft® Canvas Collection® solid panel door is all about asymmetry with a single sidelite that features Low-E glass and transom window that push the entrance off-center. The visual difference between the solid painted door and totally clear glass further defines this entry as bold and modern.

Asymmetrical Modern Entries

The underlying theme in modern design is an emphasis on clean lines and shapes. Whether it’s a building or a piece of art, its structure should speak for itself without much in the way of embellishment. For entry doors, that concept puts a focus on the types and the positions of any lites included in the design, and there is a clear preference for configurations that shift attention with asymmetry. Single sidelites are a popular choice as well as narrow doorlites closer to one edge of the door, which can be used when there isn’t enough space to include a real sidelite. Transom windows are less commonly seen in modern applications than traditional ones, but they can add something extra when used in a way that stays true to the style.

Glass should be simple. You can’t go wrong with plain and privacy glass types that put emphasis on the lite shapes and positions themselves. For more oomph, look into decorative glass specifically designed for modern styles that make use of simple linear and geometric patterns; they typically add to the asymmetrical aesthetic and instill a more specific personality to the entry—for instance, to make it fit an exterior design inspired by the Southwest. Once you start considering glass types with curved lines, the final result will be decidedly eclectic, so be aware of that before committing.

Therma-Tru Doors Pulse

On a home that draws inspiration from Eastern design, a Pulse® Linea entry door with a sidelite on the opposite side strikes a balance that is very unique, clean, and chic. The Satin Etch privacy glass used here obscures the view and allows plenty of light inside, resulting in a shimmery look in the sun.

Balanced Rustic and Transitional Entries

While not necessarily perfectly symmetrical, a balanced entry has an even and more coherent feel to it. Architecture that fills in the spectrum between contemporary and traditional design can take many forms, so there are no hard and fast rules to build a fitting entry. Just think of a simple farm house versus a heavily decorated Craftsman, or a Mediterranean home that merges old and new concepts. They look nothing alike, but they might use similar entry configurations and make their style statements with a suitable decorative glass.

See what you have to work with first—is there enough room for a full setup, or will you have to settle for a single sidelite and forgo the transom? Most homes look fantastic with two sidelites flanking the door, and it’s perhaps the easiest arrangement to imagine. Adding a transom window will give the entry a formal feel. If there’s only enough space for one sidelite, try to balance the overall look with a doorlite; it can be thin and opposite the sidelite or span the width of the door—the former adds some modern flair while the latter appears more traditional. There is sure to be a configuration that works no matter the type of house or your goals.

Therma-Tru Doors Classic-Craft Oak Collection

A painted Classic-Craft® Oak Collection entry shows off its underlying grain pattern for classic, old-fashioned appeal. With Provincial decorative glass in, around, and above the door, this is definitely a high-impact configuration suited to architecture defined by grand style and that focuses on the finer details.

Ornate Traditional Entries

Traditional architecture is characterized by grand style and attention to detail. European, colonial, and Victorian houses are all good examples, and each has its own aesthetic to keep in mind. A French country or Spanish home is likely to include an entry with decorative glass that uses wrought iron while a delicate and complicated design with caming is perfect for a Victorian, and the quintessential colonial is concerned with total symmetry first and foremost. When choosing an entry configuration for any of these architectural styles, it’s best to go in one of two directions: broad, formal double doors or a single door with two sidelites and a transom.

If you opt for the double doors to go for the most symmetrical look, you’ll have to rely on doorlites to add glass, as the entry would be blown out of proportion with sidelights and a transom on top of that. A single door decked out with all the trimmings is the natural choice for most homes, though, as it looks great no matter where the entry is located or how wide the house is. Be sure to carefully select a glass design that matches, because there will be a lot of it influencing the façade.

If you’re in the market for a remarkable entry system, explore the diverse collections available from Therma-Tru® Doors! They have woodgrained and smooth doors that are suitable for staining and painting, a wide variety of doorlite, sidelite, and transom shapes to suit every kind of home, and numerous types of privacy and decorative glass to top it all off. Try their DoorWays™ App to configure an entry directly on an image of a house to ensure you love the final look and put you in contact with a dealer who can help you make it a reality!