Throughout history, stained-glass windows have served a purpose by telling a story or setting a room’s mood. But they don’t work in just any home or building.”Strong architectural elements are needed for stained-glass windows to feel right and natural,” says Douglas Newby of Douglas Newby and Associates. “Otherwise they can appear as conspicuous ornamentation.”
Intricate brickwork, grand entries and soaring rooflines are often the ideal complement for elaborately designed stained-glass windows.
Early architects understood this need for proportion and scale.
During the Dark and Middle Ages stained-glass windows were created for cathedrals and churches, often the most important buildings in a village. Initially, they were used for lighting and to inspire an illiterate population with stories about the life of Christ. Over time, the wealthier classes began including the windows in their homes to display heraldic symbols, such as family crests, and as decorative items, rather than the religious themes of earlier times.
The decorative style of stained-glass windows reached its height during the late Victorian period and the early 20th century. In the U.S., John La Farge and Louis Comfort Tiffany, two of the most famous Art Nouveau designers, created windows that depicted elaborate and brightly colored scenes from nature.
In the 1880s through the 1920s, architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed Prairie-style homes, expanding the possibilities for stained-glass window design. He introduced “light screens,” windows with rectilinear, non-figurative themes colored solely with earthen tones, for his buildings.
Almost all of these styles have influenced stained-glass windows in North Texas.
In Dallas during the early 20th century, architects Clifford Hutsell, Henry Thomson and Hugh Prather, among others, accented their grand homes with jewel-toned windows.
Mr. Hutsell is well-known for his elaborate Spanish Colonial-style homes in the Lakewood area that often included large stained-glass windows with intricate scenes, such as ships at sea.
“The Spanish Colonial style was popular in Beverly Hills at the time,” Mr. Newby says. “Hutsell homes have a lot of detail and color, with tiled roofs and whimsical detailing.”
The homes designed by architects Mr. Thomson and Mr. Prather also included the colorful windows but their style was more subdued to match a more tailored style of architecture. Examples of these homes are along Swiss Avenue and in Highland Park.
Following WWII, the popularity of building homes with stained glass waned in Dallas until the 1970s, when people again began to appreciate the craftsmanship of homes built during the early part of the 20th century.
According to Steve Thompson, who has been repairing existing windows and creating new designs in the Dallas area for more than 30 years, “owners of those older homes have been becoming more interested in repairing what they have” over the past decade.
“But more of our work is creating windows for custom homes that are built in a period style. Usually the homes are Tudor or Gothic style but occasionally we see Italian- and Mediterranean-style homes,” he says.
For many custom homes, Mr. Thompson and his team interpret the heraldic styles of older periods. “People like to see their family crest,” he says.
Mr. Thompson is currently working on a Spanish Colonial Revival home with more than 100 stained-glass windows. Many are from the studio of Roger MacIntosh, an important stained-glass designer working in the Southwest during the early part of the 20th century. For the owners, Mr. Thompson is designing a 12-by-5-foot heraldic window that mimics the MacIntosh style.
Stained-glass window styling isn’t limited to designs from past centuries. Since the mid-2000s, Mr. Thompson has created Modernist designs for contemporary-style homes in the area. “Many of the designs are geometric or flowing panes of color,” he says.