Living room with stained glass windows in Boston, MA
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Living in Color: 5 Homes Designed with Stained Glass

Luxury Defined explores the many moods of stained glass as an architectural element in six elegant homes

Abbot Suger, the 12th-century patron of stained glass, believed that light was the portal to heaven. On completion of his Gothic masterwork, the abbey church of Saint Denis, he wrote: “Through palpable, visible beauty, the soul is elevated to that which is truly beautiful.”

In the late 19th century, Louis Comfort Tiffany transmuted the stained-glass aesthetic with opalescence, jewel-like colors and sinuous, sensual forms best known today in his opulent lamps and painterly leaded-glass windows. Then came the modernist master Frank Lloyd Wright, creating more than 4,000 of his bold, geometric “light screens” simply to imbue his interiors with warm, autumnal light.

Here, we present six extravagant yet elegant homes in which stained glass reveals its many moods. First among them is the Ayer Mansion in Boston, Massachusetts—the last remaining home designed by Tiffany himself.

And so, nearly 1,000 years after Abbot Suger’s masterwork, the beauty of stained glass still captures the imagination, but its use and value have found more earthly realms.

Living room with stained glass windows in Boston, MA

In the late 19th century, Louis Comfort Tiffany’s design firm was uniquely American and ubiquitous: Tiffany crafted mosaics, chandeliers, vases, jewelry, glassware, pottery, metalwork, and furniture for both the fashionable and the mass market.

Tiffany & Co. had created interior designs and decor for the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut, and for the White House—at the insistence of President Chester A. Arthur. Inevitably, Tiffany’s artistic vision expanded to the design of entire structures. The Ayer Mansion is the only such example standing today.

Designated a National Historic Landmark in 2005, its five-story pale granite façade confronts the Boston streetscape as vividly today as at its unveiling in 1902. Nearly all its original elements remain: The great hall commands the eye, with its tall fireplace, vaulted ceiling, and the imperial staircase under a proscenium arch of glittering Tiffany-glass mosaic tiles. At the top of the first landing (visible from the foot of the stairs), a glass-mosaic trompe l’oeil of a Greek temple reflects unusual depth and light. The columns are semi-transparent glass backed by gold foil, giving the appearance of a rising sun.

Other magnificent details include opalescent glass and shimmering mosaics throughout, vast copper-clad double doors, and bow-front windows with stained-glass panels.

The current owners have created plans, permits, and renderings to reimagine the property as a six-bedroom, 13-bathroom single-family home, including a primary suite with a walk-in closet and private terrace, as well as a self-contained in-law suite. There will be elegant living and dining rooms, galleries, a salon, formal first-floor parlor, fourth-floor lounge, a fifth-floor sky parlor, a terrace, and a roof deck with views of the Boston skyline.

The conceptual redesign will also include a wine room, study and two offices, a fitness center with spa, wet bars, kitchens, three pantries, entrances on Commonwealth Avenue and Marlborough Street, a three-car garage and off-street parking.

Home Entryway in Paris, FranceSeine Valley Home in Paris, France

This bright and airy circa-1898 Haussmannian manor house is secluded within 12 acres of wooded grounds in the picturesque town of Saint-Germain-en-Laye in the Seine Valley, just west of Paris.

Herringbone parquet floors, intricate moldings, wood-panelled walls, stained- glass windows, and antique fireplaces grace the reception areas, including the grand entrance hall, and a living room opening to a south-facing terrace.

Contemporary updates include the chef’s kitchen and dazzling bathrooms as well as new plumbing and electrical systems. The garden level is dedicated to the recreation room, Jacuzzi, storage and utility rooms. The principal suite is on the third floor with three guest rooms adjoining. Three bedrooms are on the top floor along with a shower room, powder room, study/library, and attic space.

The south-facing wooded grounds are traversed by a stream. It is sold with maintenance equipment for the grounds including a tractor. Several ancillary structures include the former stables and a caretaker’s lodge, which require renovation. This enchanting estate also includes an oratory, an original 19th-century grotto, and a children’s playground.

3. 16th-Century Château in Auch, Gers, France 

Countryside manor with stained glass windows in Auch, Gers, FranceCountryside manor in Auch, Gers, France

This château in the Gers department of southwestern France has a private, hilltop setting on nearly 60 acres, with far-reaching views of the Gascony countryside and the Pyrenees. The château was built in the early 19th century, but buildings have occupied the site since the 16th century.

At the entrance, automated gates open to a long driveway through post-and-rail-fenced paddocks bordered by mature trees. An extensive, sympathetic renovation of the main floors melds the magnificent period details with all the refinements for 21st-century family living.

Among the splendid period details are parquet flooring and tiling, ornate carved wooden ceilings, and tapestries gracing the walls. Light streams into the central hall through a magnificent stained-glass skylight. Double doors lead into a foyer with a carved wooden staircase rising to two upper floors housing the private quarters.

The hall leads to several reception rooms (all with marble fireplaces and double-aspect windows) including a piano room, a formal lounge with French doors out to a garden terrace, a dining room, and wood-panelled library. An office, family room, sitting room, and vast gourmet kitchen with a log-burning hearth round out the main level. A staircase leads down to the temperature-controlled wine cellar as well as storage and service areas.

Outside are several converted outbuildings, including a guest house, or gîte, and a pavilion with an indoor pool, steam room, sauna, Jacuzzi, and fitness room. The grounds are a private sanctuary of woodland, formal gardens, a vegetable garden, paddocks, a dog run, and terraces for lounging and alfresco dining.

4. Whitefish Mountain Estate in Flathead County, Montana 

Mountain Home in Whitefish, Montana Mountain Home in Whitefish, Montana Mountain Home in Whitefish, Montana

A rambling, 10,000-square-foot lodge-style home crowns this private, 80-acre estate on Montana’s Whitefish Mountain, with panoramic views of Whitefish Lake, the Mission Mountains, and the city of Whitefish.

The reception spaces evoke the grandeur of the Old West with timber beams, wide-plank wood floors, and stained-glass windows and door panels. The great room is warmed by a massive fieldstone hearth.

Adjacent is a formal dining room, also with a fireplace, and an elegant music room. The saloon-style bar offers a billiards lounge and poker rooms. There are five bedrooms, five full bathrooms, and two half bathrooms in the main house. A detached guest cottage offers an additional three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

There’s also a caretaker’s cottage and several outbuildings, including stables and garages. The property is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts with a spring-fed fishing pond and nature trails through the aspen and pines. Whitefish Lake and Whitefish Mountain Resort are just a few minutes away.

5. Manorial Villa in Fiesole, Florence, Italy

Stained glass window in Florence, ItalyHistoric estate with stained glass windows in Florence, ItalyHistoric estate with stained glass windows in Florence, Italy

This manorial villa is surrounded by 30 acres in the hills above Florence. Built in the 14th-century, the palatial main residence was home to the Strozzi dynasty of Florentine merchants for over five centuries.

The current owner bought the property in 2001 and restored the house, ancillary structures, and gardens to their original splendor. The unique architectural details include a tower with a pediment clock. Below the clock face is a plaque inscribed with verses from Italian poet Clemente Bondi’s poem L’Orologio.

The interiors are graced with frescoes, coffered ceilings, and monumental stone fireplaces. The highlight is a marble staircase ornamented with stucco reliefs and gold leaf, crowned with a stained-glass skylight. There are a total of 25 bedrooms and 20 bathrooms between the main villa and three separate dwellings: the coachman’s quarters, lemon house, and farmer’s house.

The grounds are composed of Italian formal gardens, wooded parkland, and a 40-foot-long pool, with panoramic views of cypress-clad hills, Florence’s rooftops, and Brunelleschi’s Dome. The city center is just a 20-minute drive.