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Living in Color: Homes Designed with Stained Glass

Luxury Defined explores the many moods of stained glass as an architectural element in five enchanting 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.” Nearly 1,000 years later, the beauty of stained glass still captures the imagination, but its use and value have found more earthly realms. In the 19th century, John La Farge and Louis Comfort Tiffany transmuted the stained glass aesthetic with opalescence, jewel-like colors and sinuous, sometimes sensual forms. Modernist master Frank Lloyd Wright harnessed the visible beauty of light, creating more than 4,000 of his bold, geometric “light screens” simply to imbue his interiors with warm, autumnal light. Here, we present five extravagant yet elegant homes in which stained glass reveals its many moods. Wright, Tiffany, La Farge—perhaps even Suger—would approve.

St George’s in Killiney, Co. Dublin, Ireland

St Georges in Killiney, County Dublin, is a Gothic Revival mansion designed by 19th-century Irish architect George Coppinger Ashlin. The stately red brick mansion is notable for its steep and varied tiled roofs, conical tower, private chapel, and extensive use of bespoke stained glass windows, depicting the architect’s family crest, and religious and historical motifs.

St George’s is a towered and gabled Gothic Revival mansion secluded behind high stone walls and hedgerows on Saint Georges Avenue in Killiney, County Dublin. Built in the late 1870s by noted Irish architect George Coppinger Ashlin, the house is a tribute to Irish Gothic Revival and the Arts and Crafts movements. The fine period details have all been beautifully preserved, from the pitch pine beams, molded ribs and panelling, Portland Stone fireplaces, polished wood floors, and multi-panelled doors to the timber staircase, with its solid oak handrail and pitch pine detailing St Brigid’s cross shapes. Another notable feature is the extensive use of bespoke stained glass, depicting the architect’s family crests and historical notations. Beyond the main entrance is the inner hall, with its Portland Stone inset and Arts and Crafts tiles. The main drawing room has twin canted bays, a conservatory (an early 20th addition), and French doors out to a lawned garden. The dining room, at the front of the house, captures views of Killiney Bay through a canted, stained glass bay window. The kitchen, clad in European Oak, has a breakfast room and butler’s pantry. The oratory is an intimate space for meditation, with dark Pitch Pine panelling, timber vaulted ceiling, and a jewel-like stained glass window. The upper floor, accessed via staircase and elevator, houses five principal bedrooms, including the luxurious main suite, with access to the east-facing terrace. A secondary staircase rises to the square tower room, an oasis of calm with timber walls and a beamed ceiling. A miniature spiral stone stair in the corner turret offers access the roof for breathtaking views of the bay. St Georges has a majestic setting on just over an acre of lawned gardens graced with Monterey cypress, magnolia, ash, and black pine trees.

Manorial Villa in Fiesole, Florence, Italy

A resplendent stained glass skylight above a marble staircase is just one of the magnificent details in this 14th-century villa in the hills above Florence.

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 family (a dynasty of aristocratic 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 beautiful frescoes, coffered ceilings, and monumental stone fireplaces. The highlight is a marble staircase ornamented with stucco reliefs and gold leaf and 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 20 minutes’ drive.

Henderson Castle and Vineyard in Kalamazoo, Michigan

Henderson Castle, a circa-1895 Queen Anne mansion in downtown Kalamazoo, abounds with ornate period details. The pièce de résistance is the grand ballroom, with its marble floors, crystal chandeliers, and ornate, leaded and stained glass windows.

Henderson Castle has been a Michigan landmark since 1895. The ivy-clad brick Queen Anne, a quintessential Victorian manse, takes pride of place on West Main Hill overlooking downtown Kalamazoo. It was built by architect C. A. Gombert for Kalamazoo businessman Frank Henderson at a cost of $72,000, a fortune in its day. The exterior was constructed of Lake Superior sandstone and brick. Exotic woods, such as mahogany, bird’s eye maple, quartered oak, birch, and American sycamore, graced the castle’s 25 grandly appointed rooms. Among them, seven bathrooms (one with a thirteen-head shower) and a grand ballroom. Today, Henderson Castle Boutique Inn is owned by French chef Francois Moyet and is ranked as the top historical inn in Michigan by AAA. It’s been completely renovated throughout, retaining its splendid antique details, including the ballroom, with its marble floors, crystal chandeliers, and leaded and stained glass windows. Modern updates include fiber optic accents, a sauna, steam room, and rooftop hot tub, as well as three private acres with a vineyard and wine tasting room.

Tara Hall in Howth, Dublin, Ireland 

Tara Hall is an architectural landmark on Dublin’s beautiful Howth Peninsula. Built in 1820, the grand, three story manor house has retained its original Regency details. Of particular note is a polychromatic dome of stained glass, filtering light to the 200-year-old doors of the four en suite main bedrooms which occupy each corner of the house.

The enigmatic Regency residence known as Tara Hall is perhaps the most iconic house on Howth’s northern slopes and surely its most dramatically positioned. This grand, three story manor house is perched above a stretch of vertiginous, craggy shoreline on Balscadden’s picturesque cliff road, which winds steeply up from Howth Harbour. The views are extraordinary, taking in Balscadden Bay and Howth’s east pier, Ireland’s Eye, Lambay Island, the mountains of Mourne, North Dublin’s golden chain of estuaries and strands, and the Irish Sea beyond. The architecture of Tara Hall exemplifies refined elegance, a guiding aesthetic of the Regency style. The double-fronted villa has wonderful projecting bays aligned symmetrically north and south. The upper house has six large window openings on each of its four façades, neatly stacked three over three, providing a 180-degree panorama of sea and sky from the eight corner rooms. The garden level also has several large windows. The symmetry continues inside the fine lantern style entrance porch, which opens to an opulent central hall and into the principal reception rooms. The centerpiece of the house is the interconnecting drawing and dining room, a lavish entertainment suite with a triple aspect, bringing in the light and the jaw-dropping sea views. Enhancing the space are high ceilings, original stucco plasterwork, a marble chimneypiece, and French doors that open to a spectacular terrace above the waves. A handcrafted mahogany staircase leads to the first-floor landing. Above is a polychromatic dome of stained glass, which filters colored light to four upstairs bedrooms at each corner of the house. An additional bedroom occupies the upper floor of the northern bay. Completing the picture are Tara Hall’s dramatic cliff-top gardens: 984 feet of sloped lawns and terraces with a picturesque backdrop of old masonry and engulfing seascape.

Arts and Crafts-Style Mansion in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

This historic home overlooking Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park is a fine example of British Arts and Crafts architecture. The stucco and half-timbered façade, with its large, corbelled chimneys and recessed sleeping porch, encloses light-filled interiors with stained glass windows, decorative fireplaces, and hardwood floors.

This circa-1907 mansion is the last of the great houses on south Douglas Street. Designed by noted architect Samuel Maclure in 1907, the striking two-story house is exemplary of the British Arts and Crafts movement, with its detailed gables, corbelled brick chimneys, and sleeping porch. All the windows are multi-lights over one main window, stained glass adds a decorative flourish of color and light. Monumental fireplaces, hand-carved wood finishes, and hardwood floors add to the Old World ambience. This grand heritage home was divided into five units in 1945, and then further developed in 1991, when the present owner, a master craftsman, added a coach house to the property. Two of the units have two bedrooms with generous living spaces. The other three have one bedroom with the potential for expansion. The coach house is a lovely addition with a top-floor apartment. The ground floor is a garage/workshop, but could be converted into additional accommodation, an office, studio, or recreation space. The home has a prime location facing Beacon Hill Park. Downtown Victoria is a 15-minute stroll.