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Historic Front Door Details: Transom, Sidelight and Fanlight Door

Historic Front Door Details: Transom, Sidelight and Fanlight Door

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September 9, 2010

Front doors on historic or vintage homes are often dressed up with the use of different panels of glass called fanlights, sidelights and transoms. Even if you don't own a historic home, you can add some pizazz to your front entryway by using these old architectural details to your front door.

Fanlight Door

A fanlight door is a window above or on the door that is semi-circular. It can be plain glass or more ornate with radius work and detail--the idea is that the window looks like an open fan. This type of front door detail was typical of urban row houses in the mid-1700s. It is also found in houses that are Classical and Colonial Revival styles.


This front door detail consists of framed small glass panels on each side of a door. The purpose of sidelights are decorative, but they also help bring in natural light into a historic home's typically dark foyer. Sidelights can be used in combination with a fanlight or transom. This type of architectural front door style became popular after the American Revolution.


These small windows are located right above a door. Originally, the purpose of these small rectangular windows was to let in natural light and air into a home. Today, most transom windows created above a home's front door is strictly decorative and cannot be opened (but still serve the purpose of letting in light). This is a Victorian era architectural detail that is also found in Federal and Georgian-style homes.

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