It's no surprise that when most people think about stained glass, they envision gothic church windows or a classic 1800s Victorian with stained glass windows installed as a way to personalize a residence.
These are the most notable and traditional types of displays that give a nod to the history of stained glass, but modern times are influencing fresh, new ways to display this unique art form. But in today's world, stained glass is no longer just a window in a historic home.
In the same way that someone chooses a painting to hang on their wall, stained glass is an art form and an expression of personal preference. But unlike a painting, stained glass art offers a constantly changing palette and mood depending on the light of day. As such, displaying stained glass deserves a well thought out and creative plan.
Hang Your Stained Glass Art In Front of a Window
The most ideal and iconic way to display a stained glass piece is to hang it in front of a light-filled window. The light that shines through it will look fantastic and will vary in color and intensity as the light changes throughout the day.
An added bonus of hanging a piece in a light-filled window is that the light will "throw" colored shadows around the room.
Frame Your Stained Glass Art
The same way the perfect frame can enhance the beauty of a painting, framing a stained glass panel adds interest and compliments the beauty of the glass. I love stained glass panels that are installed in old wooden window frames. Old window frames suggest a past era when windows were traditionally installed as a fixture in the home but provides the freedom to display glass art as a freestanding piece.
Although window frames can be stripped and refinished, I'm in favor of leaving the old, chippy paint in tact as well as the original window hardware. It exudes charm and creates interest. Displaying stained glass art this way can be especially captivating if the subject matter is modern or abstract -- in essence the opposite of what the old frame represents. This creates a lovely blend of old and new.
Group Your Stained Glass Art Together
Smaller pieces -- generally referred to as suncatchers -- are typically not ensconced in a frame, so you can get creative with display. Suncatchers look great when several are hung together in a group.
Think about how you'd group paintings on a wall and use the same concept on a window. Pieces that have a common theme (like subject matter, color, or shape) will look best when hung as a group. For example, a group of butterflies or flowers in different sizes and shapes or with a common color theme would create a cohesive display.
When grouping several pieces together, be sure to hang them at different heights to create visual interest. No matter the subject, a group of stained glass art pieces that are hung in a light-filled window will create an ever-changing exhibition that evolves throughout the day as the light changes.
Use Stained Glass Art as a Room Divider
Stained glass partitions can provide appealing design solutions. A large or awkwardly shaped room can be separated beautifully with stained glass partitions or dividers.
One of my favorite displays of stained glass partitions was in a small cafe that had a long dining area. To create visual interest and separation, a "curtain" consisting of three rows of stained glass in old window frames was hung from the ceiling in vertical lines of three or four pieces that were then connected to one another with a simple chain.
The effect was not only aesthetically pleasing by providing texture and ambiance to an otherwise boring space, but it was also practical in that it helped create privacy and sound barriers in the large, open room.
Another room divider idea is to hang a larger panel above a half wall or a stairwell wall. This helps bridge awkward gaps and creates a sense of privacy without having a dense wall that closes off a room.
Create a Wall Display of Stained Glass Art
Speaking of walls, if you have a large blank expanse of wall in your home, why not used stained glass art as a display? Even though stained glass is most appreciated when light shines through, it's just as gorgeous when displayed on a wall, much like you'd hang any other type of art.
A client of mine affixed battery-operated white lights (think Christmas tree or fairy lights) to the back of the frame of his stained glass panel and then hung it over his fireplace mantel. When the lights are on, the colors of the piece shine through as though it's hanging in a window. When the lights are off, it's a gorgeous still life.
Tile or Stand Your Stained Glass Art
Some decorative stained glass pieces that are smaller or not conducive to hanging can be used as tiles or stand-alone pieces that can be displayed in a specially made table-top frame. Tiles can be affixed to a wall with tile adhesive and are often used to create attractive patterns in kitchens and bathrooms.
Larger, more abstract pieces can be displayed on a tabletop in front of a window, which allows the light to shine through. A tabletop display works well for pieces that are more modern in style and have freeform edges. These pieces often use agates or fossils as a central design. Their beauty can be appreciated no matter how they're displayed.
Display Stained Glass Art in the Garden
If you're looking for a unique way to display stained glass in your outdoor living spaces, stained glass in the garden is a trend that is gaining in popularity. Smaller pieces are often created in the shape of butterflies or flowers and are then affixed to a stake driven into the ground or in pots.
Birdhouses, luminaries, wind chimes, and tabletop planters bring a unique and beautiful wow factor to any outdoor space. It's the perfect way to add year-round color to your outdoor space. More elaborate displays that are gaining in popularity are abstract sculptures that include brightly colored glass built into large pieces of freeform wood placed in a garden setting.
Tips for Hanging Stained Glass Panels
Rule #1: never use a suction cup! Even though it seems like suction might be strong enough to hold a smaller piece, it will eventually let loose and your beloved art will end up in a pile of shards on the floor.
Suncatchers will typically have rings soldered onto them which can be used to attach a chain for hanging. If your window is an average height and is framed with wood, a simple hook and eye screw with chain will hold its weight without any problems.
If your window is heavier, or it's exposed to outdoor elements, you'd be well served to use a D-ring or a cup hook. If your panel isn't framed, or if it's framed in lead, you can use French cleats if you're hanging it on a wall.
Stained glass windows are making a comeback (although in my opinion they never went out of style!) and people are finding creative and appealing ways to incorporate them into modern homes. Regardless of how you choose to display your stained glass, know that you've chosen well and are creating a beautiful addition to your home.