Transom windows made their first appearance adoring Victorian rowhouse doors. The windows served a practical and aesthetic purpose, helping to let in a fresh breeze by pivoting the window. They also blanketed the home in natural light. These decorative windows are still in use today, placed above or on the sides of doors.
The transom window is named after the horizontal crossbeam that sits over the door. The window is fitted to the transom beam. If the intention is to enhance the look, the transom is fixed in place. The transom can also hinge so that it opens or closes.
The transom was quite popular throughout the Victorian Age, but it maintained that popularity into the 1930s. The transom’s geometric frame made it the perfect look for buildings that wanted the art deco look so highly sought after during the time. People also developed long rods that they used to open and shut the transom windows, as opposed to standing on chairs.
Transom windows also started a trend amongst creative types. There was a time when slipping a script or a piece of music or artwork over the transom was the only way to get eyes on your work. It’s the equivalent of tweeting at a celebrity today.
When modern HVAC systems came onto the scene, the primary usage of the transom window faded into obscurity. Post World War II architecture also eliminated the vaulted ceilings so popular throughout the Victorian era. This made the transom look out of place, so it no longer held the same aesthetic value that it used to.
Transoms have become popular again, finding new uses over the doors of modern residences. Entryways are back to having the vaulted ceiling, so a transom window doesn’t look as out of place. Just like the Victorian era, transom windows are still important for letting in natural light and a bit of ventilation.