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HOME DESIGN : Stained Glass Growing in Popularity

September 23, 1989|NANCY JO HILL | Nancy Jo Hill is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

Scott Van Dyke knew precisely what he wanted to do first to the Irvine townhouse he bought two years ago.

A neighbor's house where he had grown up had "this beautiful stained glass. . . . I remembered the window. I had loved it as a child."

And his new home had a nondescript, 2-by-4-foot window.

So he sought out stained-glass artisan Gretchen McKay and together they incorporated his memories into a glowing jewel of a window that is a mixture of soft blue and lavender glass accents around an oval of iridescent glass. The glass sparkles like an opal and reflects a rainbow of colors.

Judy Wright, meanwhile, wanted to add a special personal touch to the 5,800-square-foot, Southwest-style home she and her husband, Donald, built in the hills of Yorba Linda.

"We like Mexico. We like Hawaii. We like the tropical feeling," Wright says. "I kind of wanted the feel of Acapulco."

And that's what she has in the stained-glass windows at the front of her house.

Tall glass sidelights on each side of the double oak doors in Wright's entryway are curved at the top to match the doors. They depict a tropical lagoon with a combination of colored glasses and clear glass textured with a gentle swirl.

On one side, a large red, yellow and blue parrot perches atop a vine above banana leaves, bird of paradise and a lagoon of swirling shades of blue and green. The other side has more banana plant leaves, yellow flowers and a lagoon. Two small bathroom windows carry out the theme in opaque, colored glass.

Van Dyke and Wright have joined a growing Orange County trend--using stained glass and clear, textured leaded glass to personalize homes.

These custom works of art are being used in entryways, skylights, dropped ceilings in kitchens and bathrooms and in stairwell windows. They are being used to reduce sun damage by filtering sunlight from raked windows against cathedral ceilings.

They are being used as insets in kitchen cabinet doors, windows in kitchens, bathrooms and family rooms and to provide privacy when odd-shaped windows or placement of windows defy the use of conventional window coverings. And they are being used to enhance views or even obscure views that are unappealing.

Almost any windows--including casements, crank-outs and double-hung windows--can be changed to stained or leaded glass.

First, a custom design is created for a particular window. Next, glasses are selected from hundreds of choices of manufactured glasses that might be colored, clear or textured.

Then, individual pieces are cut and fitted together with lead much the same as a jigsaw puzzle is constructed. The window is then puttied to make it watertight and fitted into place where it should last as a permanent artwork for the life of the house.

And it's not as expensive as one might think. Prices vary from studio to studio and depend on the amount of intricate detail in a design, but the going rate for a simple design ranges from $50 to $85 a square foot.

Scott Van Dyke's window, for example, cost less than $500. The more detail a design has, however, the higher the cost because it means more labor. Certain glasses are also more expensive than others.

"The popularity is growing, very, very fast. It's extremely in vogue. . . . When we started in business 14 years ago, we saw that it was quite popular then," says Orris Barner of the Glasseye in Orange. Since then, Barner added, interest in stained-glass windows has "multiplied time and time again."

Gretchen McKay of Contemporary Stained Glass in Villa Park says, "I'm so busy right now I have about six months' minimum work." She is working on designs for 18 windows in one house, including a skylight of eight 3-foot squares of stained glass. The skylight glass will have mother-of-pearl and peach tones and will be backlighted with neon.

Barner says leaded glass is popular for two reasons. It's beautiful and it's practical.

And, he says, traditional draperies have decreased in popularity and stained-glass windows are "a great, great way for people to overcome that, to afford themselves privacy or sun control or just a piece of beauty."

Barbara Benson of Benson Design Studio Inc. in Anaheim agrees that sometimes stained-glass windows must be functional as well as beautiful.

"Sometimes we're framing a view and we use very transparent glass. Other times we have a very heavy textured glass, either to obscure the view beyond or to protect the image inside," says Benson. "If someone has a beautiful hilltop ocean view, you're not going to put the bulk of your design right smack in the middle."

McKay says that most of the people she deals with are not interested in blocking a view. "They're more interested in enhancing a room," she says.

For some people, however, privacy is an issue.

"I just recently did a house down in the Dana Point area that had three windows right on the bathtub," says Patrick Shane of Patrick Shane Glass Studio in Tustin. "The bottom of the windows was bathtub height . . . People could look right in."

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