adding stained glass in sidelites for privacy, any thoughts?

illinigirlJanuary 24, 2014

Yet another decision we are working through is our exterior door. We are going with a therma tru fiberglass with sidelites. Given that our entry door opens even with our great room there are privacy concerns. Initially I was going to address that by keeping the glass parts of the door and sidelites at the top third of the door only. My husband pointed out that the kids would have trouble seeing out of high glass to see who might be knocking at the door. So then I started thinking about having full sidelites with a stained glass like this:


This gets a privacy rank of 4/10. They have some other more elaborate designs that give higher privacy (7/10) but I'm not super crazy about the designs.

Our house sits back about 160 feet from the street, and then when another house gets built across the street from us it would probably be another 100 or more feet to the next house.. So I don't think any future neighbors could really see us through the sidelights in our family room, but there is the weird sense you get when you sit in a room with lights on and it's dark outside and the blinds aren't closed (and of course sidelights don't have blinds to close!)

here is what i mean about the front door opening directly (via the foyer) to the great room:


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illini-I like the one you have pictured here. I know you have said not a huge neighborhood right? 12-14 houses yes? Is it a no outlet sub so you don't have through traffic?

In our old neighborhood one of our neighbors had a door similar (not clear lites but some sort of pattern) with full length side lites and I always thought soooo pretty. But, as we were taking a walk in the neighborhood one day I realized just how much you could see in and it was a definite no go but I can imagine how much wonderful light they let in! So I think your concern is valid but if you don't get a lot of foot traffic or otherwise maybe no big deal? You are far enough off the road that it wouldn't seem you'd get many solicitors either.

My other thoughts if you go with 1/4 glass is that the kiddos are only going to grow and will be able to see out soon enough and until then they could always look through the pantry window to see who is there? I guess it depends on how frequently you get visitors.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 7:59PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

If you want to be able to see out when needed but privacy otherwise, get sidelights and gather sheers, too and bottom over them so they can be pulled to the side to see who is at the door. Also, from visitor point of view, once they ring the bell they like to hear or see movement to know if someone is getting the door even if they can't see detail.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 8:12PM
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My house has a similar layout with full sidelights (clear glass) and the great room. The length of foyer is also similar. It's also a similar distance from the street and even sounds like a similar neighborhood--no through traffic and only 5 houses beyond ours. There are a few neighbors that will ride bikes or walk the street.

Privacy or even a weird feeling really have never been an issue. I would go with the ones you like best. I think the 4/10 privacy will be fine. Depending upon furniture layout you may not even see the front door.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 8:14PM
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thanks autumn for chiming in.....

yeah, that's what I'm afraid of. This particular pattern with a privacy level of 4 isn't super private. You've got the details correct: small (gated) neighborhood, no through traffic. Also our house is situated perhaps at the high point of the neighborhood. i really dont think foot traffic would be able to see much just due to the angle...I think it's more about avoiding any creepy exposed feelings even if no one is there (real or imaginary, lol).

I know for sure the 1/4 glass would make me *feel* more secure. We have a full sidelite now and I hate walking in front of it at night but we are situated where my neighbor across the street could easily see us *if* they were looking.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 8:17PM
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I'd get the glass you like, then if you feel overexposed do as Annie suggests and put some shirred top and bottom curtains on tension rods in the window frames.
We're in a gated community in the back of beyond in this community, on a circle where there are currently only 6 other homes. Unless one is going to one of those homes there is no reason to be back there. So I went with what I really wanted, and have a full glass front door w glass sidelights. Standing at the front door you can see all the way through our house to the pond out back. I hope I never develop a set of the heeby-jeebies from being exposed. But I'll also never be able to walk across the house naked!

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 8:37AM
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illini-do you know of anyone that has the full lites that you could visit their home to get a feel for it from the inside and outside? I really think with no through traffic you would be okay. As for the heebys - well sometimes they just come but for the most part I bet you'd get used to it and be fine. Plus you are on a hill so that makes it even better.

With the level 4 can you just make out silhouettes but no faces, etc? I'd be okay if you could see shapes and obviously know it's a person but not be able to make out who it is and what they are wearing...

marjorie-hence our laundry room is now off our master closet instead of across the house. ;) That alleviates the "I left my clothes in the laundry room, UGH" problem. BUT the laundry/closet is front facing and also has a full window in it so it will need to be covered. There is always something!

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 9:01AM
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We have a door similar to your inspiration pic, set back from the street, just inside the door are our stairs going up, and the foyer straight into family room. Privacy is not an issue from the street, but we don't hold bacchanalia, either! Seriously, tho...there is not a lot of foot traffic, mainly runners and dog walkers. We have a covered entry which helps privacy, and at night I turn on the porch light to equalize the light and prevent that "one way mirror" effect.

The door faces north, so the light is quite welcome int hat front hall. And, the cats love to sit, one at each sidelight, and watch the chipmunks.

Go for it!

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 10:12AM
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What if you just don't feel like answering the door but people can clearly see you if they are standing there?

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 11:04AM
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Could you put a pocket or swing door between the kitchen and the foyer?

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 12:29PM
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Good points all around,
I am going to spend more time standing at the bottom of the street looking into the house to try to imagine what the views will be (somewhat difficult at the framing stage when there's just a big cutout for the front door. But perhaps I can get an idea of what could be seen. The main "activity" in the great room is sitting at the couch watching tv or having conversation. Much more activity in the kitchen which will be private from the front door views.

I like the idea that the porch light will equalize some of that effect.

I think I need to see the door glass in person. It's also comforting that I *could* add sheers, as long as that is possible with sidelights....i know the ones I have in my current home would not support tensions rods as the sidelight trim is angled inside and just not enough depth for it to be stable. Sounds like a visit to the door showroom is in order.

Light certainly is a consideration as well, having the door on the north, but then again with the tall south facing great room windows right across from that entry door I expect light to filter in all the way across during months when the sun is lower in the sky.

Thanks for the thoughtful inputs :)

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 12:33PM
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no, the opening is 8 foot across. There may be confusion looking at the plan that there is a wall in front of the foyer....that line just indicates change in ceiling height. It's fully open from the foyer to great room.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 12:35PM
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illini-what if you did the top transom for light and did the 1/4 side lite for the sides for privacy? I didn't realize that was 8 foot either. I was thinking it looked pretty private from the doorway on your plan.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 1:05PM
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We have glass on the top half of our side lites. They have wood mountains with a simple pattern. There is a small vestibule beyond the front door and its side lites are plain glass. We are very far from the street and its not possible to see anything from the road, but I do get paranoid when someone is at the door if I don't feel like answering. Thankfully we have an alarm letting us know if anyone is coming up the drive. I have no options for sheers because there is not enough depth to the side lites. In our old house we had wooden shutters over our side lites. Here we have so much privacy it's not a serious concern.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 6:29PM
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Rather than gathered sheers on tension rods, consider using swing arm rods, which are attached on one side, and swivel.

This makes it possible to clean the windows without removing the curtains from the rods. Likewise you can remove the curtains for cleaning without removing the rods.

And if you need to see who's at the door, you can swivel the rod a bit and peek out, without worrying about stretching the edge of the sheer.

My mother has used these on sidelights in two houses. She uses them top and bottom, which keeps the curtains gathered and in place along the entire window when the door is opened in windy conditions.

This particular one is adjustable; I'm not sure about hers:

This photo gives a better idea of how the rods are attached (and also shows a different type of curtain):

This post was edited by missingtheobvious on Sat, Jan 25, 14 at 19:32

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 6:57PM
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We're currently building a house and had similar concers.

I originally wanted a Craftsman style single door with sidelites and didn't care for many of the stained glass designs, yet I wanted privacy. I want to be able to occasionally walk through the house wearing little to nothing, I want to be able to lounge in the living room without worrying about the rare someone being able to peek in, and I don't want to feel compelled to answer the door if I don't want to for whatever reason.

We too needed an 8' tall door but couldn't get that with 1/4 glass sidelites in a non-custom door we liked, such as Therma Tru Classic Craft American, yet I didn't want to pay for a custom wood door because I'm going to paint it light blue.

I kept running into obstacles. So aggravating.

So after corresponding with a couple GWers about their Therma Tru Classic Craft American double doors about strength and safety issues, we went with that setup and added a video and voice doorbell so we can see and talk to whomever is at the door before answering. We get plenty of light above from the overhead dormer windows.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 11:02PM
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We have a similar version of that same door (one side light) and glass. It would ruin the attractiveness and effect of the stained glass to cover it with anything, especially curtains. In my old place, I had a plain glass side light with a sheer gathered curtain over it for privacy which looked fine. I think you need to decide which is more important to you, the look or the privacy.

With no wall between the foyer and great room, if someone comes to your front door, once you open it to talk to the person, (s)he will see almost everyone in the great room. Don't you ever sit around in pajamas, etc., where it would be somewhat awkward for someone at the door to see you/everyone? I'd play around with narrowing that opening from one side or both sides. We have a similar setup, but you can only see one chair from the front door, since there's only the one side light and the open doorway between the foyer and great room is about 4 or 4-1/2' wide.


    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 8:47PM
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I think you hit the nail on the head. We have to decide between one or the other. Light/look vs privacy. Pros and Cons.

I think one thing in my head which I haven't mentioned which is the whole reason I revisited the door decision was the that my special needs son likes to sit on the floor at the front door and look out of the sidelights. I feel like if we choose the door with the 1/4 glass that I'm taking it away from him sortof. And that other than those sidelights we don't have any views towards the front of the house.

It's hard to predict how I'm going to feel. Everything is reversed from our current house where the family room is at the front of the house with window views that way (and of course no privacy along with that).

So what do I want: more light and views to the front, or certain privacy? Not sure yet.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 10:30AM
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Last time we chose 3/4 clear sidelites, we soon covered them with sheets of patterned hard plastic and wood moulding that look original. A camera and peephole are very effective. I've never seen those pivoting curtain rods. Neat.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 11:31AM
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illinigirl, can you give your son another special spot to look out and watch the goings-on in front of the house? If not, personally I would do the sidelights. If he grows out of the habit after a few years and you decide you want more privacy, you could add privacy film (or even swap out the sidelights). But that is just me. I'm sure things will work out either way.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 1:01PM
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