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December 11, 2023

High Glass Design

Let’s talk about high glass and its role in residential design. Of course, windows play an amazing role in design as they let in natural light and help to expand the space. High glass brings in light without compromising privacy. But there are several nuances when it comes to high glass including where to use it, what size, and how often it should be used.

Which rooms benefit the most from high glass?


For obvious reasons, bathrooms demand privacy. Perhaps you remember when it was common to show a large 4’ by 4’ window above the soaking tub in the primary bath. While it looked awesome in the model (that often didn’t have a neighboring house built yet), it offered no privacy. To address this concern, we used to offer frosted glass or glass block above the tub. We’ve long since moved on from those faded fads, and this is a perfect application for high glass.

That giant soaking tub has largely been replaced by a spa-like shower. Finding a suitable place to add glass to the bathroom became trickier. Should it go above the shower? How about over the vanities? Both are viable depending on your ceiling height. For privacy purposes, the window sill around 6’ is a good measure.

Over the shower

If your home has 10’ ceilings, then you have plenty of options.

If your home has a 9’ ceiling, you could sneak a piece of high glass up at an 8’ head height. A two-foot-tall piece of glass with a sill at 6’ adds a lot of light and still maintains privacy. But what height are the rest of the windows in the house? Shouldn’t all the window heads align? If the head height of the other windows is at 7’, the height of the bathroom glass needs to come down. That is not a problem if the shower walls are tile. But if a prefab shower enclosure is used, those are typically 6’-4” tall. Cutting into a fiberglass enclosure is not recommended, so now you’re left with just 8” of glass. If your home has 8’ ceilings and a fiberglass shower enclosure, you might just want to find another location for high glass.

Over the Vanities

Another popular spot for high glass is over the vanities. This is easy with 10’ ceilings.

But as the ceilings get lower, the amount and size of glass gets compressed. Now you have to consider the top of the mirror. Much like the fiberglass enclosure, you don’t want to cut the mirror. But isn’t that the same place the light fixtures are placed? One solution is to place high glass between the vanities and their corresponding mirrors.

Dining rooms

Another popular place to add high glass is to the dining room or the den. Often this is supplemental glass that acts as an accent when this room is on the front of the house.

But more often, we see the dining room on the side of the house. In many of our neighborhoods, that means we have another house 10’ away. While dining rooms don’t require the same amount of privacy as a bathroom – no one wants to see their neighbor staring into their home. Haven’t we all seen that Geico commercial where the neighbors are holding microphones and commenting on the activities inside? But I digress.

The good news here is the size of the glass in the dining room isn’t constricted by mirrors or tub enclosures. Adding three 2’ by 2’ pieces of glass along the dining room wall is a great look. I recently saw adding only two larger pieces of glass at 3’ by 3’. The result was a greater area of glass and less labor. Sounds like a win win!


Adding glass above the front door is another popular trick to add light and privacy. Glass here also has the advantage of security. Side lights flanking the front door can be broken by burglars who want to reach in and open the front door. We sometimes add a 12” transom over a 6’-8” front door with 3” to 4” in between.

More recently, this option has been replaced by an 8’ tall door with a high glass panel. If you have a two story foyer – the glass above the door can be much larger. Just don’t make the mistake of adding a plant shelf below that high glass. Wayward insects will try to escape through this glass and end up collecting on the plant shelf. Gross!

Rooms to Avoid

Sleeping rooms

There once was a fad to add high glass above the bed in the primary bedroom.

It looked nice in the model, but I’m told sleeping in a dark room is better for your health. Suddenly having to add window coverings to these small windows can be challenging. Trying to open and close the coverings became too burdensome – hence they remained closed. So why bother with the expensive glass in the first place?

High glass serves a crucial role in bringing natural light into spaces where we want to maintain privacy. Thoughtful sizing and placement will bring cheer to even the most challenging rooms in the home.

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This post was written by Housing Design Matters