Fire Screen to Window Grille

Why settle for a blackout shade when you can ornament the window with a screen of wrought iron and blown glass? It can be plain—or fancy!
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fire screen to window grille conversion

An ornate Victorian firescreen with colored-glass rondels was reconstructed and repurposed to improve this light-admitting, privacy-ensuring bathroom window.

When the homeowner purchased the late 19th-century apartment in New York City’s historic Greenwich Village, he loved all of its remaining details, from handsome period mouldings to the still-operating transoms above the doors. The place had one big drawback: the bathroom window opened into a light shaft and had direct sightlines with neighbors’ apartments. How to get privacy without blocking all the light?

He remembered a particularly beautiful window he’d seen on a visit to the house museum Beauport. Its owner the designer Henry Sleeper had covered a large, leaded-glass window in the house’s Central Hall with shelves, and filled them with a mixed collection of amber glass vases, bottles, chalices, and candlesticks. Light coming through the window gives the space a warm, romantic glow, and the display blocks awareness of the space beyond. As it happens, a vintage wrought-iron fire screen with amber rondels was for sale nearby. Perfect!

Almost any salvaged screen or grille could be adapted for placement  in a window.

Almost any salvaged screen or grille could be adapted for placement in a window.

Fire Screen to Window Grille Conversion

1. RESIZING
Restoration contractor Kevin Groves started by deconstructing and reconfiguring the three-part screen. The center became a stationary upper panel, and the two sides were adapted to become lower panels, which open to allow access to the double-hung window behind the screen. The top panel was slightly wider than the window frame; it was easier to adjust the window trim to the metal screen than vice versa, so Kevin removed and carefully shaved each window stop /" using a more precise electric wood planer. With stops reinstalled, he caulked and painted the window frame. (He also remilled the inside stops on the double-hung window to ensure it wouldn’t rattle.)

2. ATTACHMENT
Screw holes were drilled into the side stiles of the metal top panel, which then was set carefully into the window frame using 1 flat-head wood screws to attach the metal screen firmly to the top and the side rails, with no gaps.

To be sure the lower panels fit flush with the upper panel, to look like one piece, the decorative scroll detailing atop the lower panels was carefully removed with a metal cut-off wheel set on a hand-held die grinder. The lower panels’ side stiles were then drilled and tapped for 1 brass hinges, each hinge secured to the metal frame with flat-head /" machine screws. The panels were then attached to the window frame.

The idea for a screened window came from this one set with a display of amber glass. It’s in the central hall at Beauport, the home and test kitchen of Henry Davis Sleeper, one of the country’s first professional interior designers. Built between 1907 and 1934 on a rock ledge overlooking the harbor in Gloucester, Massachusetts, the house has forty rooms, each with a unique theme. historicnewengland.com

Inspiration The idea for a screened window came from this one set with a display of amber glass. It’s in the central hall at Beauport, the home and test kitchen of Henry Davis Sleeper, one of the country’s first professional interior designers. Built between 1907 and 1934 on a rock ledge overlooking the harbor in Gloucester, Massachusetts, the house has forty rooms, each with a unique theme. historicnewengland.com

3. FINISHING UP

A simple half-inch iron thumb latch was drilled and tapped into the center panels for opening the panels and to keep them aligned. Some of the colored glass rondels had become loose; they were secured by gently bending and realigning the metal prongs that held them in the screen. Two cracked pieces were replaced with hand-blown rondels made in Germany (lamberts.de).

The entire metal screen was finished with a coat of satin-sheen black Rust-Oleum to resist bathroom moisture and camouflage the new hardware. Now the neighbors are screened and the bathroom is bathed in amber light.

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