As you may be aware, we've been hard at work on our vestibule update for some time now. Stripping, salvaging, sanding, plastering, trimming, caulking, painting, glazing, restoring, and everything else-ing. We've put tons of time into all of the little details to make sure the project looks great, is historically appropriate, and remains functional and effective. We've reached a point in our front vestibule renovation project we are looking at other houses around Old Town for the best way to proceed.

Wendy and I have long debated the best approach for displaying our house numbers. In our old configuration, the house numbers were small brass numbers nailed to the front door. With our new configuration, we want to make the numbers easier to see, more effective, and more appealing than the old manner of display.

As we see it, we have four primary options for house number location and display. 

  1. Numbers on a plate or plaque directly on the house.
  2. Numbers on the door.
  3. Numbers in the transom.
  4. Other (like painted on the sidewalk, graffiti on the stairs, or some other random display that may work in theory but would never work in reality).

There are so many different ways of displaying house numbers on row houses like ours, and we see them all over Old Town. So to get our inspirational juices flowing, we took a little walk and snapped a few photos of some of the options we tend to see. 

The first option of a number or plate directly on the house is one of the most prevalent. The numbers can be all in one plaque, affixed individually, mix and match, or any combination of approach. Here's an example of a house using this method that has a similar door/vestibule setup as we do.

The second option of numbers placed on the door is quite effective, but really only works well if you have a solid front door. Since our doors are French doors, this approach to house numbers doesn't really work for us unless we put the numbers down very low or up very high. (Notice, it looks like someone put the '8' on upside down in the photo. Such a subtle mistake.)

The third option of numbers in the transom is what I believe to be the most historically accurate approach to a nicely displayed address. You see this option in multiple places and varieties. There are so many options in this setup that it makes it hard to choose. You see numbers only in various fonts.

Numbers only

Numbers with gold leaf

Numbers and street name

Numbers in leaded glass

So many options and styles, it is really tough to say. 

Oh, and the final approach of random stuff. How about spelling out your numbers while also displaying them on the side of the door. Yeah, not sure who decided that would be a good idea. No offense, but I just don't like it.

As I said, we are leaning the way of the transom numbers. We've been in touch with a company who offers authentic and historically accurate numbers, so this may be a bit of a no brainer. We'll keep you all posted, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject. What do you think? Here's one more that really shows a similar setup to our door.

(Sorry for the quality of some of the photos. I took them while I was out walking Lulu early this morning and we got stuck in a thunderstorm and downpour with a very dark sky.)

Interested in what we went with? See what we chose and our installation process here.

Comments 13


10/13/2011 at 2:45 PM
I vote for numbers on the transom window. Likely the most historically accurate, and it doubles as decoration. Surely costs the most among all the options, though.
10/13/2011 at 6:55 PM
I like the transom numbers in gold, also. Large, nice and easy to read. If they are too hard to see, what's the point? BTW, I noticed the "8" before I read your comment. It's all about details!??
10/14/2011 at 11:08 AM
I'm with you and everyone else, I like the transom numbers best. Though it may be historically more accurate, I think it also looks the most unique.
10/14/2011 at 1:35 PM
No contest: painted on transom.
10/14/2011 at 11:17 PM
Is it ?

I found these guys awhile back.
Yep, that's the one!
10/15/2011 at 11:18 AM
I'm a HUGE fan of the leaded glass (what I refer to in my laymen terms as "stained glass") numbers. I think it takes a step beyond the plain painted numbers and allows you to give some unique styling to the home and express yourself a little more. There was a house on Vermont Ave just north of Loagn Circle in Washington, DC that I wanted to buy just for their door. Unfortunately the foliage is too thick on Google Street View to post it.

You can find a lot of local inspiration at
10/17/2011 at 7:25 PM
My favourite would be the gold stenciled numbers, which you could do pretty easily yourself with just paint. You would literally just make a stencil and use and oil based metallic gold spray paint (or with a brush), and back it with a red paint to make the gold colour "pop". Then you would do an outline or just a shadow line in black.

You can also do it with real gold leaf, which is still easy, but labour intensive. Basically for that, you would stick a sheet of gold leaf to the glass (I can describe the method if you need it), and then you cut/scrape away the unneeded portions. You'd still do the red backing and shadow lines as above.
Wow, you're adventurous! I'm so particular about "neatness" that I don't know if I trust myself to freehand or stencil the numbers. But we're definitely leaning towards the numbers on the transom option, after months of discussion. Hoping to have a final decision...and something to show everyone...sometime very soon! :-)
10/19/2011 at 2:37 PM
Transom numbers - I also like the leaded glass option, but that would be the priciest.

If you do go the number on the building or the painted number route, have fun with the font. I found arts and crafts style numbers for my house - and now several other bunglows along the block have them too.
10/20/2011 at 7:20 PM
Well, adventurous, maybe. But I guess I'm an artist, so I don't see this as being "hard", lol. The freehand part would just be a thin line (almost like a sharpie line). The beauty with painting on glass is that if you hate it, you can just scrape it off and start over.

Another idea would be to do a stencil in a vinyl mask (basically a special plastic film), and etch the numbers onto the glass with Armor Etch. This wouldn't really show up too well depending on the light, but it would look classy. Screw-ups, however, are permanent (unless you feel like switching the glass).

You could also do a combination of etched and painted/stenciled patterns (like painted numbers with an etched curlycue on each side, etc).

Just throwing more ideas out there. If you really can't decide, you can always pick up a bunch of small sheets of glass (8x10) and do your own samples. My local glass place only charges about 1$ for an 8x10 sheet, so it's a small investment.
5/5/2017 at 12:09 PM

These are beautiful house number plaques!
Has anyone made experience with house numbers from ?
I m looking for some higher-value number too for my facade.


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