Property: Wiley window-shopping

Accurate restoration of Victorian or Edwardian glass need not be limiting. Experts can help to dress your windows. By Rosalind Russell discovers hundreds of ways to dress your windows.
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Slinging out damaged period windows to replace them with uPvc is now regarded as the ultimate act of vandalism. Especially since the rash of recent home-improvement television shows has apparently shown us the error of our wicked ways.

But finding a craftsman to repair or replace old Victorian or Edwardian glass isn't always that simple - especially if you fancy a more contemporary or unusual design.

According to Mike Slaughter of Creative Glass, which produces windows of every style from ecclesiastical to domestic, "Most people don't know exactly what they want and what can be done. We're only limited by imagination and budget. It helps enormously if we can visit the client's house and get a feel for their idea of style."

The firm, which famously made a Wallace and Gromit pair of glass door panels for the cartoon's creator Nick Parkes, is - like many glass companies - presently gearing up for Millennium commissions. But they are happy to help clients design less grandiose projects, from restoring a Victorian door panel to producing a surprise birthday gift in glass.

While most estate agents would advise against personalising a property in case it puts off potential future buyers, they'd agree a specially commissioned window is likely to add a quirky value to a house.

"We've done a window for a windsurfer, a balloonist and a breeder of rare sheep," says Mike. "And we've even designed windows featuring a Bugatti and a Morgan. But, I must admit, we groan when someone comes in saying they want a pet immortalised in glass."

New techniques mean stained-glass windows don't have to look as if they should be in a church. Creative Glass can make windows by hot-melting different glasses together, and by including enamelling. The cost is unlikely to be less than pounds 100. A big door panel can cost anything between pounds 180 and pounds 700, including VAT and depending on intricacy and labour.

Jude Tarrant and her husband John work closely with architects and conservation officers when replacing damaged stained glass. Commissions for their firm Sunrise Stained Glass include matching medieval glass panes in a priory in Hertfordshire, repairing heraldic panels and the restoration of the windows at Chichester Cathedral.

"There is a large amount of Victorian and Edwardian houses in our region of Hampshire," says Jude. "After 100 years or so, these windows need re- leading.

"It's usually possible to get a very close match. But we have designed windows for presents for a Ruby wedding and so on. We are asked to do horses and dogs, but we have to be very exact and look for the points of the breed, for the slope of the back and set of the ears. It can be quite tricky."

A more straightforward traditional Victorian or Edwardian panel starts at pounds 35. Even clear glass for a period home can reduce the property's value if it isn't matched properly. Besides, there may be restrictions on putting in mass-produced glass if the house is listed.

The London Crown Glass Company knows all about conservation: they supply hand-blown window glass (mostly imported from France and Germany) and have worked on Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace and with the National Trust.

"If we have a Georgian house with sash windows, we can match that glass," says Chris Salmond. "We also occasionally supply windows for an extension, or replace glass in an antique bookcase."

Prices for genuine hand-blown glass begin at pounds 129 per square metre, plus VAT and delivery. If the work calls for good-quality period-style glass, but not necessarily the real thing, prices for that start at pounds 53.90 per square metre.

"It doesn't have the little imperfections of hand blown, but it waves gently because it's bent afterwards. It can even be used in double-glazed units."

The British Society of Master Glass Painters has more than 500 members who will accept commissions for restoration, repair and new design. It has a website showing studios and portfolios at proteus.web.com./bsmgp

Creative Glass, 0117-973 7025; Sunrise Stained Glass, 01705 750512; London Crown Glass Co, 01491 413227.

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