Very tall natural veneer flush-with-the-wall door with a transom in a modern church.

What is a door with a transom?

October 17, 2022

For the last 10 to 15 years, modern homes across North America have been getting taller and adding inches to already tall ceilings — it is now common to see 10-foot or 11-foot ceilings on every floor. Ceiling height poses a significant design challenge for all interior design elements you use, including built-in cabinetry and—of course—interior doors.

Commonly, architects and interior designers on high-end homes go for 9-ft interior doors, leaving one or two feet of wall above the door. Say you want to line up the height of your kitchen cabinets with your sliding cavity pantry door height — this works perfectly. But what should you do when your interior design calls for floor-to-ceiling esthetics?

Full-height doors for 10-foot ceilings

Full-height doors go from finished floor to finished ceiling. When it comes to width, however, most tall doors you encounter in modern residences stay within the typical 32-36 inch (813-915 mm) width range. Nevertheless, once you increase the height of a door to 10ft or 11ft, or even twelve feet (3658 mm), you will start to notice that when you open the door, the opening seems narrow. In most situations this works out just fine, but not always.

When your space has floor-to-ceiling design language, you want to carry that design throughout the interior. It is the moment when the transom comes in.

Dorsis Fortius full height door with a transom. White oak wood veneer finish. Stainless steel door handles.
Dorsis Fortius full height door with a transom panel. You can see how the same frameless door looks on the flush-to-wall side and on the interior side.

What is a door transom

A door transom is a fixed panel above the swing door which lets you visually increase the height of the door using the same material and finish (such as a painted or wood veneer door). A transom on a full-height interior door allows you to have a tall door effect without requiring you to operate an unusually tall door panel.

A transom provides yet another design benefit. Imagine that you have an entryway with a 10-foot ceiling, but the adjacent powder room is only 9 feet tall. You can place a 1-foot transom on the entryway side of the door and have the bottom of the transom line up with the drop ceiling of the  powder room. This creative visual trick allows you to create an illusion of a tall space on both sides of the door.

Transoms on frameless doors

Frameless doors provide the additional benefit of being completely flush with the wall — your transom panel will sit recessed into the wall, lining up with the door panel itself. You will get unabashadly modern esthetics, a lighter door, and a clever trimless option for a drop ceiling condition.

Dorsis Fortius full-height frameless door with a transom, finished in white oak wood veneer.
We really loved working with the architectural team behind this awesome modern church. Here you can see the Dorsis Fortius full-height frameless door with a transom, finished in white oak wood veneer. Notice how the wood grain matches between the transom and the door panel - this top-to-bottom veneer matching is sometimes called "bank match".