How to Make a Fake Transom Above a Door

Step-by-step photo tutorial showing how to make a fake transom above a door in your home.

As much as I love to post big project reveals, one of my favorite things to do in my house are the little details that give my house interest where there once was none.  Back in 2011 I posted the tutorial on how I created a fake transom above a door in my studioffice in my previous home.  It was one of my most popular posts in the early days of blogging.

how to create a fake window door transom over a door or window

Readers often ask me how I come up with ideas, well I got this idea when I was helping my daughter move into a college apartment.  As I was standing in her bedroom that was filled with boxes of her stuff, I picked up her full length mirror that are sold to place on the back of a door.

As I was picking it up to get it out of the way, I held it horizontally and raised it slightly above me and turned my body around to place it out of the way. While I was doing that, the mirror visually passed over the wall space above her doorway and the idea came to me… “wow that looked pretty cool, I could use a mirror to create a faux transom”. :-)  I can’t add 2 + 2 to save my life, but adding 2 unrelated items together like this pop into my brain all the time.

So when I got home from that trip, I created it and posted about it.  You can read about it in this post:  How I Made a Fake Transom for a Wide Doorway.

How to make a fake transom above a door or window using mirror tiles. Repurposing ideas for DIY home decorating.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when my daughter was home and I was thinking about how to brighten up the hallway of darkness when I heard her say…

…”Mom, you should make a mirror transom for the door like you did in the studioffice door of our previous house. It will help to reflect the light that does make it into the hallway”.  What a great idea….:-)

So I set out to make another fake transom above a door, but I made this one slightly different. Instead of using a full-length mirror as I did before, I used mirror tiles and cut them to the size I needed over the door. You can buy them at the home improvement store. They come in a pack of 6 and cost about $10.

I used the leftover door trim molding that we didn’t need for the hidden door in the foyer to make the frame for the transom. I used two paint stirring sticks to create the mullions to make the small fake transom above the door in the hallway of darkness.

How to Make a Fake Transom Above a Door or Window

how to make a fake transom above a door or window

Many of you have asked how I created the faux grasscloth paint treatment above the bead board on the walls. I will have that posted for you soon.

supplies needed: 

  • Door trim molding to match existing molding around door
  • Package of 12 x 12 mirror tiles 
  • 2 paint stirring sticks
  • Liquid Nails
  • Mirror Mastic – This is the adhesive to use as it won’t effect the silver of the mirror over time. Other adhesives will eat away at the silver backing and ruin the mirror.
  • Caulk gun
  • Caulk
  • Miter saw
  • Pencil, Marker, and Painter’s tape
  • Tile cutter
  • Measuring tape
  • Gloves and safety glasses

How to make a fake transom above a door using mirrors

  1. Measure area above door. If your door is not between two walls like mine is, you want to measure the width of the door including the trim on both sides.  For the height, measure from the top of the door to the ceiling.

How to make a fake transom over a door or window using trim molding and mirrors

2. Cut doorway trim that matches existing trim around door to make a frame to fit above door, set aside. You can see I placed one mirror to help me figure out how I would need to cut it along with 2 paint sticks that will become the mullions.

3. Cut paint stirring sticks to the size needed to fit within the height of the frame. For a cohesive look, paint the trim molding and the paint sticks the same color and sheen as the existing trim around the door. Let dry

make a Fake transom over a door tutorial

4. Place the cut molding above door to make sure it fits and then remove and set aside.

How to Cut Mirror Tiles to Use in Fake Transom

how to cut mirror tiles to make a fake transom over a door or window

5. Put gloves and safety glasses on to protect your hands as you work with the mirrors.

I wanted my transom divided by 2 mullions creating the look of 3 mirrored areas. I needed to cut three of the mirrors to equal size to fit across the width of my door. I used a tile cutter to cut the mirrors. It is easier then it sounds to cut them. Truly it is 1…2….3… simple to do.  If you have ever used one of these inexpensive tile cutters to cut tile, then you know how simple the process is.

  • I used a marker to mark a line on the mirror to the size needed so I would know where to cut.
  • Place the mirror on the cutter platform and make sure it is straight. Line up the marked line with the etching wheel.
  • Starting at the bottom, press and run the etching wheel handle up the length of the mirror using even pressure.
  • Once you get to the top,  make sure the presser bar is firmly down on glass and press… the glass breaks in half perfectly. I am always amazed at this process. A simple straight etched line breaks apart the mirror, glass, or tile.

I cut three mirrors to the size I needed.

How to create a fake transom above a door using mirrors

6. Mark center point above door with painter’s tape and place a cut mirror in the center.

Supplies needed to create a fake transom over a door

7. Place Mirror Mastic on the back of mirror and press into wall.

How to use mirror tiles to create a fake transom over a door

8. Repeat for left and right mirrors. I left about an inch in between the mirrors, but they can be butted up against each other.

How to create a faux transom over a door or window

9. Attach the door trim molding over the mirrors using Liquid Nails.

10. Use Liquid Nails to attach the two paint stirring sticks in between the mirrors.  You only need a little bit of adhesive. Make sure you place them straight as the adhesive grabs fast and you won’t be able to remove them easily.

Important: Do not get any Liquid Nails on the mirrors.

11. Fill in joints with caulk, smooth caulk by running a wet finger over it or an ice cube, let dry.

How to make a fake transom above a door

12. Once caulk is dry, touch-up paint where you caulked.

My fake transom above a door may not be the real thing, but it sure does give the impression of one. I like how it adds a bit of architectural interest to the hallway, plus it helps to double the light as it reflects the light fixture and the back of the kitchen cabinets that are painted white.

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  1. Charlotte Lindsay says:

    Great job! One of my favorite things about this post, past the detailed tutorial, is actually the color of the walls. Usually I wouldn’t dare to put such a rich, dark blue in a small space but the white doors and paneling help to balance out the darkness. Once the faux transom was added this became perfect! As always, looking forward to reading more.

  2. Nicole @ Wallsauce says:

    Great post! :) Look at how high your ceilings appear! Fab idea

  3. Would love to see a long shot of the not-so-dark-now hallway (perhaps from the dining table?), as you did with previous door color…to get better sense of the impact of the change. :) Had once considered doing mirror with faux window panes…drapes on either side…behind sofa on large, interior wall, to give illusion of window. Have seen this done on window-less kitchens to lighten, create sense of space. Such a versatile concept. Long-time lover of bead board. Can never have too much! (The wider bead spacing affords a better scale in this setting.) How did you decide on the height?

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Cam –

      When I do wrap up post of my kitchen makeover, I will include the shot you would like to see. We are waiting on some trim for around the microwave. Once we get this done, should be next week, I will post the kitchen wrap up post. I chose the height of the bead board by dividing the height of the wall into quarters. I covered the bottom 3/4 with the bead board, give or take a few inches. :-)

  4. What a great idea that looks sharp too!

  5. Laura at Duke manor farm says:

    I really love this idea Diane!

  6. Great idea. When I first saw it I thought it was a real transom! Would it be easier to paint the “mullions” before you install them?

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Hannah – Yes, you should paint the mullions before installing them. I see I didn’t make this clear. I will update the post. Thanks for noticing. :-)

  7. Your hallway has been transformed! I love the white and blue walls, all the new door knobs, and now the transom window.

  8. SuziesView says:

    What a fantastic idea. You did a great job thinking up a simple idea yet very impactful. Love your work as always.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Thanks Suzie :-)

  9. Christina in FL says:

    Positively brilliant! :) I love the faux transom! It looks lovely and, yes, it does add interest. Yay!
    I’ve added those cheapy full length mirrors (think $7 at Dollar General) to the “backsplash” area above sinks in dark kitchens of apartment rentals. Even though you KNOW it’s a mirror, it really does make the space more livable. :)

  10. I previously owned a home built in 1924. Real transoms. Wish I had “known” you then, but sadly, that was pre-internet days. -:)
    Anyway, I’m going to try and figure out a way to do this in my apartment. Can’t mar the walls, but I’m betting a temporary or removal transom could be fashioned. Somehow.

  11. Diane, pure BEILLIANCE! When I saw the new improved “hall of darkness” I wondered how you could call it that with a transom and then thought I must have forgotten something (happens more and more and more easily these days). Anyway, even knowing the trick, shear brilliance! Most likely will never use this idea but applaud you for coming up with it.

  12. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way says:

    This is going to sound silly, but when I first read what you were doing I thought, “Why in heavens name would someone want to make a fake transom above a door?” I was at a college with really old dorms. They had transoms above the doors but I think it was more for light. The ceilings must have been 50 feet high and the doors seemed the same. Anyway, I just couldn’t figure out why — but it does look interesting.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Marisa – Your college dorm sounds like it had lots of architectural interest. I lived in brand new dorms and would have loved to live in a dorm like you describe. I bet there were plenty of ghost stories to go around living in such an old building :-) In the old days, transoms were for light, but also for airflow. I love them because they add interest and character.

  13. Linda Manuel says:

    So I’ve looked and can’t find anything like the glass cutter you used! I really like how that one would let you make straight cuts….where did you find it? It looks like the name is Precision? I checked that too and found nothing!

    I’d like to use your idea but would really like to get a glass cutter like yours to have on hand for other things!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Linda – It is a basic tile cutter. You can buy them for around $20 at the home improvement store. Mine is very old. Here is one I found on Amazon so you can see what it looks like:

      1. Linda Manuel says:

        Ah so!! I was searching for a glass cutter not a TILE CUTTER!! Thank you so VERY MUCH!! I didn’t know you could cut glass or mirror with a tile cutter!!! Amazing little bit of info there!!

        Thanks so much!

  14. Hmmm! That’s a fantastic idea and you have the wheels turning in my brain! I too have a hallway of darkness! Quick question, if the door isn’t quite as wide as the wall – then you would keep the transom only as wide as the door – not the width of the wall – correct? Thanks for this amazing idea!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Faye – The transom should be the same width as the door or window, so measure the width of the door including the trim on either side.