This is a re-post from our friends over at Old Town Home blog.

I’m so happy to report that we’ve finally come to a decision in the great house numbers debate of 2011. As you may recall, Alex and I have been on the fence when it comes to what we wanted to do with the transom window over our front door. And with all the work we’ve been doing this last year to reconfigure and renovate our vestibule, the time has come for us to pull the trigger.

The options we debated between were:


  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).

After many thoughtful, insightful, and helpful comments from all of our readers, and after much deliberation the winner is…(drum roll please)…

3. Numbers in the transom with original glass!

It was a tough decision, and not one made lightly, largely due to the fact that we had purchased a leaded glass window for the space nearly nine years ago. Not only do I love the leaded glass, but I consider it an investment of both money and time. Time you might wonder? Well, the leaded glass, like many other things in our house, has been moved from one precarious location to another in our basement hellhole, and I consider it no small feat that it’s survived the last nine years. I’m sure it will keep moving over the next several years and will ultimately be broken only when we finally figure out a place where we want to install it.

But alas, I finally caved to Alex’s pressure to pursue the numbers in the transom option, in part because I think it will look really classic, in part because I dreaded the thought of trying to keep the leaded glass clean, in part because most of our readers suggested this route, and in part because I didn’t particularly love any of the other house number options. Lots of parts went into this decision, that’s for sure.

We had a couple of options on how to proceed with these numbers. The classic approach was to apply gold leaf and hand paint the numbers and their black shadow/outline on the window ourselves. You might be able to guess, but Alex was pushing for this option. Though I have no doubt we could tackle this, there are just too many other projects going on right now, so I had to veto his gumption as I had found a nearly as authentic option that was far easier to implement.

We opted to work with a Washington, DC-based company called The House Number Lab. They offer a large assortment of number styles as well as materials to choose from, each in historically accurate and completely custom fonts and sizes that are tailored to our specific install. After careful consideration, and some internal debate, we settled on a 22 carat matte gold in “The Grant B” style font with a heavy drop shadow to the left in black. We think it’s a classic font that will work well with the style of our home, but we went with the “B” option which introduces a small extra flourish on the numbers for a little extra oomph. Who knew there would be so many options?

Honestly though we had a tougher time choosing the material than the font. It just boils down to the fact that we’re just not big fans of gold. If you look around our house (or at us), you’ll notice that our wedding rings, wedding china, picture frames, mirrors, and accessories all are silver. Chandeliers that once were brass or gold, I’ve long since spray painted another color. So it was tough for us to go against our silver tendencies and choose the more classic, and more historically accurate gold tone. But as a “meet you in the middle” decision, we went with the matte over the burnished gold, for a more muted hue.

Glenn, owner of The House Numbers Lab, was great to work with. We opted to see proofs before having the numbers made — an option that adds time to the order but is totally worth it in my opinion. Initially we placed the order for 5″ high numbers, but after seeing the proof, and hanging the to-scale print out in our transom, I felt it looked just a little too imposing. After sending Glenn an email, he quickly sent us back 4″ and 4.5″ versions to take a look at. The small adjustment made all the difference, and we knew the 4″ was just right.


After a several weeks-long wait for our order (due to an expected delay by the gold supplier), our numbers arrived the middle of last week in a neatly packaged protective box. We were excited to get them up on the window as it marked a significant step toward the completion of our Curb Appeal 2.0, but with the weather cooling and the sun setting so early, we had to wait for a good warm weather day to apply them above 50 degrees.


Yesterday was a downright balmy December day with highs approaching 60 degrees, so we decided to pull the trigger and go for it. The House Numbers Lab website includes detailed instructions on how to best install, and in addition to the number decals, the package comes with a plastic squeegee to smooth the numbers during install and a dry erase marker to properly mark the center of the window. We just needed to grab some supplies to clean the window and a pair of scissors, tape, a tape measure, and the ladder to aid in the install.

Alex kicked off the project by setting up the ladder to clean the windows, inside and out. The glass was a mess because of the road dirt that typically collects outside, so I’m always happy when a project calls for cleaning the transom window.


He used a regular window cleaner followed by an alcohol based glass cleaner that we received years ago when installing our show glass doors. This is meant to leave an ultra clean surface that is perfect for the adherence of sticky substances to a clean window.


Once everything was clean, he measured the absolute center point of the transom glass and made a cross using the dry erase marker on the outside of the glass to give the numbers a guide for install.


The next step was to tape the numbers to the inside of the window and take a step back to be sure they were level, centered, and looked the way we wanted them too. This is an important step because there is no turning back once they are up on the glass.


We decided that they needed to come up a little bit on the right since the window is a little out of level. So we made that slight adjustment and Alex got to work sticking them onto the glass.

Following the instructions closely, Alex peeled, stuck, squeegeed, and smoothed until the numbers were fully in place.


He then carefully (and I mean carefully — it took him forever) peeled the backing off of the numbers. I think we were both getting excited, but he took his time to be sure the numbers didn’t peel off of the house.


A few minutes later we had the numbers fully installed. The final step was to wipe off the red cross on the outside of the window and remove the extra dots from the interior.


The final and fully installed numbers turned out really nice! It was wonderful, it didn’t require either of us spending hours with gold leaf, stencils, and free hand painting over the course of several days, though I’m sure that would have been very fun. (Sarcasm fully intended.)


And for those of you following the front vestibule progress and our debate over the color of the door knob, we’ve pulled the trigger and ordered a new (well, old actually) knob in black. It’s on its way.

What do you think? Did we make the right choice? Do you like the gold we chose? I’d say we’re both really happy with our selection. Our house numbers really fit in with the rest of the area and the look is very historically accurate to the period of our home. I think we can call this one mission accomplished.



12/5/2011 at 9:22 AM
The numbers look great!!! Good choice!

12/5/2011 at 9:37 AM
Thanks Whitney!

12/5/2011 at 9:47 AM
I found Glenn and House Number Lab back in the spring, but we haven’t pulled the trigger on getting the numbers yet for the house. Glad to see that you guys liked the product and how it turned out. Guess I better get those things quick if I’m going to have a 50 degree day to do it before Spring 2012 rolls around. Oh, and they look great!

12/5/2011 at 9:49 AM
I think the gold + font choice are excellent. The gold ties in great with the warm lights and the font fits perfectly with the style of the house, well done.

12/5/2011 at 11:41 AM
Thanks Mok-Yi! It’s always nice to hear a professional graphic designer approves of our font and color choices! :-)

12/5/2011 at 10:38 AM
It looks perfect! While I’m not a gold fan either, I think you definitely made the right choice for historical accuracy – silver would have looked odd for sure.

12/5/2011 at 11:37 AM
Thanks Ashley! It was hard to get over my aversion to gold on this one, but I think we made the right choice.

12/5/2011 at 10:41 AM
Hi Wendy! I recently came across your blog and I love hearing about all your adventures! My husband and I also live in Old Town and have fallen in love with everything about it. So, naturally, I love reading this blog! My husband works for a construction company and I am an interior designer, so once again, your blog is really inspiring (and fun) to read + follow! Anyway, I really like your final choice of numbers. I am also a silver person, but with the historical feel of your home and the city in general, the gold color (and font type) really works! I can’t wait to read more about your projects!

12/5/2011 at 11:40 AM
Hi Katie, or should I say, “Hi Neighbor”?
Let me extend an official welcome to Old Town Home! It sounds like you and your husband are a perfect match for each other, and we’re so glad to hear you’ve been enjoying our posts and projects. :-)

12/5/2011 at 12:16 PM
I would have loved the leaded glass (my sister is a glass artist and is making me reproduction pieces for the 9!! tiny windows over the built in buffet in my dining room). BUT, I love your new numbers – they look fantastic and historically accurate.BTW, do your neighbors have transom numbers? I thought in some of the photos that they do, but when I looked back at the ‘stairs’ photos (which is the best shot of their door), I don’t see them. It would be neat if your numbers coordinated.

12/5/2011 at 2:14 PM
Thank you!No, or neighbor directly next door doesn’t have transom numbers. A previous owner had a nice metal plaque made that hangs underneath her front light. With our houses being mirror images of each other, it could look neat if they coordinated. We currently have complementary paint schemes as well as matching urns, so we do what we can to ensure both houses look great together.

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