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Volume 7   Issue 6               June 2006

Decorative Glass Market Thrives
Why This Specialty Glass Trend in Doors and Windows is Spreading
by Sarah Batcheler

Whether you’ve been exposed to new designs and features in today’s new homes, or just opened an interior design magazine in the past year, you’ve seen the exquisite use of decorative glass everywhere, including doors and windows. The use of decorative glass has exploded in applications and use over the last five years. What is fueling this growth and what can we expect to see in the future? DWM spoke to manufacturers and fabricators of decorative glass, as well as door and window manufacturers who use the glass in their product, to learn more about this movement.

Growing in Usage
“There is an increase in usage. There are also more companies involved in manufacturing decorative glass,” says Dave Williams, general manager of decorative glass manufacturer Arch Deco Glass in Columbus, Ohio.

“In the past, people used drapes or blinds [to accentuate] windows, but now they have the option of decorative glass,” says Chris Landry, owner of SGO Classical Glass in Amherst, N.H., a company that manufactures decorative doors and windows.

“Decorative glass builds more character in a home. It’s for people who seek individuality,” says Kent Mawer, vice president of sales and marketing of Tem-pace, a decorative glass manufacturer in Niles, Mich.

Some are seeing a trend toward the broad use of color.

BJ Katz, art director at Melt-down Glass Art and Design, a decorative glass manufacturer in Chandler, Ariz., agrees. “The imaginative use of color is a new thing.” She ex-plains that colored glass can tie together interiors.

It also offers a tremendous capacity to personalize the glass.

“People like things that are customized to them,” says Katz. “A picture that might remind a family of its favorite vacation spot is an example of how decorative glass can be customized,” she says. 

Richard McMahon, director of sales at Medieval Glass in Estherville, Iowa, says he has noticed customers wanting more decorative leaded glass.

“Decorative glass has become competitive because of the China connection with suppliers,” he adds.

Additionally, manufacturers have noticed different trends in doorlites.

“The trend we see … is that the sales of zinc and patina caming are increasing and the sales of brass caming are going on the downturn. Wrought iron doorlites are really popular,” says Sonia Brossard, marketing coordinator at Novatech Inc., a Sainte-Julie, Quebec-based company that manufactures doors and windows with decorative glass.

Not only does decorative glass look pretty, but it also has functional uses in a variety of applications. Patterned glass is a big player when it comes to decorating homes for privacy reasons.

“People are concerned about privacy—they want to let light in but they also want the privacy—which is why decorative glass is good,” says Landry.

Why the Growth?
So what exactly has sparked this growth? Most say that its unique tactile qualities, privacy protection and the fact decorative glass is more affordable now than in the past has made decorative glass increasingly popular.

“The increase may be because manufacturers now have the capacity to produce high-quality decorative glass with detail,” says Alexander Kronik, owner of Palace of Glass, a company that manufactures 250 different decorative glass patterns and custom-designs glass in San Diego, Calif. 

“People like decorative glass because, overall, our society has succumbed to everything manufactured. Decorative glass has a personal and handcrafted feel and people want that in their environments,” says Katz. 

Jack Hoey, owner of Coastal Glass Distributors in Charleston, S.C., says that the explosion in home values is driving the growth on the residential side.

“We’re working on new techniques in fusing different types of glass, including dichroic glass. It has a metal deposition on it that gives off three distinctively different colors,” says Jane Skeeter, chief executive officer of decorative glass manufacturer UltraGlas Inc. of Chatsworth, Calif. “It’s very decorative and very expensive, so it’s mainly used as small accents,” she adds. 

The variation of decorative patterns, colors and textures seems to be endless as more designs are introduced to the marketplace.

“Now there is more hardware, such as stand-off hardware available, which allows us to create layers upon hardware,” says Leslie Mason, co-owner of glazing company Clear-Vue Glass in Durham, N.C. “It opens up a new function of glass that wasn’t available before.”

“Awareness is growing. There is no other product out there with this much versatility,” says Mason.

With its beauty sparking interest across the nation, the growth may be a direct impact of supply and demand. 

“Those companies that responded to the interest ... it has been an interactive process that has, in-turn, stimulated demand,” says Hoey. “Seeing new products, one can get a broader sense of what the possibilities are,” he adds.

Working with Manufacturers
Fabricators of decorative glass say they do confront obstacles when working with door and window manufacturers.

“There are always challenges when working with door and window manufacturers,” says Mawer. “With the global economy right now, costing issues have made things more competitive. They [door and window manufacturers] are requiring shorter lead times so their product can get in the customers hands quicker,” he adds.

McMahon, who also works with door and window manufacturers, says he has faced another challenge regarding inventory.

“They [door and window manufacturers] want proprietary designs and are not willing to commit to inventory—which puts the burden on the manufacturer,” he says, adding that large inventories are the most challenging projects requested by manufacturers.

“We always run into challenges because customers want special things that haven’t been made. But, we’ve been able to handle it pretty well. I haven’t run into a manufacturing company yet that won’t work with our unusual requests,” comments Pam Walus, office manager at glazing company CGI Glass in DePere, Wis.

“Our challenge is that every door and window we do is custom, so we can never just call up a manufacturer of glass and they know what we need. The sales cycle is a little longer,” says Landry.

Terry Webb, president of Eureka Metal and Glass Services Inc. in Philadelphia, says his company encounters challenges through miscommunication with suppliers of decorative glass.

“Most domestic suppliers market their product to architects and create an impression of what the installed square-foot value should be—which is often unrealistic and therefore creates trouble for installation contractors at bid time,” says Webb. “Through a laborious process, we have to educate the architect and/or customer of costs involved to show our proposal is accurate. This creates a whole other level of work that wouldn’t exist if the false impression wasn’t created,” he adds.

Communication with architects and designers is also a challenge.

“We cater toward the high-end market and we deal with designers and architects, as well as people who just want to add a new feature to their home. Some people use our product as a piece of art that they frame and hang on the wall,” says Kronik.

“There’s always a challenge because we have to try to make sure our product can satisfy them aesthetically as well as with its quality,” he adds.

The Future of Decorative Glass
Is decorative glass just a hot trend for today’s use, or can we expect to see it continue in the future? Manufacturers and fabricators agree–it is here to stay. Where is the future of the decorative glass industry heading? Up.

“I think it will continue to be used in more applications. Even just several years ago, people only associated stained glass with churches. Now there is a broad range of applications for decorative glass,” says Landry.

“We hope to be in style with the artistic world while making the best quality product,” says Kronik.

Novatech is looking ahead with the introduction of new products in the marketplace.

“We have increased our product offering of stained glass doorlites with the patina and zinc caming because this is a new trend in the market. Also, we have launched two new silkscreens this year that give the look of wrought iron,” says Brossard, who adds that the cost of a silkscreen is less expensive than a wrought iron doorlite.

And the key to its longevity? Limitless options.

“I think the use of decorative glass is going to increase because it gives people better options and allows [their homes] to be individualized,” says Mawer. “It’s gaining acceptance and I see nothing but growth.”

As decorative glass continues to grow, so will companies that specialize in the application.

“As our accounts grow, we grow,” says Mawer, adding, “We try to grow with out accounts and that all comes down to partnering.”

“We just moved into a new facility that is 50 percent larger with new equipment, and we’ve expanded the decorative glass portion,” says Williams.

“Looking toward the future, I expect the growth in decorative glass to fuel our growth,” says Mason.

“It is as if we’ve just begun to explore the broader use of decorative glass,” says Hoey. “Success is a moving target; change is a constant.” 

Sarah Batcheler is a contributing editor for DWM magazine.

© Copyright 2006 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.