Volume 10, Issue 8 - October 2009

Out of Sight
When It Comes to Hardware, Great Value is Being Placed on What You Don’t See
by Axel Husen

In the early 1900s, Frank Lloyd Wright argued that “form and function are one.” Since then, we’ve seen many architectural trends and aesthetic credos come and go. And yet, as we take a closer look at some of the more recent developments in the fenestration industry, we find the principle still applies. For door and window manufacturers and their suppliers, recognizing the unique relationship between the form of an object and its intended purpose is critical to success. But where does that leave the hardware supplier when the purpose of the window is to create an unobstructed view to the outside? What do hardware designers do when the ideal aesthetic solution for the hardware is, ironically, the absence of it?

Some rather inventive solutions have emerged. Due to the ever-growing focus on homeowner convenience, ease of use, and an organic, contemporary style, the “less is more” approach to visible hardware has taken hold. As manufacturers go to great lengths to develop innovative door and window designs, the need for hardware solutions that feel natural to their products becomes more apparent. While this typically is achieved through proprietary solutions, hardware suppliers are becoming more adept at producing technologically advanced, aesthetically sophisticated platform solutions.

Modern hardware solutions strive to integrate movement, security and aesthetics into one perfect design—a design that, when done right, will seem as if it were developed exclusively for the door or window it secures. In fact, integration is key. Hardware suppliers have found innovative ways to design products that, even when they go unseen, provide so many benefits to the homeowner that manufacturers can leverage them to differentiate their products effectively and increase their profit opportunities.

Keep a Low Profile
Today’s interior design choices are often dictated by clean lines, subtle contrasts and a look of architectural seamlessness. When it comes to the question of hardware, it often stands to reason—the lower the visibility, the higher the appeal.

Flush-mount and recessed hardware solutions therefore have gained a good deal of momentum in recent years. From automatic sash locks for sliding and hung windows to hinges for folding doors, flush-mount hardware that sits in-line with the profile is extremely popular with homeowners; not only for its sophisticated appearance, but for its practicality.

Hide Your Assets
More and more often, door and window manufacturers and homeowners alike, are opting for concealed hardware solutions. When we talk about aesthetics in hardware, we’re talking about more than just a wide selection of colors and finishes. Aesthetics can range from the shape and line of each piece, to the ergonomics and feel of certain components, to the ability of the hardware to fit flush with the profile, to concealing the hardware from view altogether.

In the case of tilt-and-turn windows, concealed hinges are engineered to allow for narrower increasing the glass area and making an altogether better-looking window that lets more light through and creates a more spacious atmosphere—all without compromising security, load capacity, performance or convenient operation.

Moreover, when it comes to folding door systems, many hardware suppliers offer concealed locking options and concealed shoot bolt systems in an effort to create a clean, upscale appearance. This is often with a single handle, replacing surface-mounted flush bolts to minimize the amount of visible hardware. In addition, folding door manufacturers have invented ways to design their door systems to conceal the tracks within the application.

Find an Attractive Solution
Though new to the market, the use of magnetic technology in hardware is being embraced by door and window manufacturers as an effective solution for optimum security and homeowner peace of mind.

In sliding and hung windows, a fully concealed, contact-less magnetic trigger will eliminate upper sash drag and minimize opening forces, making a magnetic sash lock the perfect solution for double-hung windows.

Magnets not only provide a reliable and durable locking solution, but also a concealed, upscale appearance (due to the lack of protruding elements), as well as subtle acoustics. Some magnetic locks on the market also offer a true indication security feature allowing homeowners to identify by sight if the lock has been triggered and the window is locked.

Likewise, magnetic locks in swing doors have proven ideal for sophisticated architectural designs, as the latch is nearly invisible in line with the lock case when the door is open.

Screen Out the Undesirables
Now you see it, now you don’t—retractable insect screens are a hot industry trend. Innovative screen solutions are a testament to how much attention product engineers really pay to what window and door manufacturers are trying to accomplish. Retractable screens are a truly integrated solution in that, if the manufacturer is selling large glass patio doors that promise unobstructed views to the outside, the screen can be concealed and the view maximized.

As opposed to permanently installed flat screens, these new retractable screens—some pleated, some rolled—are used only when the door or window is open, giving a clear view to the outside and demanding less frequent cleaning. Versatile enough to accommodate folding doors, sliding doors and French doors, as well as various window solutions, retractable insect screens have proven to be the visionary solution that, when not in use, are tucked neatly out of view.

When we look at how far the industry has progressed in the past few years, we see a shift in the perception of hardware: from serving as merely a component or accessory to playing a pivotal role in a highly integrated solution. After all, the doors and windows of today must accomplish so many things at once—they must be secure, easy to operate, weather-resistant and energy-efficient, and they must bring a new level of sophistication to the home. As hardware suppliers make it their business to help door and window manufacturers not only achieve but surpass these goals, new and innovative solutions have emerged. In fact, instead of standing out, many hardware suppliers have found they can better serve their customers by focusing their efforts on developing the industry’s hidden treasures. y

Axel Husen is president and chief executive officer of Interlock USA Inc., an ASSA ABLOY company. He has more than 20 years experience in the door and window industry.

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