Volume 40,   Issue 5                                 May  2005

Trend Spotting
A Look at the Trends Guiding the Interior Glazing Market
by Brigid O'Leary

What is the future of interior glazing? Is it:
a) Color;
b) Texture;
c) Suspended glass; or
d) Lighting

If you said “all of the above,” give yourself a pat on the back, for you, too, see the future of interior glazing; or at least what seems to be the direction in which the industry is heading. Ultimately, it is the decorative element of glass that is leading the necessity for more innovative technology in the field.

“There’s a huge increased demand for decorative glass in general and it comes down to the technologies available to decorate it,” says Karen Clemens, senior marketing manager of International Imaging Materials Inc. (IIMAK), headquartered in Amherst, N.Y.

Clemens is not alone in that thought, either.

“There’s more awareness of what glass can do for the interior. Glass is replacing solid walls as the interiors become more open. With that there comes a need for privacy, but a desire for light transmission,” says Kenneth vonRoenn, Jr. with Architectural Glass Art Inc. in Louisville, Ky.

Color Me Glass

“Color is big right now. The technology has really advanced lately in the last few years, [as well as] the ability to use a limitless palate of colors for art glass. That’s really exciting. The decorative elements can compliment the interiors not only in textures but also in colors,” says BJ Katz, founder and artistic director of Meltdown Glass Art & Design Inc. of Chandler, Ariz.

She wasn’t the only one who mentioned color as the hot-trend to watch.

“Probably the biggest thing being added is color,” says Greg Thompson with Indiana Art Glass, headquartered in Indianapolis. “That’s a trend that started a couple of years ago and they’re looking for ways to get color throughout the glass.”

Joel Berman, president and chief executive officer of Joel Berman Glass Studios Ltd., also cites “a strong use of color, especially in back painted glass,” as a market segment he has seen grow significantly in recent years. Painting the glass is a common method for adding color, but it’s not the only method for coloring glass and depending on the use of the glass, may not always be the best route for a designer to take. 

“There’s a big push from architects [to use] different colors of glass. A lot of people can paint the glass. The problem is that more people are looking for solid-hue glass in thicker pieces of glass,” says Tim Czechowski with Artwork in Architectural Glass (AAG) in Newport Beach, Calif. 

“I’m not on the manufacturing side of flat glass; I manufacture specialty glass, but I sell a good amount of 3/8-inch Ford blue and 3/8-inch azure. If we can get our hands on 3/8-inch peach glass, we’re selling it. A lot of people want solid colors. Painted glass works well, but it’s not right for all applications.”

Compounding the painted glass issue is edge-exposed glass, which makes it more difficult to have a consistent color across larger areas, Czechowski says.

Technology and Texturing

Working with larger and larger pieces of glass is also a direction in which architects are moving.

“I see designers wanting to go larger, wanting to work with larger pieces of glass, larger kilns and the ability to have structures and substrates that have the ability to handle that additional size and weight,” says Carrie Duthie, who works with Thompson at Indiana Art Glass.

To work with projects of increasing size, the glazing industry is adapting the tools and technology to meet the demand.

IIMAK’s product is DecoTherm, a digital glass decoration process that prints a design using a thermal transfer-based ink on a decal that can then be applied to glass, Clemens explains.

DecoTherm mimics the look of sandblasted glass without the texture of sandblasting, but texturing is rapidly gaining ground across the board for the decorative element of interior glass and glazing, and it’s not always just straight-up textured glass. Thompson and Czechowski are seeing the market move toward textured glass with uniqueness.

“One of the biggest trends right now is the bending and tempering of textured glass, pushing the limits,” says Thompson, who added that custom textures are big sellers. Duthie added that Indiana Art Glass takes textures out of the environment in which the glass piece is going, to help create and unite a completely custom piece for clients.

Czechowski, meanwhile, sees textured glass picking up colors for an added value.

“New textures are becoming a necessity. I see the combination of textured glasses and laminated glasses,” he says. “It’s really expensive because they’re both expensive to begin with, but the effect is really worth it. The combination of materials will be something that over time will become a new product arena itself.”
Berman also sees texturing as a trend that is picking up pace in the industry.

“Trends in glass,” as Berman sees it, “are more architectural fashion in pattern development. This means a development of languages in glass design that pertain to a multitude of functions from quiet textures viewed close to architectural textures viewed from a distance.”

Color changing technology is on the horizon, too—and a bit closer in some cases.

Czechowski and his team already do work with a laminating process that gives the illusion of color changing glass depending on the angle from which the glass is viewed.

“It looks like hypercolor,” Czechowski says, referencing the color-changing shirts that were popular in the 1980s. “It doesn’t actually change when you touch it, but it does from the angles you’re looking at it.”

Duthie and Thompson are working on similar projects and are in the midst of developing diachronic applications for textured glass. 

“We’re working on it for a 4- by 7- foot diachronic application that shimmers and changes depending on the reflection and refraction of light,” Duthie says.

Technology is also evolving the way vonRoenn and his team at Architectural Glass Art work.

“There’s a new technology … that’s beginning to get a lot of attention. It’s a new inlay process where the glass is cut by water and then inlayed by a lamination process,” vonRoenn explained.

Bellwethers

The available technology plays a role not only in shaping the industry but also in shaping the trends that are being snapped up by architects and designers. While color and texture are leading trends in the industry right now, they are far from the only ways glass is being used for interior glazing. Among the more popular uses for glass right now, several people interviewed for this article mentioned waterfalls.

“The beautiful, restful feeling is the sound of water going over glass and it’s very popular,” says Katz, describing just one of many trends she is seeing for interior glass.

Duthie and Thompson both say they see a growing popularity in water features, but are also getting more requests for suspended glass, or glass suspended in the air to make it look as if it were floating, as well as “new and innovative ways to fasten glass together.”

For Czechowski, the big thing is glass flooring. While he, too, sees an interest in suspended glass—particularly his company’s trademarked, cast-glass medallions (the second most requested AAG product) he says “the glass flooring is it.” 

With all the different trends popping up, the effect on the industry is more far reaching than some might think.

“Expect more changes in design glass manufacturing,” Berman elaborated. “Using glass in a variety of wall applications from light transmitting to opaque applications is a growing trend.”

“What all this means is that there is more of a need to educate designers, the architects and interior designers as to what’s available in glass. As they start to have more specific needs, they’re not always aware of what all the options are and it really falls on the suppliers to educate them,” vonRoenn says.

Education

What it also means for the industry is that there is more of a need for safety education as well.

“We always have to bear in mind what we have to do to the glass, if it will still be tempered when we’re through with it,” Thompson says. “Safety is always an issue.”

Safety is an issue for others in the industry as well, particularly with the way interior glass is going. 

“A lot of architects are just now finding out that you can safely manufacture glass flooring,” Czechowski says. “We’re big on caution and safety. There are a lot of people who are entering the business right now who don’t have the architectural experience who want to do things [of which] they don’t know the safety aspects.

It’s something across the board; safety needs to be the first thing. Some people just don’t have glass engineers on board. We’re trying to go above and beyond that.” 

Brigid O’Leary is an assistant editor of USGlass magazine.


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