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Decorative Glass Trends
by Ellen Rogers
From floors to walls, ceilings and beyond, glass can pretty
much be used just about everywhere these days. More than just clear glass,
these decorative products can bring color, style, patterns and pictures
to both interior and exterior applications.
And just what are the biggest trends in decorative glass? We talked to
some industry experts to get their take on some of the biggest, brightest
and shiniest decorative uses. Check it out over the next three pages.
Back-painted glass is popping up just about everywhere, with one
of the most common applications being kitchen backsplashes.
Kris Vockler, vice president of ICD High Performance Coatings in Vancouver,
Wash., says she’s seen kitchen/bath applications increasingly incorporate
color. “More lighting and glass color are creating more effects that pop
out,” she says.
Mirror and antique mirror have also seen a comeback and are being
used more and more.
“Over the years, we’ve seen many creative uses for mirror in interior
applications—both commercial and residential,” says Drew Mayberry, president
of Lenoir Mirror in Lenoir, N.C. “These uses are driven by aesthetic as
well as practical needs.”
According to Mayberry, one factor driving the growth in mirror usage involves
the increasing demand for multi-family housing.
“Consumers are opting to rent or lease rather than purchase their own
homes. Apartments are typically smaller in terms of total square footage.
Mirrors create the illusion of space and enhance light transmission, he
says. “Mirrors are an excellent tool for aesthetic and practical improvement
when space is limited.”
The aesthetics of antique mirror also have made a comeback.
“Antique mirrors continue to be popular and we see the demand for these
products increasing,” says Tim Casey, founder and owner of Jockimo Inc.
“Retail, restaurants, casinos, office spaces and residential applications
are the types of projects in which we are seeing our mirrors being specified.
The demand is not only a domestic one. In the past year we have even shipped
internationally to Athens, Greece and London,” he adds.
Glass floors and stairs are another popular trend. While these
do make for eye-catching aesthetics, there are other reasons, too, for
their increasing use. One such reason, according to Casey, is daylight
harvesting, the practice of capturing light from an exterior wall, by
making adjacent walls and floors transparent so that light can travel
freely across room interiors.
“Daylight harvesting reduces electrical consumption and provides access
to nature by the occupants of a building,” he says. “Numerous studies
have proven that human performance is increased when exposed to daylight.
The intent of the Indoor Environmental Quality Credit 8.1 in the USGBC
LEED V3 reference guide is to provide occupants with a connection between
the indoors and the outdoors. Using glass-flooring panels for daylight
harvesting is a means to create transparency for this important environmental
While acid-etched glass is being used more and more in areas such as room
dividers and door panels, it is also making its way into exteriors.
“The major trend we observe in the architectural market is the need to
use glass panels in the building envelope to reduce glare (vision areas),
enhance design (vision and non-vision areas) as well as maximize color
rendering (non-vision areas),” says Marc Deschamps, business development
manager for Montreal-based Walker Glass Co. Ltd. “This trend is supported
by a sharp increase we observe in demands from architects to use acid-etched
glass (full surface etch or patterned etch) on surface one, which is exposed
to the outside of exterior glass assemblies.”
Technological advancements have made it possible to take most any image,
design, pattern or print and apply it to glass. Graphic imaging makes
it possible for the design community to add a fresh, creative flare to
projects. Such an aesthetic can be achieved through several different
processes, such as direct-to-glass printing as well as printed interlayers.
However, Bernard Lax, president of Los Angeles-based Pulp Studio, provides
a word to the wise.
“The process of selecting a manufacturer to do graphic imaging in glass
is many times lost in the ignorance of both the designer and the manufacturer.
There are many different graphic processes being promoted by the industry
and not all of them are truly meant for architectural applications,” says
Lax. “The lack of experience of the designer, and even some manufacturers,
can lead to the selection of a technology that yields a result that may
ultimately not perform or give the best results possible.”
Lax adds, “Manufacturers sell the technology they own and there is not
one technology that applies to every application out there. A designer
should first spend time researching the different technologies, ask questions
and compile some performance data before spending any time with any manufacturer
developing samples and wasting time with technologies that don’t ultimately
apply to the designer’s intent.”
Whether in commercial applications or residential settings, some designers
are increasingly specifying glass countertops. Companies such as ThinkGlass
in Montreal are combining everything from colors and textures and many
other details to create countertops that are unique.
“Glass is a noble, pure material that has been out there for a long time,”
says Bertrand Charest, president of ThinkGlass. “Designers love glass;
the fresh and clean aspect of it. It is one of the toughest materials
out there and the natural luminescence of it is simply unique. No other
material can claim to have this relationship with light.”
In residential applications the kitchen is one of the most popular settings
for decorative glass, with countertops and glass pantry door inserts two
of the trendiest additions.
“Custom glass pantry doors are popular because people are always looking
for something extra; something custom that ties in with their decor, but
suits their personal taste—not something everyone else has,” says LeeAnn
Gannett, director of sales and marketing for Sans Soucie Art Glass in
Palm Desert, Calif. “For the kitchen, adding a custom frosted glass pantry
door meets that need perfectly.”
Combining glass with water features and wall art is yet another emerging
trend. According to Rob Morton, director of sales and marketing for Bluworld
of Water, glass has become popular for use in water features because of
the freedom it affords the specifier.
“There are so many options of colors and textures at many different price
ranges that there is always a glass option available,” he says. “Often
our clients start off not wanting to use glass because they think it is
not unique enough for their project but once we show them the options
out there and the affordable nature (compared to other materials), they
quickly see the benefits.”
Morton adds that glass is also a durable, non-porous material that will
not fail or leak.
“This is always a key design consideration in working with any water feature,”
Ellen Rogers is a contributing editor for USGlass magazine and
editor of Decorative Glass magazine. Email her at erogers@glasss
or follow her on Twitter @DG_Magazine.
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