Rewriting the Rules: Decorative Glass Takes the Place of Traditional Materials

By Katie Brown

Glass is just glass … or so some may say. While the most commonly used glazing products in residential applications are transparent, there’s a lot of opportunity to also use decorative glass. While this can be used to take the place of traditional glass, such as in kitchen cabinets, these products can also be used in non-traditional glazing applications, creating new opportunities for the glass industry. What are some of the most popular applications for decorative glass? From shower doors to backsplashes and countertops, designers are challenging the industry to come up with unique products for more and more applications.

Know Your Location

Decorative glass is just that: glass with a decorative purpose. It can also
be practical and used in seemingly ordinary ways, especially in the kitchen
and bathroom. Everyday items can be replaced with beautiful glass creations, and decorative glass can spruce up even the most mundane objects.

In high end homes, for example, designers’ ideas are only limited to their imagination. Jessica Boisvert, marketing coordinator for ThinkGlass, and Michel Mailhot, president and glass artist, both say they get the most requests for kitchen countertops, “…because it’s the room where [customers] spend most of their time, and a countertop is a focal point that embellishes the interior design of a residence.”

Sheri Law, owner of Sheri Law Art Glass Ltd., receives a lot of requests for backsplashes in both kitchens and bathrooms. While her most popular items are always stained glass windows, Law says that it’s these decorative glass touches, such as backsplashes or counter tops, that give a room life.

“When you enter the room, that glass gives everyone a different feeling,” says Law. “It’s not just a piece of glass, it’s a piece of art.”

Common Themes & Trends

As with most other decorations, decorative glass designs and requests come and go with themes and popular trends.

Law has received requests for everything from decorative glass shower doors, cabinet doors, counter tops and skylights, among many others. What people are looking for, says Law, is uniformity. If someone wants to integrate a decorative glass countertop into their kitchen or bathroom, odds are they will also want cabinet doors, backsplashes or other pieces to match the theme.

Changing Trends

Law says years ago trendy decorative glass included lots of flowers and patterns. Today the trends have changed. She says most requests are for more modern and abstract pieces. These give homeowners a unique aesthetic, and the feeling that a true one-of-a-kind work of art resides in their home.

Boisvert reiterates the same sentiment, noting that ThinkGlass also receives many requests for abstract work, especially in countertops.

“Because the cabinetry takes a lot of visual place in the kitchen, there is usually [little] space on a wall to add artwork, so why not in your glass countertop?” says Boisvert. “No one will have the same countertop as you.”

Continuing the countertop theme, Barry Allan, director of Nathan Allan Glass Studios Inc., says his company also receives numerous requests for unique countertops. Specifically for Nathan Allan, the company gets requests for their “thick glass” countertops which typically measure 1.5 to 2 inches thick.

“Our countertops are replacing more traditional materials such as granite or tile,” explains Allan, adding that they also receive requests for thick glass to be used in furniture, such as dining room tables.

Aside from being visually stunning, decorative glass can also be practical. Boisvert points out that in addition to being decorative, glass is hygienic, non-porous, easy-to-clean, durable, functional and versatile.

Nathan Allan also offers customers practical solutions in the form of easy to clean glass.

“One of the most attractive benefits of our textured kiln formed glass is that the glass repels, and does not stain or absorb,” says Allan. “It is far easier to clean a glass surface than the surface of another material, as glass is non-porous. In all applications, the texture in our glass will hide or camouflage any fingerprints, which makes the glass appear clean and new.”

Form and Function

Decorative glass is also becoming more and more versatile, as artists and companies are being challenged with requests to push the envelope of possibilities. As an example, while residential decorative glass applications are most often in the kitchen and bathroom, their use is also extending into other rooms. Customers have requested items such as glass staircases and floor-to-ceiling decorative windows. Designers and glass artists have seen the need for this market grow, and are up for the challenge of making practical art.

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