Volume 43, Issue 8 - August 2008

Decorative Discussions
What Is Decorative Glass Anyway?

By Kris Vockler
Kris Vockler is vice president of ICD High Performance Coatings of Vancouver, Wash., and chair of GANA’s Decorative Division. Ms. Vockler’s opinions are solely her own and not necessarily those of this magazine. Inside and Out, It’s a Product That’s Growing in Use The glass industry today is ready for decorative glass; we are seeing this widely defined market segment grow at an incredible rate. So where has the decorative market been and where is it expected to go? Hopefully we can answer both of these questions in this column.

Historically we have seen decorative glass growing in the area of art glass (unique pieces for homes and offices) as well as commercially through the use of sandblasted glass, frosted glass, cut/beveled glass, color wall cladding and colored spandrels in building facades. Recognizing this growing market, the Glass Association of North America (GANA) added a Decorative Division (DD) to its list of already successful divisions catering to the glass industry in 2006. The DD welcomes anyone who makes decorative glass into an organization that not only helps to market end products through greater public awareness but also works to shape the industry through voluntary industry standards and guidelines for manufacturing and procedures for installation.

Two years after its creation, the new division has seen an explosion of new members, new products and creative ideas, all driven by people in the industry who care about glass. In 2007, decorative glass was all over GANA’s “Design in Glass” awards. Companies took home awards for projects that not only touched on pure glass design but also crossed into showing how decorative glass touches all end-use products, such as laminated and tempered glass.

The definition for decorative glass is quite vast. How can one truly define it, and should we try? From stained glass to spandrel, from dot patterns for shading to colored glass in wall cladding and unique pieces of art glass for hotel lobbies (à la Chihuly), glass is a fantastic medium for design expression. Decorative glass allows architects and designers a way to piece together their vision on the exterior of a building as well as in the interior.

Decorative Cladding at Home
Decorative glass in interior wall cladding applications shows huge potential because it’s already being done on a large scale in Asia and is starting to gain large acceptance here in North America. For high-rise residential condominium projects, an architect or designer can create one of several looks for a client to choose as they fill a whole building with a standardized interior look.

In the photo at left, you can see that glass is used for all of the surfaces in this bathroom, not only providing a desired “look,” but also a sanitary surface for easy cleaning. This project, conceptualized by Saint Glas in Hong Kong, utilizes low-iron glass with a silicone opacifier on the back. Color and metallics are all possible and, what’s more, the final product helps cater to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEEDpoint requirements. Many products offer the same effect to the same degree; what’s fantastic is how many different variations of decorative glass can be used in an application such as this one.

Decorative Glass
Gone Commercial

In a more commercial use, the GANA Design in Glass Awards showcased a great use of glass in the restaurant Cielo in Boca Raton, Fla. (see photo on page 43). Glass was used extensively in this project, from the colored and patterned wall partitions to the bar and table dividers—even as a way to create the lighting needed on the ceiling. This project might have used glass artisans who produced a one-time piece of artwork as well as high production colored and pattern glass from many glass fabricators across North America.

More, More, More
In the last two years, many new decorative glass companies seem to have popped up, and well-established glassmakers have ramped up their decorative glass offerings. Where once there were only three types of pattern glass available from a manufacturer we now see 20 or 30 patterns from which to choose. In the past where you would have needed to use corrosive chemicals to attain a frosted glass you now have many high performing coatings being used on glass to give the same long lasting effect and, as a bonus, fewer fingerprints.

From this point on, decorative glass can do nothing other than grow. It’s not a fad—it’s been here all along but now it’s being fully utilized and proving to be a creative medium. If I had to throw my two cents into the ring as to what is needed as this movement grows, I would have to express how much the market needs a clearinghouse on what’s available. How does an architect or designer decide what to use, know what is long lasting, or even who makes what? Organizations such as GANA help to answer these questions. A simple portal of decorative glass … possibly even this magazine you hold in your hand … will fill that gap.


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