Dwelling on Glass at Home
From East to West, All-Glass Houses Remain
the Best for Maximizing a View and Commanding Style
by Megan Headley
The versatility of glass within homes is becoming more prominent, as
homeowners adopt glass (indoors and out). From the bathroom to the kitchen,
glass products are helping to open up spaces, as bigger feature windows
allow for a greater connection to the outdoors.
Glass Adds to Hudson River Views
For those lucky few who are able to design that dream house on a site
selected for its extraordinary views, glass may seem an obvious cladding
choice. And since it's a dream house after all, why not free up views
of the fabulous interior furnishings with interior glass railings, frameless
glass shower enclosures and lots of brilliant mirrors to reflect the light
at every turn as well?
And for those lucky few glazing contractors that are able to work directly
with the owner who specifies only the best of the best in his search for
a fully transparent dream house, quality is key in materials and installation.
ATM Mirror & Glass in Buchanan, N.Y., had such an experience working
on a residence situated directly on the Hudson River in Hyde Park, N.Y.
The company worked on the project from the early stages until the owner
was ready to move in.
Yes, the house features curtainwall, custom bent walls, glass railings
around the exterior perimeter and throughout the interior. But in the
house, the wow factor is in the details. Take the bathrooms, for example.
A 3,500-pound hand-carved bathtub had to be installed prior to closing
in the room. "We call them WT units," explains Jim Count, president
of ATM Mirror & Glass, in explaining the frameless bump-out units
that make up the home. "They're all bumped out from the house and
the bathtub fits in one of these in the master bath. It's all 13/16 laminated
glass, all butt-jointed together so you see nothing. There's no metal.
And then there's the powder room. "The whole powder room is bumped
out so when you're out there all you see is the Hudson River," Count
says. "It's almost like you're standing outside. It's an amazing
Letting Nature Shine
According to Lee Ledbetter & Associates in New Orleans, which worked
early on as the project architect, the Ledgerock Residence was "conceived
as a series of pavilions connected to a central spine whose geometries
may at first seem random; however, both the spine and the pavilions follow
the topography to occupy the highest elevation between two small caves
that flank a rock outcropping. The house is clad in cast stone, and the
roofs of each pavilion undulate in naturalistic wraps and curves that
create dramatic interior spaces while referencing the rugged topography
as well as the movement of the river."
Arriving visitors first meet a roughly 5,000-square-foot guest house that
mimics the glass appearance of the 20,000-square-foot main residence.
"At the end of the drive, the entry façade can be understood
as a planar backdrop to the naturalistic setting," writes the architect.
"Clean stone walls and clerestory windows create a preview to what
can only be appreciated upon entering the house-the panoramic views of
the Hudson River and the Catskills through the mostly glass river façades."
"The job took about 19 months to do," Count recalls. It's easy
to understand why as he describes the company's scope, from fabrication
of interior glass works to a wide range of installation projects.
From the River to the Pool
The exterior of the project featured custom-fabricated curtainwall supplied
by Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope.
"Everything was custom fabricated onsite," Count says. The clerestory
windows on the upper roof line of the house were all custom bent by custom
steel fabricators Newburgh Steel Products in Newburgh, N.Y., based on
templates provided by ATM Mirror & Glass. Tempered low-E glass was
used throughout for energy performance. J.E. Berkowitz in Pedricktown,
N.J., fabricated the oversize insulating glass units in various curtainwall
locations throughout the home, measuring 105 by 135 inches, and the 13/16-inch
laminated glass used in the frameless bump-out units.
Trickier still was installation of the glass units, some of which weighed
up to 1,800 pounds. Weight was only part of the problem-access to the
riverfront property was another. Enter the crane.
"The whole back side was very challenging," Count says. "We
had a 50-ton crane up there hoisting glass."
As he explains, "The glass came from the front of the house, over
the house and then set into place … There's no handling the glass because
of the enormous sizes of the glass."
ATM also glazed the nine Weiland lift slide glass doors supplied by Weiland
Sliding Doors and Windows in Oceanside, Calif. "It is a unique system
that they have," Count says. "They work beautifully. I mean,
they slide like butter."
A segmented glass railing flows along two sides of the house, framing
a patio. ATM also fabricated and installed sunscreen over each balcony.
It wasn't enough to have unhindered views from the house. The homeowner
also wanted his river views visible from within the swimming pool.
"The whole swimming pool is almost level [with the river],"
Count says. Installers sunk the glass railing's shoe right into the concrete
surrounding the pool, "so it looks like the glass is coming straight
out through the concrete." Count adds, "I don't think [replacement]
would be that tricky. He's got all stone out there so it would mean pulling
up a few stones, maybe chiseling out the cement and then replacing the
piece of glass."
Custom swing gates around the enclosure feature Italian hardware throughout.
Once the curtainwall was closed in, ATM's workers were brought inside.
The glazing contractor fabricated the interior scope-including glass railings
along the staircases, frameless shower doors, custom medicine cabinets
and mirror work-for the project as well as doing installation. The exception
is the ½-inch-thick curved tempered glass wall that spans two floors
of the home.
"The wall itself is 24 feet long, 16 feet high (split into 4 panels)
spanning two floors of the home. It was installed using standoffs, custom
made by Los Angeles-based C.R. Laurence, installed directly into the structural
steel." The greatest challenge, Count explains, was that the radius
of the curve was not consistent, changing throughout the span. "With
this being installed via standoffs combined with an inconsistent radius
made for a challenging installation. Never mind the weight of the panels
themselves! As many glass professionals know; being the finish person
can pose a certain degree of difficulty …" he adds.
Hand in Hand
The use of glass throughout this unique home meant that the glass fabricator-installer
was on call for 19 months on this project, overseeing complex products
and difficult installations.
"There was a whole lot going on up there, plus we were running our
whole fabricating place, plus doing other installs down here. So there
was a lot to do," Count says.
"If I was up there it was in the early morning and then back down
to our shop running these crews down here, and also communicating with
them throughout the day up on that site. And when there was any specialty
work, like when we had the 50-ton crane there, of course I had to be onsite
because this was dangerous. This was glass that weighs 1,800 pounds apiece
and they need to be set very, very delicately. So there was a lot going
on all the time."
Because glass use was so intrinsic to the project, ATM Mirror & Glass
was involved in nearly every step of construction.
"We followed the project from the very beginning on the structural
steel all the way through to the end, until actually the owner was moving
in," Count says.
As the project went on, the project architect grew less involved, Count
says, meaning the contract glazier dealt primarily with the home's owner.
He says there were daily questions from the owner, keeping him closely
involved. "It was nonstop, constantly, every day," Count says.
But the questions worked both ways.
"It was a great project to work on," he says. "The owner
was very understanding to just about anything that needed to be done.
If we thought it would be better this way or look better this way or perform
better that way then he was definitely for it."
Although the house provided its share of challenges, the experience proved
a positive one for Count. "Working with the homeowner was really
great … of course he was very excited and anxious as well to get into
the home," Count says. "If we [had been] working with a builder
or a developer, I don't think we would have gotten to do some of the things
that we were able to do in this house. Bringing it straight to the owner,
the source who was paying for it, we were able to do some unique things
to this house."
Speaking for Itself
Among the more typical sales, ATM Mirror & Glass continues to keep
busy with work on the occasional all-glass house.
"We do a lot of glass houses," he says. "We're finishing
one up right now … It was all single-glazed, which we converted to all
insulating glass. We stay busy with it.
"People just seek me out for that kind of thing," he continues.
"We've done quite a few and I guess … people who have these situations,
they look for [us]. And then of course we get recommendations and such."
Touring the finished Ledgerock home might inspire some of those calls
for help on similar such projects. "The pictures don't even do it
justice," Count says. "If you could walk through the house-it's
Glass Adds Modern Vibe
Architect Guy Dreier designed this Bonsall, Calif., home with custom fabricated
glass throughout, to create clean, modern lines. "The expansive use
of glass was desirable not only to capture the amazing views but also
as a unique architectural element," says Justin Mayall of Justin
Mayall Installations (JMI) in Oceanside, Calif., the glazing contractor.
JMI worked directly with the architect "to make their vision a reality,"
Mayall says, offering input on the glass makeup and frame design.
The end result: a range of glass components seamlessly merge from exterior
to interior and from room to room, demonstrating that glass can be at
home in any room.
At first glance, the most dramatic use of glass in the residence is the
large-scale lites in the windows and curved exterior railings, which open
the home to natural sunlight and grand views.
The project features Pilkington's EverGreen Eclipse low-E glass over clear,
in sizes up to 120 inches.
Mayall notes among the project's challenges was choosing a product that
didn't have a reflective quality, per the architect's request, and trying
to get the R-value up. He adds that such challenges are "pretty typical
of a custom home."
Once inside the home, a pathway of unique glass continues, most literally
in the glass floors and illuminated stair treads. The stairs feature custom
colors and textures. GlasPro in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., fabricated the
staircases with various unique interlayers, including textural options
from its textile and line and another with high-resolution graphic interlayers.
"The glass for the stairs was a low-iron laminated, tempered over
white with silver strand, which was a decorative details as well as a
key design element," Mayall explains of the first. On the latter,
he says, "We used light tape, which is a phosphorous tape … hit it
with a low voltage charge and it glows," he says.
Glass makes a splash in other rooms as well. Glass lined shower systems
with matching shaped transoms are unique to each bathroom.
Although the frameless shower featured no major hardware, it did have
one rather unique addition: "Half of the shower was inside the fireplace,"
Mayall says. "I was really concerned about thermal breakage. So what
I did was I used square standoffs that were about 3 inches long, and I
put a piece of glass [on either side]. I kind of made an insulating glass
unit, but I did it with standoffs. That way the heat would hit that [outer]
piece of glass prior to going to the next piece of glass."
Beyond the bathroom, ¾-inch cut glass countertops were used to
complete the kitchen and the recreation room.
Joe Green, the owner of GlasPro, points out that glass has found new life
in nearly every room of today's house.
"Bathrooms are still going to be the main focus but, let's face it,
it's starting to creep into other areas as well, being used more
as surfaces as opposed to just vertical walls," Green says.
Megan Headley is the editor of USGlass. She can be
reached at email@example.com
or follow her on Twitter @USGlass.
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