Volume 47, Issue 5 - May 2012

Decorative Glass
A special section of USGlass magazine


Comment On This Story

Style Watch
Take a Look at Some Top Picks in 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 strategy.”

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,” he says.

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.

© Copyright 2012 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.