Glass is more than functional—it is architectural. It gives the illusion of more space, increases natural lighting, and lends character to interior spaces. Architectural glass goes beyond architecture to become art, using textures, patterns, colors, and techniques to define and highlight individual tastes. Glass can incorporate Japanese rice paper for a softer look; be mouth-blown for a more authentic, vintage feel; or be rolled for a three-dimensional look. It can be practical, as with sleek, contemporary frosted glass that leaves no fingerprints behind. Glass can be patterned, laminated, frosted, or acid-etched, offering varying degrees of translucency for privacy and design.
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Patterned and Laminated Glass
Patterned glass is machine-made. Molten glass passes through steel rollers that impress the pattern into the glass. The glass is cooled slowly so that it can be custom-cut to size. With hundreds of patterns to choose from, homeowners can incorporate design themes ranging from geometric to natural. Lamination sandwiches a layer of decorative or high-strength material between two layers of glass. Laminating rice paper (with its wide variety of designs and textures), laminating frosted glass to standard glass, adding a colored interlayer, or combining two linear patterns at 90 degree angles give the homeowner a wide range of selections when it comes to patterned glass. Specialty glass companies will walk customers through the options and provide them with the cut glass ready to inset in a pre-measured door or window.
Art Glass and Reproduction Glass
Art glass is always decorative and sometimes hand-crafted. Stained glass is among the most popular forms of art glass. Sometimes referred to as leaded glass, stained glass is typically sold in large, colored sheets. While the designs made from stained glass are artfully crafted by hand, the production of the glass itself can occur in a studio using the mouth-blown technique or in a factory setting on an assembly line. The high cost of stained glass is due to the amount of time required to make it and the cost of materials.
Whether hand-made or machine-made, glass that is colored is typically made in smaller batches. Colors are created by mixing various metal oxides, such as gold or cobalt, into the raw materials prior to melting. Firing alters the color. For example, gold will yield a bubblegum pink color when cooled. Iron oxide is used to give reproduction glass its characteristic light green hue reminiscent of older glass.
Reproduction glass, with its bubbles and blemishes, is the preferred choice for glass replacement in an antique china cabinet or vintage cupboard. It also lends itself beautifully to more expansive historic renovations. Because it is mouth-blown, reproduction glass has a waviness that is not found in modern glass. Hand-made glass is not homogeneous, so it can’t be tempered. It can, however, be made safe through lamination.
Making It Safe
Safety glass is recommended for vulnerable areas such as doors. Safety glass is made in two ways, either through tempering or laminating. Tempered glass is made and cut to the specified thickness and size, then heated in a tempering oven where temperatures reach 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit. Through rapid cooling, the surface tension of the glass increases, making it four times stronger than standard glass. When tempered glass breaks, it dices or crumbles, leaving no sharp edges behind. Laminated glass, at its most simple, involves a plastic interlayer that is fused between two pieces of glass. When broken, the glass cracks but stays in place, giving it the added benefit of security.
Inset Glass for Pocket Door
In a Miami condo, Bob used glass inserts in the pocket door to divide the living room from the private quarters. Bob selected a leaf-patterned glass from Bendheim, a third-generation architectural glass company in New York City. The glass is patterned, so it allows light to pass through the panels and into the interior of the apartment while obscuring the view and allowing for privacy on both sides.
The glass design was an aesthetic choice, notes Bendheim Senior Vice President Donald Jayson. It marries elements from a bygone era with a more modern look. Going with pocket doors, however, was as much an aesthetic decision as a practical one. The doors make the 950-square-foot condo appear more spacious and allow for diffused, natural lighting while maintaining privacy. Bob also had the glass tempered for safety, according to Jayson. “This way, if someone runs into it, it won’t disintegrate. Whether it’s for residential or commercial applications, it’s always good to make sure that the glass is safety glass,” he says.
The door installation was a mix of pre-fab and custom. Project supervisor David Southard purchased a pre-fab pocket door frame from a hardware store, then commissioned Miami Beach door specialists House of Doors to construct and customize the inset-glass pocket doors. The end result is an exquisite room divider in rich cedar with full-length glass panels.