Window to the Future of Decorative Glass

Advancing products, solutions and technologies define market
Katy Devlin
March 28, 2014
COMMERCIAL, RETAIL, FABRICATION : DECORATIVE GLASS

The William H. Gross Stamp Gallery at the National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C., features stamp reproductions on 54 illuminated exterior windows, representing the individual stamps on display inside the museum. The ultra-transparent glass—from AGC Glass Company North America —consists of a Krystal Klear low-iron substrate printed with Krystal Images high-resolution digital imaging technology. The glass was then combined with an outboard lite of Energy Select 63 low-E glass to create an energy-efficient insulating glass unit. AGC provided approximately 1,500 square feet of glass for the project. The architect was Cho Benn Holback and Associates, and the general contractor, Clark Construction. Ridgeview Glass Inc. served as the glazing contractor.

The decorative glass market is the tech industry of the glass world. New fabrication technologies and product options are entering the market at a speed that more closely resembles the electronics market than the construction industry.

The Projects:
Online-only feature of decorative glass projects.
 

"The decorative glass market is changing so fast. Things that were new, unique or special just a couple of years ago are now old-hat and more common," says Chris Mammen, president of M3 Glass Technologies. "Everybody, from designers to building owners, from glass fabricators to equipment manufacturers, is constantly looking to do something new with decorative glass."

"Our industry produces such a variety of decorative glass types now that were unique or completely nonexistent until recent years," adds Alice Dickerson, marketing communications manager for AGC Glass Company North America. Take digital imaging. “It was only about six years ago that digital imaging really began to take hold in our industry with equipment being sold at GlassBuild America to apply images to glass using ceramic frit paint. Now, we are seeing a variety of digital imaging processes available in the form of high-resolution films laminated in glass, or applied to the surface of the glass—some during production and others post-installation," Dickerson says.

Driving the push for new decorative glass solutions is a design community that is hungry for more options and flexibility. “Our customers are demanding more creative and technically complex decorative glass products,” says Eugene Negrin, president and CEO of Galaxy Glass & Stone. “We continue to be amazed at what our customers request we manufacturefor their projects.”

Trends in decorative glass are “driven by [interior designers and architects] who look for unique solutions to design problems, and trendsetters looking for a new language in glass that relates to their architecture,” according to the team from Joel Berman Glass Studios.

"High-end designers are looking for glass products that are new, unique and that have never been used before," adds Barry Allan, director of Nathan Allan Glass Studios Inc. “Designers love to be the first to use a product that has neverbeen used before." 

Here, we present top decorative glass trends for products and applications. Also see these decorative glass products on display in completed projects.

Product Trends

Back-painted glass and colors

The design industry is witnessing a color explosion, and that is leading to growing demand for back-painted glass products. "Bendheim is observing a renewed interest in color, from various shades of teal, blue and green, to Pantone-color-of-the-year-inspired lavenders, pinks and purples. ... Luminous glass varieties with a colorful sparkling appearance are also in demand," says Donald Jayson, senior vice president of Bendheim Architectural Glass. "Abundance of colors reveals the cautious optimism and positive outlook of the market." 

Decorative glass suppliers have responded with expanding possibilities in back-painted products. "The introduction of back-painted glass has increased the amount of glass used on interior walls due to the range of colors available," adds Chris Dolan, director, commercial glass marketing, for Guardian Industries.

1. Back-painted glass from GlasPro

GlasPro’s line of back-painted glass products was specifically designed for applications requiring bright, durable colors with excellent weathering properties, the supplier reports. The glasses can be laminated, and are engineered for a high level of chemical, abrasion and scratch resistance. The GlasPro-BP line offers a complete range of Pantone colors, color choices from most major paint manufacturers, as well as custom colors including pearls and metallics. 
800/776-2368 | www.glas-pro.com

      
   

2. Ice Blue/Colbalt Slab from Meltdown Glass

Meltdown Glass introduced Ice Blue/Cobalt Slab Glass: ¾-inch to 1-inch-thick slab glass made with brilliant glass enamel colors. The glass is suitable for cladding, transaction surfaces, countertops and light boxes/backlit feature walls.
480/633-3366 | www.meltdownglass.com

 
   

3. Color Coated glass from Bendheim

Bendheim expanded its Color Coated line of back-painted glass with a collection of 20 designs inspired by nature and the latest decorative surface trends. The collection features a range of hues, some in combination with subtle textures, including rich oxblood, chic teal, lively yellow and soothing spa blue, according to the company. The durable, maintenance-friendly glass surfaces are ideal for high-traffic, frequent-use applications, including feature walls, lobbies and elevators, as well as kitchen and bath backsplashes. Bendheim provides in-house automated cutting, polishing, waterjet, tempering, lamination and back-painting glass fabrication services. These capabilities ensure a budget-friendly product and timely delivery, according to the company. 
800/221-7379 | www.bendheimarchitectural.com

 

Textures 

Decorative glass suppliers continue to add to their line of texture options. “Textured glass continues to increase in demand, with more unique patterns and customization available,” says AGC’s Dickerson.“We are also seeing a resurgence in organic textures and currently 
developing a new glass pattern geared towards this trend,” report officials from Joel Berman Glass Studios. JBGS has also seen demand for 3D glass textures. “Popularity is increasing with 3D glass in particular,” company reps say. “It’s tactile, yet it’s transparent. It creates a bit of distortion while playing with the light. It entertains people not only as they view the glass itself, but as they look through it.

”In addition to new textures, old options are coming back in style. “Textured Flutex, while it never completely disappeared from the glass scene, is now more popular than ever,” Dickerson says. 

1. Olivia Glass Pattern from Joel Berman

The latest design from Joel Berman Glass Studios, Olivia, is a 3D texture inspired by the art of forming glass with heat. Olivia is an 
expression of two opposing movements: gravity and the invisible force of nature, according to company officials. The result is the formation of 
two opposing circles, all within one panel of glass.
888/505-4527 | www.jbermanglass.com

  
   

2. Veer from Nathan Allan

Nathan Allan Glass Studios developed Veer Glass, which features a zigzagging surface pattern that gives the glass a deep 3D effect. Veer simulates an accordion surface, and is available with either an organic or satin textured surface. It can be produced in clear glass, low-iron glass and various tinted options. Color finishes or frosted finishes can also be applied, and the glass can be safety tempered or safety 
laminated. Veer can be used in partition applications to allow for ample amounts of light while providing privacy. The level of privacy can be controlled with the colored or frosted finishes.
269/767-7534 | www.nathanallan.com

 
   

3. Ice Cap from Guardian InGlass

Part of the Guardian InGlass Standard Textures Collection, Ice Cap mimics the subtle, organic forms of sea ice. Its texture creates a subtle shifting of light, while its opacity can be used to create semiprivate spaces for offices, healthcare, residences and more. From doors, walls and partitions, to bathroom surfaces, retail displays and furniture, Ice Cap can add value to multiple applications, according to company officials. Combining Ice Cap with other InGlass products can add performance characteristics that include, sound control, privacy, light control, scratch resistance, and safety or security. Ice Cap can be cut, fabricated, tempered, laminated and back-painted.
248/340-1800 | www.guardian.com

 

Digital imagery

Digital imagery on glass, in its various forms, continues to be a focus of technological and product development. In less than 10 years, the glass industry has created numerous methods for designers to add custom, high-resolution images to glass, whether through digital printing, or digital imagery on films or interlayers. 

The design community has become much more familiar with digital printing on glass, says Richard Balik, senior VP of sales and owner of GGI. "More and more, design professionals have used digital in previous projects. They aren't newbies to the process and are using it on more projects," Balik says. “This has allowed them to be more creative on the new projects and push the envelope even further.  They can better utilize the inherent design flexibility the process offers due to this familiarity and experience.” 

“Digitally printed glass continues to trend up, as the capabilities of the newest generation of equipment are realized by architects and designers,” agrees Chris Mammen, president of M3 Glass Technologies. “In addition to high-resolution photorealistic printing in glass, we are seeing more use of ‘etch’ ink, which can be used to generate patterns, pictures, logos and fades that look like acid-etch.”

Some suppliers of digitally printed glass are offering dual-colored dot printing, “dots that are one color on one side, and another color or graphic image on the other side,” Mammen adds.

1. Krystal Images from AGC

Krystal Images is the newest addition to the AGC Krystal Interiors family of decorative glass products from AGC Glass Company North America Inc. A decorative laminated glass, Krystal Images incorporates Krystal Klear low-iron glass and digital images―including custom artwork, photography and solid colors―with a resolution of up to 1440 DPI. The product is available in transparent, translucent and opaque versions, and can be used monolithically or as part of an insulating glass unit. Krystal Images is offered in sizes ranging from 12 inches by 12 inches to 60 inches by 144 inches, in thicknesses ranging from 6 millimeters to 19 mm. The versatile decorative glass meets safety glazing requirements, making it suitable for entrances, skylights, wall cladding and graphic art displays, according to AGC.
888/234-8380 | www.krystalinteriors.com

  
   

2. Screenprinted glass from TriView

As part of its PrimeImage Graphics line, TriView is offering a screenprinted product with a bright, saturated, transparent and permanent coating. Options include a wide range of colors that are 
light-fast and brilliant, according to officials. The glass can be monolithic or laminated, with alternative interlayers for translucencies or other visual effects. Possible interior and exterior applications include floors, windows, doors, furniture and partitions. TriView has a full-service art department and is offering extensive technical support to guide customers from concept to delivery, according to officials. 
800/452-7745 | www.triviewglass.com

 
   

3. Digital printing on glass

New in 2014, Standard Bent Glass now offers digital printing on glass utilizing Dip-Tech technologies. The company can print in 720 DPI format in sizes up to 110 inches by 146 inches. The digitally printed glass can be used in both interior and exterior applications. Printing is available on a variety of glass options, including flat or curved, monolithic tempered and tempered laminated.
800/634-9252 | www.standardbent.com

 

Custom laminated glass

Whether it incorporates standard or custom designs, fabrics or textures, or switchable interlayers, laminated glass is in demand. “There has been increasing demand for our decorative laminated glass composites that incorporate various interlayers,” says Marc Bennet, director of advertising and public relations for GlasPro

“Custom laminated glass is seeing a spike in popularity,” Mammen agrees. “Creative combinations of substrates and interlayers, as well as combinations utilizing other decorative processes like printing and back painting, are sparking the imagination of designers and architects.”

Guardian’s Dolan says he has seen an increase in demand for laminated glass with fabric or textured interlayers. 

1. Endless Interlayers from Galaxy Glass

Galaxy Glass & Stone recently introduced its Endless Interlayers Collection, custom laminated products for architectural decorative glass  applications. The products can be customized for a variety of applications, from wall cladding to doors, and partitions to sidelights. All products receive satin polished or highly polished edges—edgework will be determined by installation methodology. The Endless Interlayers Collection products available in 3/8-inch, 1/2-inch, 5/8-inch,  ¾-inch, and 1-inch thicknesses.  Various custom panel sizes, including large-scale panels, are available. Galaxy products are supplied fully  fabricated to exact dimensions including all edgework, notches and or/cutouts and are ready to install when uncrated.
800/378-9042 | galaxycustom.com

  
   

2. Maglia from Pulp Studio

Pulp Studio’s latest product, Maglia, features architectural mesh within sheets of laminated glass. The laminated glass meshes are offered in a variety of woven patterns and metal types. For indoor decorative applications such as wall panels and canopies, the addition of glass to  metal mesh offers increased sound barrier properties over open weave metals, according to Pulp Studio. The company produces several styles of meshes regularly, but will also custom design Maglia to fit architects’ and designers’ specifications. The low-iron, super-clear glass is offered in both annealed and tempered versions to comply with all Category II safety standards. 
310/815-4999 | www.pulpstudio.com

 

Switchable glass

Architects are expressing interest in switchable glass offerings, as well. Schott has developed a product that switches from a mirror state to a clear state, while Guardian introduced its Reveal switchable glass that features a laminated film that switches from opaque to transparent when an electric current is applied. “This allows abundant light throughout the space when on, and privacy when switched off,” Guardian’s Dolan says. 

1. Mirona Glass from Schott

Schott developed Mirona, a translucent, mirrored glass that transitions from a mirrored glass to a semi-transparent glass. It is used generally to cover monitors, such as TVs. When the monitors are on, the screen is visible; when off, the glass looks like a mirror. This can create interesting functional walls in an interior, according to officials. Mirona enables someone to view a monitor through the material as opposed to other semi-transparent materials that are too reflective in the mirror state, which makes it difficult to see the TV or monitor in the first place, according to officials. 
914/831-2200 | www.us.schott.com 

  
   

2. PrivaSwitch from Cristacurva

PrivaSwitch, a laminated art glass product, offers immediate privacy with the flip of a switch, turning from transparent clear to satin translucent. LCD crystals within the glass allow light from a projector to transmit images to show on both surfaces of the glass while it's opaque.
866/827-6049 | www.cristacurva.com

 

Glass floors

Designers continue to look to glass for floors and stair treads. “Glass flooring and treads, with unique and personalized patterns and colors” are a top application trend for M3 Glass, according to Mammen. “Now that designs are not limited to a finite number of standard patterns or the limitations of screens, people are taking advantage of the new capabilities to customize their projects and their space,” he says. 

The popularity of glass floors has led to continued developments in non-slip surface technologies. “This is a material which is walked upon and requires a proper safety finish that does not wear off,” says Barry Allan, director of Nathan Allan Glass Studios Inc. Nathan Allan has developed two finishes, Glass Sandpaper and Pixel, to meet these requirements. Digitally printing technologies have also advanced with traction-control ink for glass flooring.

1. MPrint Traction from M3 Glass

M3 Glass Technologies now offers MPrint Traction Control in-glass printing. The company’s MPrint digitally printed glass is now available in full-color high-resolution as anti-slip glass flooring. The glass can be printed in almost endless design possibilities, from simple color dots or patterns, to full-color photos, according to company officials. Customers can choose to print on Starphire Ultraclear glass, or on acid-etch glass, and utilize a variety of interlayers.
800/327-8076 | www.m3glass.com

  
   

2. Glass flooring from Jockimo

Jockimo Inc. offers Ultimate Privacy Frost, a frosted translucent glass flooring solution achieved by etching at least one inner surface, depending on the desired level of frost. The glass floor provides a high degree of modesty and light transmission that is ideal for public spaces, according to the company. Jockimo also offers  the Snell Collection of decorative glass designs, now available for its Ultimate Privacy Frost and Privacy Frost glass flooring. Exclusive to Jockimo, the Snell Collection is the result of a collaboration/commission between the fabricator and Michael Snell. Jockimo offers a total of 29 Snell Collection designs.
949/251-1560 | www.jockimo.com

 

Oversized panels

"We are fielding more requests for oversized decorative glass," says Galaxy Glass' Eugene Negrin, president and CEO. "Architects are challenging us to produce bigger panels, and we are able to manufacture almost any of our products in a very large format."

Officials from GGI say that architects are also requesting larger sizes for digitally printed glass products. "Oversized digitally printed glass [allows] designs that otherwise would be cost prohibitive or not feasible," using other methods, says Richard Balik. GGI has added an oversized tempering furnace and oversized fabrication machinery to accommodate the larger sizes, Balik says. 

1. Vertical CNC Glass Fabrication from GGI

GGI officials announced the company completed installation of a vertical CNC finishing machine that allows the fabricator to provide precision-controlled, completely automated milling, drilling, notching, and polishing of oversized glass up to 102 inches by 236 inches in size. The machine is named "Max," referring to the maximum sizes the company can now handle, and to honor Max Balik, who founded the company in 1900. “Max” also has an integrated washer, dryer and inspection area. This seamless approach from raw glass to fabricated product allows glass to move through GGI’s factory with less handling, which reduces the chance of chipping or scratching, officials say. The machine was manufactured by Intermac.
800/431-2042 | www.generalglass.com

  

Application Trends

Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas, looked to decorative glass to provide high-end style and privacy within the high-limit slot gambling area. The project features handmade kiln-formed glass, in a range of colors and textures, from Nathan Allan Glass. To create the products, panels of glass were melted over deeply textured molds, “so that the glass panel takes on the surface texture of the mold,” describes Barry Allan, president. The panels were safety tempered and polished. The architect was Thalden Boyd Emery Architects; Avanti Glass & Mirror completed the installation.

Photos by Jeff Green Photography.

Energy efficiency and daylighting

The push for greener buildings has meant a push for decorative glass. "The drivers for more decorative glass start with daylighting and energy efficiency," says Chris Dolan, director, commercial glass marketing, for Guardian Industries. 

Decorative glass appeals to the architectural community's drive for both creativity and sustainability, sources say. Designers can make a statement with decorative glass, while relying on its functional benefits—allowing desirable amounts of daylighting into a space, and reducing solar heat gain. "These applications help architects make a powerful design statement, while offering a unique solution to managing glare and solar heat gain," Dolan says. 

Many of these decorative applications take place on the exterior of the building, with popular product solutions including silkscreen patterns, frit designs and digital printing. 

Architects are also looking to add color to these daylighting decorative glass applications, says Bendheim’s Donald Jayson, senior vice president. "Daylighting … has become a design prerequisite across all building applications, and glass combining color and daylighting capabilities is very popular," he says. "Daylight highlights the colorful beauty of contemporary architectural glass."

Branding 

Increasingly, glass is being looked to for branding and logos. “GlasPro has been working with many highly recognizable companies to help brand their spaces and bring to life their corporate interiors,” says Marc Bennet, director of advertising and public relations for GlasPro. “We have done many projects that involve high resolution graphics in magnetic marker boards, office partitions and large signage in reception areas.”

Chris Mammen says M3 has seen similar demand for “the incorporation of client logos and branding designs.” 

Glass provides branding solutions for both exterior and interior applications. “The versatility of glass etching, printing and painting means company brand colors, logos and messaging can be clearly displayed on interior and exterior applications,” says Guardian’s Dolan. 

Glass is a surface that can integrate into any design concept, bringing in dramatic texture, color and light. Because of its functional versatility, glass is now being used more for writing surfaces and marker boards. Finally, the versatility of glass etching, printing and painting means company brand colors, logos and messaging can be clearly displayed on interior and exterior applications.

Privacy

The decorative glass industry offers a plethora of solutions to satisfy architect and owner privacy concerns. 

Jayson says privacy applications are one of the top trends at Bendheim—“applications [that] take advantage of privacy-enhancing glass elements, such as opacifying textures, patterns, color interlayers and bands of opacifying color,” he says. “Bendheim’s Houdini Glass, with a fine micro-ribbed pattern and translucent color interlayers, is a perfect example: it lets in light, obscures the activities behind it and adds color to the space.” 

“One growing trend is to provide varying levels of privacy through the use of patterned glass, acid-etched and switchable glass,” Dolan adds. 

Focal points

Focal-point areas remain prime locations for decorative glass. The top application trend for Meltdown Glass is “featuring decorative glass in high-impact design areas such as lobbies, vestibules and elevators; thick transaction top surface glass in decorative designs, building cladding, and the incorporation of client logos and branding designs,” says BJ Katz, president. 

Focal-point applications are also driving demand for Joel Berman Glass Studios. Popular applications include “boardroom walls, facades, and a lot of vertical applications for corporate commercial environments, public spaces and hospitality,” officials say.

Katy Devlin is editor for Glass Magazine. E-mail Katy at kdevlin@glass.org.