Explosive Opportunities in Decorative Glass
September 14, 2011

By Ellen Rogers

What's hot in decorative glass? Lots, according to industry experts who took part in a decorative glass trends panel discussion that took place today as part of GlassBuild America in Atlanta.

"There are some amazing new trends--trends that are happening in the marketplace," said Kris Vockler of ICD High Performance Coatings who moderated the session. Vockler noted that attendees  would learn about this fast-growing segment of the glass market. Some areas covered by the presenters included the range of applications, from spandrel to countertops, trends, market changes and more.

Panelists during today's presentation focused on a variety of decorative glass trends.

Patricia Linthicum, a former facade engineer and blogger for Decorative Glass magazine, began by talking about trends in decorative glass.

"What makes a trend ... it's different depending on the area," she said. "You have to adapt to the geographic location of the culture," she said, explaining that what's popular in Atlanta, for example, will be different than what's popular in Phoenix. "Trends are created by consumers; consumers want luxury, quality and bespoke ... you want something that makes your home unique."

Linthicum shared many images of a variety of decorative glass projects around the world. In hotels, for instance, she said designers want to create a project that will be special and adding decorative glass can help do that.

She also pointed out, "Decorative glass is huge in corporate branding and signage." Another opportunity, she noted, is an interior partition. While these are commonly created with clear glass, LInthicum added they, too, are an opportunity for branding.

Hospitals are another growing opportunity for decorative glass.

"Hospitals are moving forward with meditation rooms and a lot of work is in finding ways to provide calm and comfort to people in hospitals," she said, explaining that decorative glass is a way to create such an environment.

In terms of residential applications, these also provide many decorative glass possibilities. In kitchens, for instance, homeowners are adding glass to their cabinets, countertops and backsplashes.

Likewise, in bathrooms not only are homeowners using glass in shower enclosures, but as Linthicum pointed out, "even the bathtub [can be] covered in decorative glass."

And good news for the North American mirror industry, Linthicum said, "Antique mirrors over the past year have sold like hotcakes. Designers say if it will hold still for a minute they'll put a mirror on it."

Mandy Marxen with Dreamwalls was the next presenter. She spoke on "Putting the 'I' in Customization."

"Customization is huge. Decorative glass is the one bright spot in the glass industry in a lot of ways as seeing positive growth," said Marxen who talked about a few different ways decorative glass can be customized" color, texture, printing and shape.

Marxen said that while many projects may have budget constraints, "One jaw-dropping feature can offset simpler finishes in other areas."

In terms of color, Marxen said a simple ten-color palette is no longer acceptable. Luckily new technologies and innovations have made it possible ti create most any color possible. She also said colors are benefiting from low-iron glass technologies, which allow for the true color to come through.

She showed one retail project that featured a hot pink wall.

"It''s very hot pink and very customized," she said. "I love seeing this stuff come through the plant because it's so shocking and so customized."

Likewise, Marxen pointed out that printing on glass is a growth area and is also benefiting from low-iron glass. Other printing trends include creating glass made to look like natural stone such as marble and granite.

"Technology advances can merge and create a perfect storm for decorative glass," she added.

Advances in texture is making it possible to do more and more with glass flooring and stairs, which Marxen said is another growing trend.

Looking at a kitchen application, Marxen showed images of a 4-inch glass countertop.

"I don't know how they do it, but they can create an amazing, floating pool on your countertop," said Marxen. "Glass brings that pow element that cabinets and appliances cant really generate."

She also talked about how water-jet technologies allow companies to customize glass in any shape.

"You can create incredible detail from a CAD file," said Marxen. "As people become more family with decorative glass they become more comfortable bringing into their own environments."

Greg Saroka with Goldray Industries was also a presenter.

"I speak with architects all around North America and have noticed some specific trends in decorative glass," said Saroka, who focused much on printing on glass.

"There are a number of ways to put images on glass, but I think digital imaging will soon outpace many of the others ways," said Saroka, who said public art projects are one application type that seems to be growing rapidly.

Another reason for the growth, Saroka noted, is that graphics can still allow light transmission while giving privacy to the other side.

Steve O'Hollaren from ICD High Performance Coatings talked some about building renovations and said the use of decorative glass is becoming a popular choice for older buildings. He showed a few examples of recent projects that feature decorative glass for both aesthetics and functional purposes. Products featured included colorful spandrel as well as channel glass.

In concluding the day's session, Vockler added, "It's not only exciting that decorative glass is exploding [in popularity], but people can change the whole look of a building without having to start from the ground up."

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