Glass, that ancient and familiar material, is being pushed to
the cutting edge. Windows, table tops and dinnerware accessories
are standards, to be sure. But recent innovations and technologies
are shattering conventions.
Today, architects and designers are using glass as a building
and design element. Textured glass walls can transform modern homes
into crystal pavilions. Decorative glass furnishings can add beauty
along with color and pattern.
Artisans are exploring new ways to manipulate glass in its
molten state or using age-old methods in novel applications,
according to Carol Soucek King, Ph.D., whose book "Designs in
Glass" (PBC International) will be published in September.
"They're creating fabulous textured and sculpted surfaces,"
Soucek King said, citing sandblasting, etching, sculpting,
beveling, silk-screening, faceting, enameling and fusing among the
techniques that expand opportunities for design.
Where color and decoration can embellish an ordinary surface or
utilitarian application, designers now are considering glass.
Vivid color graces a collection of door pulls and handles
designed by Mathias for Daum. The milky appearance comes from a
process known as pate de verre dating to the Egyptians of 1,500 to
2,000 B.C. A sculptural dimension is achieved from molds in which
crushed crystal colored by various metal oxides is mixed to a paste
consistency and fired at high temperatures (1,500 degrees) for 10
days. The crystal - glass with a 24 percent lead content - gives
the pieces more brilliance and accentuates the relief.
Available in six colors, the handles cost $195 each and the
pulls $165 each.
One of the more unusual finial and tieback designs for Blome
includes swirling hand-blown Murano glass in a range of see-through
colors, including blue, red, gold and green. The collection, called
Giardino Misterioso, is designed by David Palterer, and it's the
sculptural form of the pieces that make them distinctive. Prices
for glass finials run from $520 each to $835 each.
Furnishings designers also are exploring other avenues. Some
are experimenting with glass as a connective as well as decorative
New York designer Zev Vaughn likes mixing glass with other
materials and using it in unexpected ways in the home. For a
showhouse in Livingston, N.Y., last year, he teamed glass with
metal and wood and set his creations in a dramatic blood-red
bedroom, with walls striped in a tone-on-tone pattern and ceilings
in a shiny patent leather finish. Amber-tinted glass finials that
look like flames punctuate the rods holding diamond-patterned
curtains. See-through glass spheres glitter like stars in the
spangled chandelier, which is bejeweled with necklace-like strands
The rounded shapes are echoed in the glass finials of the bed's
metal posts, which in themselves are a surprise, stretching up
beyond the silk upholstered headboard. More glass spheres are
introduced as decorative elements, bridging wood and metal crafted
into table bases. And the entire floor lamp base looks like an ice
The bed sells for $4,000; the floor lamp, $1,400; the twisted
chandelier, $3,000; and the glass-leg table, $800.
As contemporary in spirit as the glass-embellished furnishings
are, Vaughn takes inspiration from the past for his motifs.
"Everything is rooted to 19th-century Venetian pieces linked to
my modern craziness," Vaughn said. "I'm also working with ethnic
inspirations. The bed design really is reminiscent of the Ottoman
Empire, as is the drapery hardware."
It's the light play that fascinates the designer.
"Using the glass gives some of the pieces a semitransparent
quality that's reflective and refractive."
British designer Danny Lane also enjoys dabbling with glass in
his furniture, some of which is produced in limited edition. His
pieces have a sculptural quality, not unusual, because he also
creates freestanding sculptures and fountains in distinctive forms
that may be built into walls. …