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THE MAGIC OF GLASS

Brighten Up Your Bath with the Power of Glass and Mirrors
By Barbara Canetti

Let there be light! And with a glass wall, glass blocks or glass bricks, light there is.

The glass surrounding showers and tubs can change the ambience in a small bathroom by removing solid walls and replacing them with transparent or translucent surfaces, which lets in brightness from fixtures and nearby windows.

More and more remodels include either tempered glass walls or glass blocks to update and upgrade bathrooms and kitchens, according to industry representatives.

“Even with low ceilings, the bathroom can feel more open with glass walls around the shower. It gives the illusion of transparency,” says Crystal Reeves of CLR Design Services.

Reeves recently won an ASID honorable mention for a master bath redo, in which the original shower had a closed-in feeling because of low ceiling height and fur down. In order to create a modern-looking steam shower for the client, Reeves had the glass enclosure installed to the ceiling, giving the feeling of additional space and light.

FRAMELESS GLASS SHOWERS
The advantage of the frameless glass shower vs. a walled shower is “it makes it feel more open when someone is taking a shower,” she says. Usually, one or two of the sides of the shower can be glass, unless it is a freestanding stall. But the glass must be hinged to a wall for stability.

Reeves says glass enclosures either have no door, a glass door that swings open or a barn door-style that rolls on a rail at the top of the shower. Most glass walls are between 3/8-inch to 1/2-inch thick. They can give the remodeled bathroom a crisp, contemporary look or make a statement by mixing glass with tile to create a vintage-modern look.

“None of these are cheap options, but most important is to have it installed properly and buy good-quality hardware,” she says. “If you skimp on the hardware, you will regret it later.”

GLASS BLOCKS
Another alternative to sleek glass walls are glass blocks, says Ken Bowman, general manager of Masonry & Glass Systems Inc. Glass blocks, which come in five sizes and three styles (clear, wavy and obscure/ice), are a “timeless classic” for shower enclosure and windows.

The hollow glass blocks, which have been used since the early 1900s during the Art Deco era, had been made by one company in the U.S. — Pittsburg Corning Glass Co., which recently stopped manufacturing them recently after 80 years. Now glass blocks are mostly imported from Seves Glass Block in the Czech Republic.

Bowman says the latest trend in bathroom designs is to use the glass blocks in a running bond design: Installed like bricks where the joints do not line up, but are stagnated in every other row. Usually shower enclosures using the blocks had been installed by stacking the blocks one on top of another in a vertical line.

Now, homeowners are opting for a design where the wall is created using a mixed combination of block sizes.

“This is a new and different look in modern and trendy custom homes,” Bowman says.

When using the blocks in showers, Bowman says it is best to leave at least a foot of open space at the top of the shower to allow the steam, moisture and heat to escape. Otherwise, if there is too much moisture and airflow is confined, wallpapers, Sheetrock or paint can be damaged. However, if a steam shower or sauna is being installed, then cedar wood on the stationary wall would be fine.

Most recently, Bowman says he is getting requests from clients for colored blocks, rather than the clear or opaque style.

LIGHTING & MORE
If a homeowner wants to add a bit of colored lighting to the wall, place the lights behind the glass, Bowman says. Do not drill a hole in the blocks.

“If you drill into the blocks, moisture will get in and that is not good,” he warns.

A fairly new style in bathrooms that has yet to catch on in the U.S. is the use of glass bricks, which are solid glass. Bowman estimates a bathroom redo using the bricks instead of the hollow blocks will triple the price.

“The bricks are popular in Europe, but in the U.S., people prefer the blocks,” he says.

RESOURCES

BEFORE-AND-AFTER BATH
CLR Design Services Inc.
713-269-4505
www.clrdesignservices.com

BATHTUB
American Standard
Multiple dealers
www.americanstandard-us.com

BRICKS, WALL & SHOWER TILE
Thorntree Slate
www.thorntreeslate.com

BUILDER
Bryce Construction
Greg Hokanson
832-250-1442

COUNTER STOOL
John Brooks Houston
5120 Woodway Drive
713-622-5271
www.johnbrookshouston.com

FLOOR TILE
Ann Sacks Houston
2800 Kirby Drive
713-522-0805
www.annsacks.com

LIGHTING
Circa Lighting
2427 Westheimer Road
713-526-4100
www.circalighting.com

MIRRORS
Peck & Co.
98 Dennis St.
713-526-2590
www.peckandcompany.com

STEAM SHOWER GRANITE SLAB & SHOWER SURROUND
Omni Surfaces
www.omnisurfaces.com

MORE RESOURCES

Countertops & Flooring by Traditional Designs
713-463-5800
www.traditionaldesignsltd.com

Creative Tonic
713-533-9000
www.creativetonicdesign.com  

KGA Design
713-522-1410
www.kga.net   

Kitchen & Bath Concepts
713-528-5575
www.kitchen-concepts.com  

Laura U Interior Design
713-522-0855
www.laurauinteriordesign.com  

Masonry & Glass Systems Inc.
713-944-9716
www.houstonglassblock.com  

Westheimer Plumbing & Hardware
713-942-9519
www.westheimerplumbing.com  

Houston Web Design Company