From sleek extensions to intricate knobs, pendant lights to votive holders, and vases to the humble tea cup, glass is all around you and is one of the most versatile materials in your home. Glass is also one of the most beautiful materials, and I love incorporating glass elements into a design scheme to accentuate a client's personality, reinforce a colour scheme, or to add an extra layer of depth and luxury.
GLASS IN THE PAST
In many ways, glass is so ubiquitous that it's difficult to imagine a time when it was a luxury in the home, one that many lived without. Thanks to modern manufacturing, the history of glass changed greatly and went from being available to only the very rich to being affordable for the masses.
The Romans brought us the first form of windows using cast glass, which was used to adorn the most prestigious of Roman villas. But the moulding process in cast glass was laborious and it is crown glass that is one of the earliest forms of true window manufacturing. To create a crown glass window, glass was blown into a hallow bulb and then flattened on a table where it was then snipped off the pipe leaving a central dimple. As this could only produce very small pieces of glass, the pieces were held together with a lattice of lead. Intricate and charming crown glass windows can still be seen in historic buildings all across Europe and the UK, reminding us of childhood fairy tales and of a world long ago.
Historic glass windows, like these in the Cotswolds, can be found all over the UK
Over the centuries, the glass industry continued to come up with different ways of producing glass panes but it was Sir Alastair Pilkington who brought us float glass in the 1950s. Float glass now accounts for 90% of the world’s flat glass and has made Pilkington the number one name in glass manufacturing.
Glass innovation has moved quickly and we now have toughened glass and self-cleaning glass. No more little triangles! Large panes of glass are now the building blocks of modern architecture. This is best demonstrated by architect Renzo Piano's tower, The Shard, which is now an iconic part of London's skyline, and the stunning Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris by the illustrious Frank Gehry.
Though I appreciate glass in all its functions, it's the sculptural applications of glass that I'm madly in love with. This past summer, I was lucky enough to visit St. Matthew’s Glass Church in Jersey which was crafted by french glass designer René Lalique. Renowned for his smaller, but much sought after, art deco frosted glass pieces and Cartier jewellery, it is remarkable to see the scale of Lalique's work in a building. I was especially in awe of the glass partition walls and the 4 maidens overseeing the side alter. It is here amid this breathtaking work that you realise the possibility that glass really brings to a designer.
Some of the stunning glass work in St. Matthews Glass Church in Jersey
DECORATING WITH GLASS
When it comes to modern home decor, lighting designers are using glass in all kinds of fantastic ways. Pendants are now bursting with colour, shape and fun and table lamps are works of art all on their own. I use eye-catching glass light fixtures in many of my designs as it helps to draw the eye up to the ceiling and out to the corners of the room, which visually expands the room to its full size, and Rothschild & Bickers Mineral Pendants are my latest lighting obsession. I love that they look like beautiful big marbles in daylight then make you feel like you're suspended amongst the planets when they're illuminated at night. When it comes to lamps, Heathfield & Co have embraced the possibilities of molten glass to bring the Abies Murano Blue Straight lamp, which almost looks like it's been excavated from the ocean floor with its spiky exterior and sharp blue colour.
Mineral glass pendants by Rothschild & Bickers & Abies Murano Blue Straight lamp by Heathfiend & Co are both examples of beautiful glass lighting
The humble glass vase isn’t as in fashion as it once was– it's been pushed aside by ceramics in recent years– but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth hunting down. Go retro and look for collectables like Murano glass or Alsterfors glass. I’m a big fan of both and love displaying glass pieces together in groups for extra interest. Glass collecting is great because you can often find great pieces for very little money in charity shops, at boot fairs and antique markets, on eBay or in your family's attic. Look for things that catch your eye and you really can't go wrong.
Glass. it's all around us! And the ways in which glass manufacturing will innovate and change will impact the way we interact with and use glass for everything from sharing food to making shelter and decorating. Until then, we'll be using glass the best way we know how: in the home around us.
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