What words come to mind when you think of glass? Hard, flat … cold? This article will overturn your assumptions about glass in interior design. In the right hands, glass can become a creative material. Good quality value-added glass launches a mind-bending array of possibilities, bringing all sorts of benefits to an architectural design.

Feature image: Private Residence,  Chicago, IL
6mm Starphire Ultra-Clear® glass with Walker Textures® Velour finish on surface 1, digital printing and Vitracolor Back-paint.
Fabrication and photo credit: Skyline Design

What are value-added glass compositions?

What exactly are we talking about when we mention value-added acid etched glass and mirror? We’re looking at specialty compositions designed specifically for the space they’re going into. They’ll often include treatments like digital printing, back-painting, lamination, or additional etching, on top of the existing glass product. These treatments are chosen specifically to match the architect’s or designer’s vision, as well as the client’s needs.

We cover some complex compositions in this article, but they’re all built on the same foundation: high quality acid etched glass and mirror. Without that base, the rest falls apart.

5 things to consider when choosing value-added glass

1. Aesthetics, aesthetics, aesthetics

What’s the benefit of applications like these? For starters, there’s the aesthetic consideration. A custom coloured laminate or back-painting will ensure that glass coordinates perfectly with the rest of the project. More dramatically, digital printing can reproduce a work of art directly onto an accent wall, either by printing right onto the glass or by incorporating a printed layer.

Etching can change the way we understand glass, making it seem soft and organic instead of cold, hard and unyielding. Even industry veterans may be surprised by the effect, and see this familiar material in a whole new way.

Value added glass composition: Velour acid etched glass with digitally printing

Advocate Christ Medical,  Oak Lawn, IL
12mm Starphire Ultra-Clear® glass with Walker Textures® Velour finish on surface 1 and digital printing.
Architect: CannonDesign
Fabrication and photo credit: Skyline Design

2. Privacy and comfort

The “value” of these value-added compositions may also come from added privacy. It’s a special concern in the healthcare field, where the HIPAA Privacy Rule requires protection for patient data. Acid etched glass can help achieve the necessary privacy, without blocking daylight. Colourful printing or back-painting improves privacy even more, although designers should keep in mind that these treatments will reduce visible light transmittance.

In addition to alleviating privacy concerns, value-added glass can add beauty and natural light to a space, helping make patients and staff feel more comfortable in a potentially stressful environment. These kinds of thoughtful touches can make a big difference. Furthermore, the glass is easy to clean and sanitize, which is a significant advantage in a healthcare setting.

Please see our Technical Booklets at the bottom of the product page for further information about light transmittance, cleaning, and maintenance of acid etched glass.

Velour acid etched glass panels with digital printing

MedStar Health at Lafayette Centre, Washington, DC
Starphire Ultra-Clear® glass with Walker Textures® Velour finish on surface 1 and Eco-etch pattern.
Architect: Trinity
Fabrication and photo credit: Skyline Design

3. Translucency and light diffusion

Different finishes create varying levels of diffusion, or haze (blur), which obscure the visibility through the glass to varying degrees. An Opaque finish scatters light the most, resulting in the greatest haze effect with least visibility. This makes it perfect for situations where privacy is paramount, like the healthcare settings we mentioned above. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Satinlite scatters light much less, just enough to reduce reflections and soften the appearance of the glass. This kind of finish works well when combined with artistic applications such as prints and coloured laminates, since the details of the art remain visible through the glass.

4. Colour accuracy

Many interior applications are colour-sensitive, especially when it comes to value-added elements. Whether the glass is back-painted or digitally printed, designers aim for the purest colour read possible. The best option is to use a low-iron substrate like Starphire Ultra-Clear®, which won’t give the greenish tint that you find in regular “clear” glass. Even if the goal is a slightly greenish tint, it can be safer to start with a low-iron glass and adjust its colour with paint, printing, or laminates. That’s because low-iron glass has a greater degree of colour consistency, which will help ensure that the installation comes out exactly as planned.

One thing to keep in mind: for perfect consistency, make sure to use the same substrate throughout your project. That doesn’t just mean sticking to low-iron or clear. It means sourcing all the glass from one manufacturer, since float recipes will vary from one supplier to the next.

Interested in colour and interior design? You should read our article, Full Surface Acid etched Starphire® Glass: The Designer’s Choice

Value added glass samples with Velour etch and coloured interlayers

6mm Starphire Ultra-Clear® glass with Walker Textures® Satinlite finish on surfaces 1 and 4, coloured interlayers.
Fabrication and photo credit: Skyline Design

5. Cost

From a budget perspective, while value-added glass will never be the cheap option, certain compositions are more economical than others. With the right technology, glass and mirror can be printed, painted, or etched to deliver multiple elements in a single material. This is much more efficient, and less expensive, than trying to achieve the desired look through a combination of several films, laminates, and other layers.

Adding value to three standout projects

Walker Glass has contributed to many standout interiors, in collaboration with our clients and partners. Here are three great examples.

CBRE Indianapolis

Indianapolis, IN

CBRE is one of the world’s leading commercial real estate services, so it’s only fitting that their Indianapolis offices should feature a map of the city. This custom artwork flanks the office’s elevators, “elevating” an otherwise utilitarian space.

Glass composition: 4mm Starphire Ultra-Clear® glass with Walker Textures® Satinlite finish on surface 1 and digital printing on surface 2, laminated to 6mm grey mirror.

The role of the glass: A Satinlite finish on surface 1 cuts down on reflections and lets the details of the print show clearly. Low-iron glass ensures a clean, neutral appearance while a grey mirror behind the glass provides contrast for the delicate white of the digitally printed map.

ABB Canada

Montreal, QC

ABB Canada with acid etched glass and mirror

ABB’s Montreal offices are built around a shared-use concept, without private offices. This creates challenges that can be mitigated by using glass dividers and restricted access to information-sensitive areas such as human resources. The use of translucent glass maintains a feeling of lightness and light, despite the many interior walls.

Glass compositions: 6mm Starphire Ultra-Clear® glass with Walker Textures® Satin finish on surface 1 and back-painting on surface 2.

6mm bronze mirror with Walker Textures® Satin finish on surface 1.

The role of the glass: Acid-etched glass and mirror near the elevators helps to extend light from the perimeter windows towards the center of the workplace. The textured surface scatters light beam and softens reflections, while bringing visual interest to the offices.

Museum of the Bible

Washington, DC

The Museum of the Bible’s “History of the Bible” display includes glass panels that replicate pages from the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Museum wanted the display to give the feeling of vellum, to mimic the original scrolls.

Glass composition: 6mm Starphire Ultra-Clear® glass with Walker Textures® Satinlite finish on surface 1 and digital printing on surface 2, laminated to Starphire glass.

The role of the glass: A Satinlite etched finish on surface 1 gives a sense of softness and brings an organic touch to the installation, reminiscent of the parchment of the original scrolls. At the same time, its subtly matte quality prevents reflections from obscuring the artwork on surface two.

While glass can play a valuable utilitarian role in architecture, it’s not limited to such prosaic uses. Creative applications like the ones we’ve seen in this article prove that glass can be an artistic medium, as well as a thoroughly functional material. With the right treatment, it can even seem soft, warm, and comforting.

Are you inspired to design outside the box? Maybe try some new ideas with glass? We’ll be publishing an eGuide to Designing Interiors with Acid Etched Glass early in 2024. The eGuide will include inspiring projects, tips from the experts, and best practices for using etched glass in interiors. Newsletter subscribers see it first, so make sure to register!

Our thanks to Mark Toth and Darcie Young Tashey of Skyline Design for their insights into working with acid-etched glass for value-added compositions!

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