What Are The Benefits Of Glass In Interior Design?
Glass is a strange material. It offers near endless potential in transforming a space both practically and aesthetically, and recent advances in technology have widened these possibilities even further. While glazing may often be thought of as a purely practical facet of architecture and construction, it plays a significant part in interior design, too.
Understanding the benefits glass offers designers requires at least a basic appreciation for the nature of glazing in structural design. The best designers work with architectural glass installations, and know how to strike a harmony between their concepts and the glazing at their disposal. With that in mind, here are some of the benefits of glass in interior design.
(Updated October 2022)
Glass features can invite the outside in
In addition to lowering energy costs significantly (sometimes as much as 75%), enhancing natural light helps create a visually engaging and productive environment for building occupants by connecting them directly to the dynamic and constantly changing patterns of light outside.
While interior design is centred on the interior environment of a space or structure (who would have thought it?), this doesn’t mean that designers should feel restricted to aesthetics that only draw from the manmade, the modern, or the architectural. One of the great benefits of glass in interior design is that it offers a chance to invite the outside world in.
This is a phrase that gets used quite a lot in architecture and design, sometimes without much thought. ‘Inviting the outside in’ doesn’t necessarily offer any detailed insight (it sounds a bit like someone leaving a door open and letting in a draft) – so to look at it another way, glass features allow interior designs to draw upon the outside world as a visual stimulus. The designers in turn provide a sense of flow, creating a seamless link between the interior and exterior spaces.
This is an invaluable feature for designers who wish to enhance the spatial aspects of their interiors. For many years, design has been fascinated by the concept of reduction. Whether tied to a specific movement such as minimalism, or simply following the principle of removing unnecessary clutter and refining other visual elements, these concepts have become a recurrent theme.
In this regard, glazing can help arm interior designers with additional visual real estate. By working with a space that features an aesthetic bond between indoor and outdoor spaces, designers don’t need to focus as much on creating the illusion of room.
Another significant benefit of glass’s ability to link to the outdoors is the opportunity it affords designers to draw from nature in their work. While not a prerequisite to the inclusion of natural materials and styles, such as wood and stone, a large glazed installation can become a unifying visual anchor.
By offering a view of something like a pond, treescape, or another natural element in an outdoor setting, glass features can enhance designs that draw from nature by offering a literal view of their inspirations. This same principle applies to urban environments too – views of everything from skyscrapers to townhouses can be used to galvanise a modern interior aesthetic.
The key concept here is that glass doesn’t just have the potential to bring the outdoors inside; it has the potential to help designers shift their focus from the interior to the exterior. With so many different glazing features available, and technology allowing for more innovative and practical solutions than ever before, we thought we’d list a few of the most popular glazing features that bring something unique to interior design:
While glass walls were once cumbersome and obstructive due to the need for thick supporting frames, modern glazing techniques mean that specialists and architects can now create completely frameless panels, of almost any size. This can have a profound effect on an interior space.
Glass walls primarily create a sense of horizontal continuity. While a simple window might offer a ‘framed’ view of a particular exterior feature, frameless and expansive glazed walls create the illusion that an interior space extends beyond its actual confines.
Creating a backdrop in this way also adds a practical element, as glass walls can feature sliding doors that allow for seamless access to outside areas such as patios, al fresco dining areas, and gardens – meaning interior design elements (such as tables, chairs, and other features) can be ‘carried over’ into outside spaces, and vice versa.
With the introduction of heat-strengthened, toughened, and laminated glass, it’s now possible for glazing specialists and architects to include structural glass floors in a design. With everything from single panel installations to extensive glass flooring a possibility, these internal fittings offer a series of unique benefits when it comes to interior design.
If installed in the floor space between two storeys, glass floors can offer a view into a room above or below. In these scenarios, designers can treat ‘stacked’ spaces as one, with the view down or up through the glass floor becoming a visual extension of the space in question. This allows designs to flow vertically from one room to another, in a way that traditionally wouldn’t be possible without an open-plan structure.
New types of glazing also mean glass floors can be used as a visual feature in and of themselves in an interior design, in a wide variety of formats. With translucent, coloured, and even more unusual styles such as sand-blasted and printed glass available, glazed floors have become a valuable design tool in their own right.
While glass walls and glass floors offer their own unique potential when it comes to interior design, in many ways, skylights and glass roofs offer the best of both worlds, whilst simultaneously bringing a few unique aesthetic qualities to a space.
Glass roofs can offer both a practical and aesthetic element to a design. With both fixed and opening options available, these glazed installations can provide access to external rooftop areas (such as terraces or gardens) while also offering the aesthetic benefits of a frameless glazed feature. This means interior designers are able to draw from exterior areas that lie above an interior space, provided a line of sight exists.
Additionally, by offering a view of the sky and providing an independent (and powerful) source of light, glass roofs remove the need for additional light sources which in turn creates a greater (or at least unique) scope for interior lighting plans.
Light is an integral part of any interior space, and while all external glass installations provide daylight to some degree, glass roofs are arguably the most consistent, reliable source. Which brings us nicely to the second major benefit of glass in interior design:
Glass brings the benefits of natural light into a design:
Natural light is really very important. With conditions such as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) becoming more widely recognised and acknowledged, and our understanding of how our bodies respond to external stimuli becoming more comprehensive, we’re more aware than ever of just how important natural light is to our physical and psychological wellbeing.
With lighting in general being an integral feature of interior design, the inclusion of natural light is one of the biggest benefits that glass features bring to the table. By flooding an interior space with daylight, glazing can transform a space from one that simply looks brilliant to one that makes us feel brilliant.
Particularly when it comes to central and practical rooms and spaces such as kitchens, dining areas, or bathrooms (spaces that are used frequently and regularly throughout the day), the inclusion of natural light in interior design can help us make the most of sunlight in their day to day lives.
Aside from purely practical benefits, the natural light that glass features bring into a space also offers extensive aesthetic benefits. One of the most significant of these is the effect that daylight has on colour perception. In a design that aims to capture ‘true colour’, natural light is often regarded as the preferable source of lighting.
North-facing rooms, for instance, will receive light that has a warmer tone and will bring out the best in dark shades and colours. Meanwhile, a south-facing interior space bathed in bright natural light will bring out lighter colours, and can even be used to wash out a palette.
Broadly speaking, while there are subtle differences, colours look more natural and appealing to the eye when naturally lit. The great advantage of glass features is that they offer a practical and aesthetic way to bring this factor into an interior design.
Structural glazing can eliminate practical restrictions:
Whether it’s a client who wants an island for their kitchen, or a living room that needs to accommodate a large number of people, designers almost always have to work within a framework of practicality that’s dependant on intended use. Once again, this is where glazing comes in. While glass features can offer purely aesthetic benefits, they can also remove all kinds of practical barriers.
When designing a space that needs either internal or external access, modern glass features such as sliding doors and even roof and floor panels can be used as access points, as well as offering the aforementioned benefits of natural light. This means designers won’t have to choose between an uninhibited source of light and an entry point (such as a door or hatch) that’s tailored solely towards aesthetics.
Ventilation and insulation is another area in which glass can greatly benefit design – after all, the best designers don’t just consider aesthetics, but the practical and immersive elements of an interior space too. Something as simple as fresh air passing through a space via a window or opening glass roof can add a transformative quality, making spaces feel as airy and welcoming as they look.
The same is true of heating. Traditional fixtures such as radiators remain important, but can be a cumbersome and unattractive hurdle in the aesthetics of traditional design. While artificial heating is still something designers need to think about, modern glass technology such as solar gain and heat film coatings can increase the insulative quality of glass, and actively heat a space with sunlight. Glass features can also be used in the opposite context, preventing heat loss in an environment.
Another way in which glass can benefit interior design relates to privacy. While this may sound a little backwards – glass and privacy aren’t exactly synonymous – cutting edge glazing options can now switch glass panels between translucent and opaque at the push of a button. Switchable glass is becoming an increasingly popular feature in interior design, with everything from shower walls to glass cabinets able to incorporate the technology.
Glass offers a timeless quality
In our experience, interior designers often find themselves balancing aesthetics with timelessness. While anachronistic designs can certainly be appealing, the very best work isn’t always tightly confined to one period or style, and instead offers a lasting visual impression that’s just as powerful even years down the line.
While certain glass features might not exactly buck the trends of the era (70s style double glazing, anyone?), minimal glazing can offer a unique, timeless quality to an aesthetic. Installations such as glass links and other products involving frameless glazing are often combined with historical or listed buildings, because they offer a totally unobtrusive impact.
In this respect, glass is arguably one of the most practical materials for working with buildings that are architecturally historical or overtly traditional. Modern glazing installations can breathe new life into an interior space, and the most subtle and delicate options won’t degrade with time.
Glass isn’t just for structural features
While glass might only be associated with structural features such as windows and doors, this isn’t the entire picture. As a material, glass can effectively be used in any fitting in a design, whether it’s a small glass sink bowl or a large glazed table. Frequently used in modern and minimal designs, glass features such as these can enhance the contemporary feel of a space immensely.
What’s important to consider is how these features fit into a space in a larger sense. If, for instance, a room features plenty of natural light from a skylight, then choosing glass as a thematic element in the smaller elements of a design can create an overall sense of harmony. Natural light also has a beautiful effect on smaller glass details, cascading and reflecting in a way that draws the eye, and acts as a highlight to the finer points of an interior design.
Access to outdoors can help our eyesight
New research has even shown an increase in short-sightedness in people – specifically around children – around the globe. Lifestyle factors are thought to play a much greater role in this than genetics – in particular, a lack of time outdoors, and focusing on close objects for an extended period through an activity like reading, are to blame. It appears that being indoors may also worsen this problem, perhaps because of the way indoor lighting differs from natural light.
Faced with these facts, many parents may be wondering what they can do to protect their child’s eyesight. Research suggests being cautious about screens, particularly because the evidence shows that it might be a factor. Looking at the other contributing factors, it appears that structural glass could be a way to combat these issues: offering easy access to outdoors, providing greater visual depth to combat short-sightedness, and allowing natural light to flood in. By incorporating structural glass into home designs might not just be an aesthetic architectural choice, but also a step towards better eye health in the future.
A clear solution
There’s a lot to be said for glazing in an interior design, but the benefits are evident. While it offers an abundance of visual and practical benefits, its greatest asset is the way in which it puts all of the potential of an environment back in the hands of the designer. Whether by flooding a room with natural light, or simply providing an access point to the outdoors, glass features can be used to wipe the slate clean, and reestablish your space as a welcoming blank canvas.