Glass is usually thought of as a transparent shield that separates us from the great outdoors. But it also can be used in many imaginative ways around your castle?from unexpected sink and furniture designs to durable and decorative countertops and shower enclosures.
Today's glass artisans and manufacturers are pioneering the way for a melding of glass and timber, which (you guessed it) marries rustic and modern styles. And if you're worried that intricate glass accents or large sections of the clear stuff is galaxies away from your budget, fear not. Glass accessories are less expensive than you think, and the new options are boundless.
"The use of glass in log homes is an excellent way to introduce light and movement within the heavy, rustic walls," says Stephanie Gauthier, resident designer at Wisconsin Log Homes. "And since glass can be formed into practically any shape, it's also a creative way to incorporate rounded and organic forms into the design."
Adding glass to a rustic home also offers a great way to break up the long horizontal lines of logs and draw the eye up to interesting rooflines. But there are other reasons to consider incorporating glass into your space. For example, it's an excellent choice if you're concerned about home efficiency, according to Stephanie.
"Using glass in a log home continues the idea of 'green' home design," she says. "And glass products are 100-percent recyclable." Opaque glass also offers UV protection by filtering light, which protects your carpets and furnishings from the effects of excessive direct sunlight.
And finally, using glass in your log home can actually save you money. Strategically placed glass panels, for example, can usher light into just about any room, which cuts electricity costs by lessening your reliance on artificial lighting.
Etched and stained glass have been used successfully in rustic design for decades. Frosted images depicting wildlife or mountain landscapes on panes of glass have become common?and maybe a bit of a decorating cliché.
But new techniques have created possibilities for more intricate and original patterns, especially with the advent of computer-generated designs coupled with knife-plotting or photo-resist methods. Both stained and leaded glass also have found a comfortable niche in log homes, according to Stephanie, who says they offer a subtle but sophisticated way to add your own sense of style.
"A stained-glass inset in a door, a unique splash of color tucked neatly above a window or high on a gable is a charming accent," she explains. "You also can install a large stained-glass window over a whirlpool bath to provide natural light, color and privacy."
In the Kitchen
Glass-fronted cabinetry has been popular for many years, but other gleaming glass elements are finding their way into rustic kitchens. Companies such as Glassworks in Seattle, Washington, provide striking options for countertops by using a variety of glass-making methods.
One example of the company's work is a rounded kitchen counter measuring 8 feet long with a "chipped" edge. Elevated above a traditional granite or marble countertop, this new surface adds dimension to the variety of natural elements in the room as well as extra space for displaying collectibles in an otherwise functional work zone. For a more traditional look for your countertops, panels can be made of thick sheets of glass, broken and re-formed in an oven and finished with polished edges, which produces a flat, shiny surface reminiscent of marble or other polished, gleaming stone.
One more reason glass makes a fitting countertop choice in your rustic home? It's a heavy-duty material that's easy to clean. When cast, glass can be as resilient as granite and less porous than marble.
In the Bath
Glass has always been a primary element in the bathroom, but innovative twists on old ideas have pushed the scope of rustic design in new directions. New glass-sink designs are especially impressive, with an array of bowls, vanities, textured countertops and pedestals available to home owners. A shallow glass basin or trough set on a glass vanity shelf looks as if it's floating off the log wall.
A stunning example of glass mimicking natural form is Glassworks' waterfall sink. Usually constructed at 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep, the custom piece gives the impression of a sleek shimmer of water tumbling over the lip of the vanity. Think of it as functional artwork you can display and appreciate in any prominent powder room. Shower and tub enclosures also are prime places for using sculpted glass. Fire polished so that it isn't abrasive like etched glass, the surface of sculpted or heat-molded glass is smooth and easy to keep clean, and its thickness allows for an array of decorative-edge options.
Stephanie suggests dividing the functional areas of the bath with glass blocks to avoid splitting an already small room into even tinier quarters. Consider using colored glass blocks?available in vibrant blue and green hues?to bring a gorgeous lake effect to the bath. Finally, glass light fixtures can wash a room with light rather than reflect off of glossy fixtures (frosted styles work best). Bits of colored glass also can be inserted into a tile wall (think rich mosaics) for a minimalist look or an elaborate glass mural.
Other Living Spaces
Glass accents don't have to be relegated to the kitchen or bath. Another way to show off your personal style is to bring more glass into your home's entry.
"Adding sidelights, transoms, Palladians and other glass windows opens up the space and welcomes guests like a big smile," Stephanie says. Glass designs can work wonderfully in every room of your rustic home, particularly with room dividers, tabletops and furniture pieces—even stunning cast-glass stairs that use color to imitate smooth stone. Not only are there a ton of possibilities, but glass artisans are happy to help you come up with new ways to use this versatile material. And don't forget the importance of a well-placed skylight, which can spill natural light through a cathedral ceiling in the great room or kitchen.
After all, says Stephanie, "In a rustic log home, it's all about bringing the outdoors inside." It makes sense that glass works so well in log homes; after all, it's a natural material made of sand, lime and soda ash. And in the same ways that the log beams in your home speak to the characteristics of strong, soaring trees, glass has the associative qualities of texture, light and movement.
So, dispense with the notion that windows are the only places where glass can coexist with those rich wood hues. When you're finalizing floorplans and mapping out each room of your home, ask yourself a simple question: How can I add more panache to this space with glass? You'll be delighted by how many opportunities there are for your home to truly shine.
To read the full article on incorporating glass into your design, check out the October 2004 issue of Log Home Living.
Stacee Sledge is a professional writer who lives in Washington State.