Next time you're asked to remodel a bathroom, look to the mirror for inspiration. More than just functional reflectors, mirrors are the foundation of a growing trend in the use of glass in the bathroom. Formerly discreet powder rooms are becoming the talk of the town as manufacturers bring glass to new surfaces.
“Glass as a medium is just now approaching the mainstream where people are embracing it through shelter magazines and getting more active in pursuing their own designs,” says John Marckx, executive vice president of Oceanside Glasstile, Carlsbad, Calif. “More products are becoming available to a broader audience.”
Marckx and Steve Weinstock, president of Alchemy Glass & Light, Los Angeles, started their respective businesses in the early 1990s and have seen the use of glass in the bath — and their sales — climb in recent years. “Glass has numerous properties that make it natural for the bath,” Weinstock says. “It's totally impervious, and the surface can be polished to a perfect flatness, which means it won't hold germs, making it very sanitary.” Moreover, Weinstock adds that glass sinks and countertops like those produced by his company are easy to clean and maintain.
But will it break? Manufacturers say no. “It isn't fragile,” says Joan Bostic, president of KWC America, which brought its waterfall-inspired glass Murano faucet to the market in late 2004. “The faucet is made of safety glass and is treated, so water will just slide off it,” she says. (Weinstock also points out that skyscrapers are often clad in glass just ¾ of an inch thick.)
With its ability to sparkle and reflect light, manufacturers say glass adds a classy and luxurious touch to bathrooms. “As an artist, one of the things I love about glass is that when you heat it and give it texture, it has an organic feel and can really look like water,” Weinstock says.
Marckx agrees. “When you couple its gemlike qualities with its translucence and the depth of color and iridescence you can add, glass becomes a great complement to other materials in the bathroom environment like wood, stone, and, of course, metal fixtures.”
But such luxury comes at a price. Marckx says glass tile is inherently more expensive than other styles, with prices ranging from $25 to $50 per square foot, depending on a project's intricacy. Some glass faucets on the market are priced from $600 and up, and sinks and countertops often ring in between $800 and $4,000.
For many, the price is worth the result. “In any application, people are investing more in turning their bathrooms into sanctuaries,” Marckx says. “That makes the bathroom the No. 1 application for glass materials and will continue to be a trend well into the future.”