We once used to think of glass merely as external glazing; now it plays a far more central role in bathroom design. Glass now predominates as the first choice for shower screens, thanks to its hygienic, easy to clean qualities, and its ability to let in light. Not only is it now the first choice for over-bath showers, but also, increasingly, for entire shower cubicles.
In order for this to have become the case, glass had to become an extremely safe material, which it has, thanks to the glass processor. Ordinary float, or annealed, glass is not well suited to use in a bathroom because of its characteristic of breaking into sharp, potentially hazardous, shards. However, when glass is transformed into toughened glass by being processed through a furnace, its characteristics are extremely different when damaged. Toughened glass, if damaged, shatters into small, granular fragments, which greatly reduce the risk of injury to anyone nearby. The advent of toughened glass has therefore opened up a great many more possibilities for bathroom design.
In addition to shower screens, glass can now be used as splashbacks, shelving and even room dividers. Few homeowners are now satisfied with a single bathroom serving the entire household, which has meant that designers have to be ever more inventive in creating new en-suites and cloakrooms. Increasingly, for interior bathrooms and en-suites, light tunnels and rooflight style windows are becoming popular as a way of adding natural light. Glazing these with toughened glass provides an added safety measure, as, in the event of accidental damage, the risk of harm from falling glass is minimised.
As bathroom design has evolved, so have the materials that help to enhance bathrooms. One relatively new product, LCD privacy glass, has opened up many more possibilities, by allowing us to screen off separate areas in a single space. A walk-in shower can be created in a bedroom, for example, screened from the sleeping area by privacy glass.
LCD privacy glass, such as ESG Switchable, involves the use of toughened laminated glass, which comprises two panes of toughened glass, laminated together with a specialist PVB (PolyVinyl Butyrall) interlayer. This process forms a bond, creating a single, very strong glass pane. This makes a larger expanse of glass, such as a room divider, especially safe. In the event of damage, the interlayer holds the majority of fragments in place, largely eliminating the risk of falling glass.
Privacy glass allows you to choose whether a glass panel is transparent or opaque. When a small electric current is passed through the pane, the glass becomes optically clear. Once the current is switched off, the pane immediately becomes opaque, providing instant privacy. This is controlled very simply at the touch of a button. This can even be installed in an outside window, so that the occupant can enjoy the view from the bath, but switch to privacy when drying or dressing.
Glass processing technology can also be used to provide other practical and design options. Glass etching is still popular for the many ways in which it can be applied, either to screen, or to add design details. We can also add colour in several different ways. If you are looking for a pop of colour on splashbacks and shelving, glass can be back-painted in a solid colour, or screen-printed to provide a distinctive design. Painting and screen printing are available in most RAL colours, so they can be matched to your key decorating colours or used to provide a carefully chosen contrast.
Alternatively, we can add a coloured interlayer to provide translucent colour. The Vanceva range which we use for this offers a rainbow of colours, all of which help to create unique effects, by bathing the room in richly coloured natural light, as the sun moves throughout the day.
Using lamination and interlayer technology, we can also add individual designs, encapsulating decorative materials such as petals, leaves, fabrics or films. These can be combined with privacy, translucent colour and even a sound attenuating layer. You can combine any or all of these properties to create a bespoke product for any individual project.
If you have a specific design scheme in mind, it is well worth discussing with the glass processor the ways in which glass products can help you realise your vision and add the details which bring interior design to life. Glass may be a familiar product, but many of its possibilities are new and exciting.