There is no denying that over the past year, many of us have spent more time than usual in our kitchens. As well as providing a hub for so much increase in cooking and baking that we saw shortages of flour and eggs on a scale not seen since the Second World War; for many, it also became the scene of home schooling and working from home. Those with truly practical kitchens definitely felt the benefit.
One of the most popular trends in recent years has been towards more open plan living, which allowed many of us to zone our homes for lockdown living, with clear sightlines between the dining table and the breakfast bar or dining desk, all of which were pressed into service as we learnt to cope with a new way of life. Many of us found that we preferred working from home, at least for part of the week, so this trend seems set to continue.
Open plan can have a few drawbacks, however, when it comes to everyone trying to work in the same space.
To counteract this, in recent years we have learned to zone our spaces with clever uses of glass. Using interlayer technology, we can create distinctly separate spaces both in terms of privacy and sound. For example, when cooking for a dinner party, you may not wish all the kitchen equipment in use to be on display, or the dishes that you haven’t yet cleaned up to be visible. This conundrum can be solved by installing a panel of privacy glass, such as ESG Switchable, between kitchen and dining areas. Privacy glass comprises a sophisticated LCD interlayer which carries a small electrical current, laminated between two panes of toughened glass to make a single panel. When the current passes through the interlayer, the panel becomes optically clear, providing an open plan feel. Once the current is switched off, however, the glass becomes opaque. You can now choose when to be completely open plan and when to be screened, simply at the touch of a button.
Using noise reducing interlayer technology, a glass screen can also be used to add sound attenuation, so you can see what the kids are up to, but not be disturbed by their noise if you are trying to concentrate, either on work or your next culinary masterpiece. And it doesn’t have to be one option or the other. It can be both, as we can add both types of interlayer to a single composite glass pane.
Those with glass elements in their kitchens clearly benefited during the pandemic. At a time when cleanliness has truly been a life-or-death issue, the ease of cleaning and sanitising glass surfaces was a huge advantage. Worktops, cupboard doors and splashbacks, if made from glass, could all be cleaned frequently and thoroughly, with no threat of harm from cleansing or sanitising chemicals. The resilience of glass will always mean that its beauty and pristine appearance will outshine all necessary cleaning efforts.
This resilient quality is one reason that glass has become increasingly popular for designers when adding colour in the form of a splashback. Screen printed or back painted glass can be used to give full reign to the designer’s imagination. Because the design is protected behind toughened glass, there is almost no limit to the effects that can be created, from animal prints to landscape scenes; from block colours to ombre tints and beyond. Similarly, using thicker sheets of toughened glass, we can now create bespoke worktops and dining desks to match or complement the splashback. In this case, the design can also be encapsulated in a decorative interlayer, to be completely protected from above and below, within a sheet of toughened laminated glass, creating an extraordinarily tough, long-lasting and practical surface.
Glass shelving helps both to display favourite objects and to create a feeling of more light. Again using interlayers, we can actually embed fixings into a bespoke glass shelf so it appears to float. This technology can be translated into more structural elements such as stair treads or glass flooring. If you have a historic kitchen with ancient features such as a well or mill stream, we can create toughened laminated panels to fit flush with the floor and provide a completely safe surface on which to walk across while admiring the feature. Glass flooring can also be used to create mezzanine flooring and walkways.
For true open plan fans, the appeal of glass as a practical solution to kitchen design problems seems very clear cut indeed.