Technical Glass, Practical Living

    In recent years, when designing our homes, there has been something of a tension between the desire to embrace open plan living, while defining specific living areas by function. Can you have the best of both worlds? Susan Sinden, commercial manager for leading glass processor ESG, believes that, with clever use of technical glass, you can.

    Our homes are increasingly the subject of a series of balancing acts, whether work life balance, insulation versus ventilation, or open plan versus carefully defined living areas. One way to tackle the latter is with tactical use of highly technical glass,especially switchable or privacy glass. As the name privacy suggests, this innovative glass product can help you to screen off areas for specific purposes, while, as the name ESG Switchable suggests, the screening effect doesn’t have to be permanent.

    Switchable glass is created by laminating two panes of glass together, using a highly technical LCD interlayer. When an electrical current is passed through the interlayer, it allows light to pass through, creating an optically clear glass pane. If the current is switched off, the glass becomes instantly opaque, creating an innovative new generation of room divider.

    In a commercial setting, switchable privacy glass has many applications, including the viewing windows in hospital or consulting room doors, retail display windows and even high security settings, where it is often mixed with intruder resistant options, to foil would-be perpetrators.

    In a domestic setting, however, switchable privacy glass is fast becoming a favourite with interior designers, as it allows light to flood through from one living space to another, to provide an open plan feel when switched on, but also to provide privacy when needed.

    When converting former commercial properties into luxury apartments or Grand Design style projects, switchable glass can be used to great effect for areas such as bathrooms, en-suites, bedrooms and dressing rooms where privacy is essential. The vast floor space of former warehouses and mills, for example, can present a particular challenge when it comes to natural light. Much as we may love open plan living as a nation, most of us still like to sleep in a separate bedroom. One solution to this dilemma is to create a mezzanine for bedrooms. Using switchable glass, these areas can be created to provide a permanent solution, but with a changeable appearance. The plan will often be to place bedrooms on the upper level with access to a window. This would inevitably reduce the amount of natural light for the living space below, so an obvious solution is to construct the inward facing wall of the bedroom or bathroom out of glass panels, so that light can continue to spill through. The drawback with this would be, of course, the potential lack of privacy, but for the use of switchable glass.

    If the bedroom or bathroom mezzanine wall is made from switchable glass, it can be switched on to allow light through when desired, but switched off to provide privacy when needed – all at the touch of a button. Further advances in glass processing mean that stair treads, balustrades and mezzanine walkways can also be constructed from glass products, to allow even more daylight into the property’s interior.

    The kitchen is often a key area in which to consider using glass. Although open plan living is still increasing in popularity, there are times when it is desirable to contain the sounds made by kitchen appliances and the smells from cooking. The post pandemic trend towards working from home, especially at the kitchen table, has also increased the need for more defined and screened-off areas.

    Glass partitions are ideal to help to keep the feel of open plan, while providing a more secluded space to work or study. Thanks to technical interlayer technology, we can even provide sound attenuation in a glass panel. Acoustic interlayers may well be the ideal solution to providing a quieter, as well as a more defined space. And it doesn’t have to be either or; as you can choose to combine sound attenuation with switchable privacy by using more than one interlayer in a bespoke glass product.

    Thanks to the advances in glass processing technology, the homeowner and the interior designer have never had more choices.

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