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Look for More Glass in Home

By Perry J. Greenbaum

Glass and acrylic are making their way into homes, not only for traditional uses in windows, doors and bathroom cabinets, but also for room dividers, aquariums and sinks - whose combined effect make a statement of a home's aesthetics.

One of the continuing trends in interior design is a sense of openness and light, encouraging harmony between form and function. In this effort, builders and renovation professionals have long concentrated their efforts on such busy areas as kitchens and bathrooms, where real estate agents and appraisers argue the home's value resides.
To be sure, bathrooms and kitchens have changed over the years, becoming, to a large degree, roomy, functional and aesthetically pleasing, incorporating the latest technologies in plumbing fixtures, counter tops and cabinets. The over-all emphasis is on spaciousness and natural light. Builders and contractors, to a large part, have achieved this open-concept sense by installing large bay windows and glass-filled doorways, which, because of glass's high degree of transparency, bathe rooms with lots of sunlight.
However, more changes are coming. Without a doubt, consumers have many choices in how they fashion their homes, aided in large degree by information on the Internet. The on-line marketplace gives home buyers a sense of empowerment, says Stephen Male, marketing coordinator with Toronto-based Aareas Interactive, a marketing and management firm for the building industry. "[It] gives full control of when, where and how long they spend browsing and deciding on their choices - often leading them to spend more than they originally had intended."
The Web has, undoubtedly, helped publicize non-traditional ways to transform a home by adding artistic touches to a room. These range from glass art luminaries to glass sinks to large acrylic-made aquariums - three very different but related accessories.

Aquariums a central attraction
These aquariums are not the kits that many families have traditionally bought for their young children from pet stores and big-box stores. For example, Montreal-based ASP Aquarium has developed a large aquarium that you can suspend from your ceiling much like a TV set: the Space Aquarium. The company was formed in 2003 and has been marketing the aquariums since June 2004. "We are bringing something unique into the marketplace," says Lionel Dimitri, vice-president of the company. "People get to see live beings in their living spaces, without restrictions of having to place it on another piece of furniture."
An equally original mounting system creates remarkable all-round visibility. A high-performance organic filtration system maintains a clean aquatic environment with minimal upkeep. The aquariums are 12 inches thick and are mounted like a large-screen TV. Prices are between $5,900 for a five-foot long system to $8,400 for an eight-foot long aquarium, including tank, mounting hardware, filtration system and lighting fixture. "A lot of people have never had an aquarium in the past, and about 90 per cent choose saltwater aquariums over fresh-water ones," Dimitri points out.
Wherever you install it, this suspended aquarium is a guaranteed live attraction. It can be installed in the living room, workroom, or in any room where a homeowner wants to create an original sense of space. It can even be used as a room divider. While its market is primarily Canada and the United States, the company has been exporting to Europe and the Middle East.

Glass sinks make a splash
Designers and homeowners have discovered that beautiful glass sinks are not just for high-end spas or hotels. The artistry, durability, and affordability of these pieces are responsible for their increased popularity in residential settings. To accommodate the increasing demand, Glasco Designs is expanding its product line to include drop-in sinks.
Fashionable yet practical, this newest addition to Glasco's art-glass collection will allow for even more design options for both designers and homeowners. "Our drop-in sinks are taking glass sinks to a new level of functionality and design," says Wyatt Hyora, vice president of sales and marketing for Glasco Design Inc. in Kirkland, Washington. "Glass sinks are moving from being the new fad design to a standard fixture as people have come to recognize their beauty and appeal. "We decided to create this new line of drop-in sinks after numerous designers and retailers kept asking for just such a product," Hyora says.

Turning glass to art works
One of the more striking uses of glass is an art form called luminaries, which combines three-dimensional deep relief sculpture on a flat glass surface with special lighting. Randy Mardrus, an artist from Hamburg, New Jersey, has been perfecting the glass-making art since 1987 and is one of the pioneers of the craft. "I've always had an endless fascination with the way glass dances with colour and light," Mardrus says. "Inspiration for my designs comes from the unlimited flowing forms in nature with depth and motion as my primary goals."
Mardrus incorporates lighting components into the glass luminaries because, as he put it, "I got tired of relying on the lighting in the room, and I started to make things light the way that I wanted them to - in their most beautiful light." He sells his art glass, all individually hand-made, as original or limited production pieces for about $1,000 (US) per square foot. Installations include luxury homes, yachts, private aircraft and commercial organizations. His commissions start at eight-inch-by-12-inch portrait-size works that one can hang on the wall. He has done very large works, including a six-foot-by-eight-foot piece that weighs 650 pounds.

Glass in high-end homes
Mardrus has done many installations in private high-end residences, gaining work by word of mouth and his Web site. "I've done very little advertising," he says. Clients come to him at different stages, either when they are remodelling a home or building a new one. "It's so varied. Sometimes people come to me before they break ground with their new home. At other times, they come to me at the very end, saying, 'You're the finishing touch.'"
Mardrus says he's at the point in his profession that he can now choose jobs and maintain that high level of passion. "I am happy with what I am doing right now. I think that it's the most beautiful thing you can do."

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