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A Twist on the Traditional
For today's homeowner, it's all about visual effects.

By Judy Penz Sheluk

It used to be enough to just keep up with the Joneses, but that's simply no longer the case. Today's homeowners are looking for contemporary alternatives to traditional solutions - both indoors and out. And, if those alternatives are maintenance-free and environmentally friendly, if they can provide visual effects - that much-desired "wow" factor - well, what more can anyone ask for? We've found a few products that we think fit the bill.

"I can see clearly now"
Homeowners have always been willing to pay a premium for lots with a view and now, more than ever before, they're hiring professional landscapers to create outdoor living spaces worthy of magazine covers. But what good is having a panoramic view, or beautifully landscaped grounds, if you can't actually see them? Enter two new products aimed at solving that problem.
The INSOLAR(tm) Low E glass block by Pittsburgh Corning, introduced in April 2007, combines the benefits of traditional glass block - beauty, light transmission, security, reduced sound transmission, and privacy control - with an improved U-factor and solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC). The result is the most energy efficient glass block option available today.
When used in a mortar application, the 8"x8"x4" INSOLAR glass block shows a reduction of 34 per cent in solar heat gain, and an improvement of 11 per cent in U-value, minimizing building operating costs when used for window, exterior wall and stairwell applications. Specific to residential applications, INSOLAR Low E glass blocks are also available in three-inch and two-inch thickness for use in glass block window fabrication.
Introduced to the U.S. market in 2006, Fortress Iron Railing & Fence System has plans to launch its Pure View Glass Railing System in Canada later this year. The system combines the strength of galvanized, powder-coated Gloss Black iron railings with 3.75-inch-wide tempered glass panels. It also offers safety and elegance, without compromising the view. And, for those customers who prefer the look of wood, there are accessories that make installing the glass panels into wood posts and railings a viable alternative.
Unlike custom glass railings, which require the time and expense of a glass specialist coming to the site to measure, cut, etc., Pure View's pre-fabricated, easy-to-install system is also good news for contractors. Pure View is available in three tints of Clear, Bronze or Smoke, and in heights of 26 or 34 inches for standard or stair rail-to-rail or sandwich installations.

Still hot...and getting hotter
Fireplaces remain hot as a focal point, especially in family rooms and great rooms. However, that doesn't necessarily mean the traditional log-look, set inside a traditional mantle. Take, for example, Montigo's soon-to-be available See Thru model L52DF-ST, which offers 840 inches of viewing area on both sides, and plenty of heat with 40,000 BTU (natural gas) and 34,000 (propane). The fireplace also comes with a contemporary linear burner, which is lined with designer glass beads instead of logs. River rocks are available as an option. The flush or clean face designs allows for brick or tile installation over the fireplace frame, but consider ordering the stainless steel surround, especially if one side faces a kitchen filled with stainless appliances.
Napoleon Fireplaces has opted for sleek, European styling when designing its ultra-modern GD82 Tureen(tm), which features a double-fired ceramic bowl, complemented with river rock. Tureen also includes a selection of interchangeable facings, offers a stainless steel surround and hearth pad. An efficient heating source (26,000 BTU), the fireplace also features the exclusive Napoleon Night Light(tm), which creates a glow within the firebox, even when the fireplace is not turned on.
For homeowners with large great rooms, Napoleon has introduced The Dream(tm), a colossal fireplace that offers a 48-inch-by-48-inch viewing area, 50,000 BTU and 75 per cent energy-efficiency. Realistic logs, sandstone herringbone panels, large andirons, a decorative pull screen, and an optional country crane and hearth pot achieve the look usually reserved for cozy ski lodges or a country castle.

Water Therapy
Waterfalls have long been known for their therapeutic and tranquil qualities; some believe that gathering waters provide the home with positive energy. To others, water is symbolic of prosperity and the flow of life. Beyond those auspices, waterfalls can simply be appreciated for their beauty, and the ability to transform an ordinary space into one that is extraordinary.
While the fixed, indoor waterfall has been available for about three years, in 2007, Napoleon Appliance Corporation introduced a freestanding waterfall that can be used indoors or out, as the season permits. Features include adjustable water flow control, accent lighting, and a slim design in curved stainless steel, and an attractive base (which houses the reservoir and pump) filled with black decorative rocks.
Napoleon also offers three sizes (2'x3', 3'x 3' and 3'x6') of See-Thru waterfalls, which are easily installed in 2x4-inch walls using existing plumbing or a stand-alone reservoir. The see-through design allows viewing from two rooms, and can be easily customized to suit any dŽcor by using installed material of granite, tile or mirror. A wall-mount waterfall will be released later this year.
As an added bonus, all of Napoleon's waterfalls naturally attract airborne particles providing homeowners with cleaner, humidified air; a standard purifier filter cleans up any particles that enter the water from the air. An optional UV light sterilizer can be installed in line with the filter to provide extra protection against bacteria and algae growth.

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