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January 08, 2006

Furniture of a Better Glass


By Caroline Barry

For a minimalist material, glass works for maximum applications. Designers and architects choose seemingly simple glass because it transmits light in any color, makes aqueous shapes solid and lends itself to almost any creation be it wall, floor or tabletop.

The magic of glass has been admired since its discovery in about 5,000 BC and has lived on in everything from children’s tales like Cinderella to the imaginations of architecture’s giants like Philip Johnson, who used the stuff to create his masterpiece Glass House in New Canaan, CT. But the grandiose history and ingenious applications of glass do not stunt the imaginations of newcomers to the material. Rather it inspires them to test glass for what has not yet been done, resulting in pieces as exciting and innovative as the first hand-blown vessels of 27 BC. Naked_chair_1

And as long as glass is beautiful, it is copied. Just as in upholstered furniture, unique glass designs from reputable companies see competition from lesser quality manufacturers who charge less for what, on the surface, may seem to be the same product.

Luckily though, glass furniture buyers have several ways to tell the difference between a shoddy surface and a strong sheet that’s worth the extra cash. Emily Stevenson, a former materials curator at the Parsons School of Design, says glass quality shows in its thickness, surface details and design. 

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