The Lites of Luxury
Art, design, money and glass combine in New York City to create the interiors and exteriors of some of most expensive pieces of real estate in the world. While the rest of the United States has suffered a steady decline in the residential market, the 23-square-mile city that never sleeps has continued to prosper, with a luxury, high-end resident building boom. “Domestically, economic indicators have shown a sharp decline in new and renovated residential properties. … Manhattan has not only be not affected, residential properties in [the city] have increased in value,” says David Balik, president of General Glass International, Secaucus, N.J. The glass industry is riding the wave of New York’s high-end residential boom, as designers and owners demand sleek, modern interiors. “Everyone in New York City is looking for clean lines—it’s the rage,” says Douglas Schulman, CEO of Manhattan Shade and Glass Co. “Even more traditional apartments are trying to use more contemporary elements in kitchens and bathrooms. “ Decorative glass companies agree the biggest trend in the high-end residential segment is wall cladding. Managers say they can’t keep up with demand for back-painted or coated glass in lobbies and elevators, and backsplashes in kitchens and bathrooms. “We are seeing a lot of back splashes. Sometimes designers specify wall cladding for an entire wall,” says Tammy Allaire, inside sales representative for Goldray Industries Ltd. of Calgary, Albert. Designers like the flexibility of back-painted glass, because they can choose from many colors to fit the décor of a space, she says. “We are constantly quoting on new jobs and sending samples out for this sort of project,” Allaire says. Manhattan Shade & Glass’ backsplash business has grown along with demand for other applications using similar coated glass products, using the GlassKote process. “The coated glass is the core part of our business right now. It’s being specified for elevator lobbies, bathroom walls, even floors,” Schulman says. Tim Czechowski, president of Artwork in Architectural Glass, Newport Beach, Calif., says he has supplied several expanses of wall cladding for New York lobbies using an antique-like mirror product from AAG’s sister company Jokimo Inc. “Some of our projects use a full wall of MirrorUnique,” he says. In addition to wall cladding, Czechowski says glass flooring has become a big trend among luxury condo owners. Manhattan millionaires, in particular, are jumping to get spiral glass staircases. “Glass flooring is the hottest thing around,” he says. “Some of these apartments are fairly nice in size, but it’s still New York Cities—you’re limited. The spiral staircases take up less space. The glass treads on the stairs are the big things right now.” Czechowski says AAG just finished a sleek spiral glass staircase in a $10 million New York apartment. AAG also continues to supply room dividers for these spaces. “Instead of putting up sheet rock, put up glass to create a divider that still lets light in. It makes a larger space.” Designers are looking to improve upon the more common glass applications, such as shower enclosures, says Bernard Lax, CEO of Pulp Studio Inc., Beverly Hills, Calif. “Condos have to differentiate on what they’re giving customers, because they are trying to pre-sell their projects,” Lax says. “They are looking for more interesting products to put in shower enclosures, such as interesting patterns. Instead of standard clear glass, they’re using acid etch; instead of plain finishes they’re using added value finishes.” Balik says GGI’s offerings continue to increase to include more unique products for designers. “Currently we are supplying any one of our dozens of stocked specialty glass patters, satin etched glass … post-temperable painted glass in a variety of standard and custom colors, antique mirrors, satin etched mirrors.” In addition to wall cladding, some condo designers are looking to use structural glass in interior lobbies, such as in SoHo’s 40 Mercer that opened late 2007. Although the building features an inconspicuous exterior, visitors walk through the doors to see an array of interior glass, including a floor-to-ceiling art glass wall that runs the length of the lobby. “[Dlubak Corp., Blairsville, Pa.] supplied the laminated glass for the wall. The decorative silk screen film was applied at our facility,” says Scott Haber, managing partner at W&W Glass Inc., Nanuet, N.Y. The 40 Mercer lobby also includes sections of glass flooring over an underground pool, with glass from Glaspro, Santa Fe Springs, Calif., and tempered, sandblasted wall patricians. Architects seem glass crazed on New York condo exteriors as well. The Link tower, now under construction, on West 52nd Street in Hell’s Kitchen will be a 43-story glass-clad building with a structural glass cube entrance. Designer Philip Johnson tried to reinvent the iconic Glass House in a city setting with the Urban Glass House, a 12-story condo building in Lower Manhattan with oversized glass lites on its floor-to-ceiling glass curtain wall. Architects Herzog & De Meuron, embraced art on the Villiage’s 40 Bond St., which features a 15,000-square-foot glass façade made up of picture frames of curved glass, completed in late 2007. The low-E, insulating glass windows are framed with green-tinted laminated curved glass with a frit pattern from Cricursa of Spain. But all good things must come to an end, and even Manhattan’s luxury condo craze will begin to slow. “The big question is how sustainable this boom is,” Schulman says. He expects a slowdown to come next year. Haber agrees. “There has been a big explosion, but we’re not seeing a lot of new projects coming in.” If and when the luxury condo market starts to like in Manhattan, companies say they will simply rely on their commercial and institutional work to keep busy. After all, it is the city that never sleeps.