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Glass as a Design Element

As interior designers, the JBi team is constantly looking for ways to push our own boundaries and bring fresh ideas to the table with our clients. I was recently asked by a client what I thought of doing a stair railing out of glass. It wasn't that I hadn't seen it done before or was opposed to the idea, I just didn't think she would like it. This simple conversation reminded me on the importance of looking out for ways to use standard materials in new and different ways from what we expect. Glass is one of those materials we use in a multitude of ways on a regular basis - shower enclosures, windows and doors, glass tile. But what does it look like when we use this material in an application beyond the unexpected? Well, that's what this post is all about. I went searching for examples of glass used in expected and unexpected ways. The comparison shows how we can take the use of this material and elevate it beyond the norm.

Shower Enclosures. We all know the frameless shower enclosure. Beautifully radiant 3/8" glass with polished edges paired with simply elegant hardware creates a stunning shower stall. But what if we took the use of glass to the edge and created the entire bathroom inside a glass room? This use allows us to "carve" out a bathroom of a room without making the room feel smaller. The glass keeps the room visually open and allows for transference of light throughout the space.


Photograph by Elad Gonen and Zeev Beech

Doors, windows and walls, oh my! This will sound silly, but we all know about the use of glass in doors and windows. Yes, the first picture below pushes the boundary slightly by using a set of windows as an entire wall. But, glass is rarely used as internal walls in a building (see previous bathroom example too). In an open space, glass walls can be used as room dividers to maintain the openness, but also provide a little extra privacy and feeling of division between specific use areas.

Design by thirdstone, inc

Design by Morlen Sinoway Atelier

Stair railings and steps. The house on which we're working (mentioned above) will be a contemporary home with glass used in some interesting and different ways. It feels like a natural extension then to use glass as the stair railings. We're going to combine the glass with metal posts and handrail. The next natural extension would be to take the glass from the railings and use it as the actual steps. The open glass steps keeps what would otherwise be an imposing architectural feature light and airy.

Design by Manchester Architects Inc

Design by AR Design Studio Ltd

Glass backsplash. Besides shower enclosures, glass tile is probably the other most common use of glass. Mosaics or larger format tiles are used in bathrooms and as kitchen splashes to create a range of different looks - contemporary to traditional. The beauty of glass in this form is its flexibility. Recently though I've started seeing glass backsplashes take on a slightly different form as back-painted sheet glass. This look is super contemporary and easy to clean, an appealing benefit on both fronts.

Design by Exquisite Kitchen Design

Design by Navo Design Studio

What is your favorite way to use glass in your home? We'd love to hear from you.

About JASON BALL interiors. We are a team of interior designers based in Portland, Oregon serving residential and commercial clients throughout Oregon and Washington, and beyond. To see examples of our design work, visit the Portfolio page. For an evaluation of your upcoming projects, contact Jason Ball at (503) 267-2352 or via e-mail at We look forward to being your interior design team.



Working with Contrast

Last week's post was about the use of balance in design (read here). This week we're tackling the idea of concept. I chose to follow proportion with contrast because getting the latter correct is dependent on the former. When first starting design of a space, the interior designers at JBi start with either color, style or texture as our origin for the "look & feel." As the design begins to solidify, we start thinking about ways in which to bring interest to the space. The use of contrast is one of our favorites. Contrast comes in many different forms - contrast in colors, materials, styles, textures, etc. The trick to getting it just right is balance and proportion. If one design element is used too sparingly it won't have the desired effect in the space. If it's used to much, then it might over power the other elements in the room. Here are the principles we use when working with the different types of contrast.

Use restraint for real impact. When working in one particular style, you might only need one statement piece in the contrasting style. The design of this dining room started with the modern Italian table, chairs and contemporary chandelier. To balance the "slickness" we brought in an artistic, handcrafted piece with a global aesthetic. Perfectly in balance, the two styles fight each other for attention, but without overpowering each other. The conflict is what makes it interesting.

Dining room by JASON BALL interiors

Play with different textures to create a special moment. In this living room vignette, we created an interesting juxtaposition between the stone candle wall and refined fabric used on the chaise. This one corner on the room has its own distinct feel even compared to the rest of the room. But that was intentional.

Living room design by JASON BALL interiors

In this example, the large stone fireplace is the only "hard" surface in the room, toned down by all the furnishings, wood and soft architectural features.

Design by Jan Gleysteen Architects Inc.

High contrast colors are toned down using mid values. Obviously the highest possible contrast would be black and white, so let's use that as our example. If you're going to take on the color contrast concept, it's important to balance out the extremes with tones in the mid values. These "mid values" might be other colors or true combinations of your extremes. For instance, in the first picture, notice the use of grays, and black and white fabrics. It is these mid values that create a bridge between the extremes. In the second picture, it is the granite that bridges the gap between the white and brown cabinetry.

Photograph by Lisa Petrole Photography

Design by Jane Lockhart Interior Design

What is your favorite type of contrast? Let us know how you've brought contrast into your home.




Decorating With Red, White & Blue

Well, Happy Memorial Day everyone! It's a wonderful day to remember those who died while serving our country and protecting our freedoms. All over the country, families and friends will be gathering for BBQs and great get-togethers. And we all proudly display our country's flag, let the red, white and blue shine brightly. These colors are so iconic for our country that it crossed my mind how one might decorate their home in red, white and blue, but without going all Americana. By the way, did you know there are 11 countries whose flags are comprised of only these three colors and around 80 who have these colors as major portions of them. But, as an interior designer would do, how can we use these colors in our homes in ways that don't scream "hey look, it's the 4th of July in my house!!" So, I began the hunt for elegant and tasteful uses of red, white and blue.

Would you ever decorate a room in your house in these colors?

Room by Horchow

This contemporary kitchen is given an All-American look with blue and red lacquered cabinetry.

Design by Michael Chen Architecture

What is mostly a white and red family room with small splashes of blue and white on the chair, ottoman and planter on the coffee table. A tasteful proportion of each color.

Design by Billy Beson Company

Clean uses of our three colors in the perfect balance. Red upholstered bed, simple blue and white bed linens and soft striped shades as an accent.

Design by Muse Interiors

In this incredibly luxe living room, a high gloss navy blue is used on all the walls and ceiling adding immediate depth to the room. Red leather stools and a navy/red area rug, combined with crisp white trim finish the look.

Design by Avissa Majtahedi Architecture and Design

If the idea of traditional red, white and blue is a little too scary, tweak one of the colors just a bit for a new combination. This teal blue is a perfect substitution and pairs well with red and white for a classic combination.

The Upward Bound House by Elizabeth Bomberger

I hope these inspiration pictures get you thinking about using red, white and blue in your home. Enjoy the day!

Happy Memorial Day!






JBi Visits Sub-Zero & Wolf

I was invited by Sub-Zero & Wolf to visit their wold headquarters in Wisconsin a couple of months ago. It worked out perfectly that I was able to wrap that trip into the JBi trip to High Point, NC. Sub-Zero & Wolf invites cabinet makers, interior designers and kitchen designers to come see their products, tour the factories and learn about what sets their products aside from the competition. This particular session was special because they invited top designers and cabinet shops from all over the US to introduce their new product line to be rolled out over the next year. My group was only the second group to see the new products, and they are absolutely amazing!

Quick history lesson. In 1943, Westye Bakke built his first freestanding freezer in his basement. Sub-Zero was founded two years later. In 2000, Sub-Zero purchased Wolf to add cooking appliances to their superior refrigeration systems. Thus began the perfect pairing of Sub-Zero and Wolf. These two brands have become synonymous with cooking and food storage in the luxury appliance market (I'm starting to sound like a commercial!).

What's most important from an interior designer's perspective is the devotion these two brands have to the design community. They focus their product development efforts not only on quality cooking and refrigeration performance, but on products that can easily worked into today's higher end kitchen environments. My time at Sub-Zero & Wolf opened my eyes to the necessity of the kitchens JBi designs to be outfitted with the best.

In touring the two factories, I was impressed by the focus on quality and superior craftsmanship. The use of both robotics and human hands ensures that every unit that completes the line is built to the highest standards. And, no other manufacturer of appliances tests every single unit - yes, you read that correctly, they test every single cooktop, refrigerator, wall oven, etc. That's why they're the best!

Here are pictures of my experience seeing new products and touring the factories.


The group getting some hands-on time with the new products

Transitional cooktop with downdraft

The new pro-style cooktop

Who wouldn't want to see this blue interior every time they opened up their oven?

Wolf's first built-in coffee maker

Nothing better than Wolf's signature red knobs (even though they come in stainless and black)

One of the vignettes in the Living Kitchen

One of two amazing demonstration kitchens

After such an amazing trip and getting first hand insight into why the Sub-Zero and Wolf brands are at the top of the appliance brands, it's clear which brand I'll be recommending from here on out.










High Point - Color Stories

A trip to High Point Furniture Market for an interior designer is pure heaven! We get to see great new products, meet up with our trusted reps and gather new vendors from which to select products for our clients. The last blog entry focused on the new gold we're seeing in finishes and fabrics. The other big trend is a return to color. We're not talking about a few subtle shades, but big and bold jewel tones. By combining the jewel tones with softer versions of themselves or neutrals, the bold colors become a real sophisticated design element, rather than just a use of color for design's sake. Compared to Market last April, the color stories have been turned up and that's exciting!

We're seeing color show up in many different incarnations - painted case goods, fabrics, lighting, accessories. Here are some of our favorite example of this bright and bold use of color.







So, which color will you want to use in your next project? We'd love to hear your ideas!