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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.



A Designer's Review of the 2012 Street of Dreams

For 37 years, Portland area interior designers, builders and home designers have put together a collection of dream homes called The Street of Dreams ( This year is no exception to the "dream" part of the event's title. Seven homes, all with beautiful exteriors and even more amazing interior designs. The JBi team spent a few hours last week walking through each of the homes looking for our favorite moments. Compared to previous years, I noticed a move back toward larger homes with lots of "extras" - an elevator, a glass room for wine storage, walk-in showers big enough to hold a square dance and entire walls that open up to the outdoors. While there were many great moments throughout each home, these are our absolute favorite ones - the ones we wish we had designed. We're already looking forward to next year's street. The Rivendell Manor by BC Custom Homes is a beautifully appointed European manor. One of our favorite moments seems so simple, yet has huge impact. Glass tile was used as the ceiling treatment in the powder bathroom on the main floor. This type of treatments provides texture and color that would not be possible otherwise. A genius moment.

portland interior designers - glass tiled ceiling


Mystic Ridge by JT Smith Companies is a combination of natural elements and modern technology for easy living and entertaining. Two favorite features in this house are worth noting. Off to the left from the front entrance is an amazing wine tasting room, a completely glass-walled room complete with extensive wine storage, tasting table and lots of style. Our other favorite moment came on the upstairs deck where another water feature anchors the living space, providing stimulating sound and visuals.

portland interior designers - secured glass room as wine tasting room

portland interior designers - water wall on patio


I don't know what it was about powder baths this year, but there really were some stunners. In the Da Vinci at the Vineyard by Hutchinson Home Builders, the extra mile details were certainly noticed. The ceiling contained Da Vinci-like sketches, obviously to work with the name of the home. The other feature (and one I wish I had come up with), was a window panel created with transparent stones all held together with some type of epoxy or other material. Besides providing privacy, the treatment cast a warm and inviting glow in the room. Another pure genius moment.

portland interior designers - ceiling illustrations

portland interior designers - pebble window panel as window treatment


Now for our two favorite homes. The Montauk by Delahunt Homes and The Oregon Dream by Stone Bridge Homes NW. The Montauk is a study in soft grays and taupes and other accent colors throughout the home. The soft palette immediately puts visitors at ease, welcoming them into a beautifully appointed interior. Barrel ceilings in the great room and dining room  create grandeur without being grotesque - a feat worth noting and often not accomplished with such skill. The interior design, furniture and accessories are rich and artistic, having a curated feel. It's like a collection of special objects, not just things borrowed from a store.  The dining room is especially of note for it's combination of luxurious wall covering and upholstered dining chairs. I envision many a gathering until the early morning hours spent around that table.

portland interior designers - whimsical staircase

portland interior designers - great room with style

portland interior designers - dining room off kitchen


For the JBi team, The Oregon Dream home really took our breath away. Not that the other homes didn't have beautiful details and solid interior design, but this home felt like something that would come out of JASON BALL interiors. It matched our aesthetic perfectly and represents how I personally would want to live (if I could afford a home like this). The main floor was really about the connection to the outside. On both sides of the home, NanaWalls opened up to two outside living areas ~ a private courtyard on one side and an open living room with outdoor kitchen on the other side. Even the stair case had a level of openness about it, with floating wood treads and steel railings, ensuring that it doesn't get in the way of the views. The last room that took our breath away was the master bathroom, a study in luxury through simplicity. An open shower, large jetted tub (in front of an expansive window) and simple double vanity created a master bathroom in which I'd want to start and end every day.

portland interior designers - dining room and nana wall

portland interior designers - open staircase

portland interior designers - master bathroom shower


All in all, this years Street of Dreams met all the requirements ~ good design (inside and out), special moments in each home and keeping the dream alive. Can't wait to see what happens next year.


About JASON BALL interiors. We are a team of interior designers based in Portland, Oregon serving residential clients throughout Oregon and Washington and beyond. To see our full portfolio, click here. 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.



Interior Design Notebook - Remodeling Stairs

Traditional/Contemporary Stairs

Stairs are one of those architectural elements in a home that seem to be forgotten or ignored by most builders and architects. This is especially true in suburban homes where stairs are just stairs. However, stairs can play a much more important role in showing off the homes architecture and style. Stairs give us a chance to bring in different materials, hang artwork, showcase large and dramatic light fixtures, etc. Depending on where a stairwell is located in a home, we can also play with the way light moves through the home and from floor to floor. A well placed skylight in a stairwell can be a great way to bring natural light to what otherwise might be a dark area. The challenge when designing a stairs is how to get all the elements to work with one another - balusters, handrail, risers, treads, etc. The stairs below show some interesting design choices. Some of these are ones that I worked on, others are examples I found online. What role do you want your stairs to play in your homes style?

The first set of stairs used to be standard, builder-quality stairs you could find in any suburban home. We remodeled the stairs completely with new treads, risers, balusters, and handrail to a dramatic staircase. Some minor adjustments (like widening the bottom stair and using a larger post at the bottom of the stairs) adds crucial design elements.

Balusters don't have to just be vertical pieces of wood or metal. They come in all shapes and sizes and materials.


Then sometimes you find a stair design that absolutely blows you away. I love the sculptural and architectural nature of these stairs. The architect clearly found it important to show the structure of the stairs. This uses all the elements - glass, wood and metal to create a truly stunning staircase.

Most homeowners don't give a second thought their stairs ~ they're just there. With a little design assistance, stairs can become an important part of the design of a home.

Check out our full portfolio to see other great remodel projects: JASON BALL interiors