If you’re still a sceptic – I get it. You may be asking, “Mike, why should I give a hoot about glass blocks? Why shouldn’t I listen to my builder who says they went out with mullets and big hair in the 80’s?” (BTW – if you think about it, how fashion-forward is your contractor anyway? They may be well versed in their ‘sticks and bricks,’ but I’ll bet money they aren’t hopping out of their mud-infested pickup trucks wearing Gucci loafers either).
In this article we’ll look at 5 glass block wall ideas which will blow the lid off your opinion of this product as a stuck in the mud (‘er mortar) building material. At the end let me know if you think I’m smokin’ something funny out of my glass block pipe – or if I’m on to something. A good debate never hurt anyone.
Are you entering a stage in life where your current suburban home, or active senior community, just doesn’t fit the lifestyle or mix of neighbors you want?
Are you kicking the curb (pun intended) on condo living, but aren’t completely sold it’s a fit for you?
Are you struggling to figure out how to inject style, life and personality into a ‘stuck-in-the-80’s-big-hair-shoulder-pad-looking’ condo which needs a swift fashion ‘kick-in-the-pants?”
Bob and Nona Pickering recently hit this stage of life. Their existing condo in an active senior community in the middle of “Go-Blue-Land” just wasn’t cutting it for them. (note: for those of you playing at home “Go Blue” land would be Ann Arbor, Michigan home of the University and Michigan. It’s a beautiful college town. Sorry for saying this Buckeye fans).
While this active-adult community was perfectly fine – they wanted a broad mix (and age range) of neighbors and less traffic (Ann Arbor can get crazy on game-day weekends). While Bob and Nona are both U or M grads – and big fans – game-day they can largely do without.
They wanted more time for golf and relaxing. They like the idea of being part of a larger development with a more variety of housing and people. So, the search for a new home and location began.
As Bob told me, “Mike, Nona and I found our condo in a strange way. As Nona was looking for a home for her sister they found one on a golf course with a décor which screamed out – D-A-T-E-D! Nona’s sister wanted no part of the extensive remodeling and redecorating challenge. Nona and I loved the golf course setting and proximity to Ann Arbor.
Our new condo is in Brighton Michigan (in the Pine Eagles subdivision within the Oak Pointe Community). It’s only 35 minutes from the University of Michigan and has view views of the golf course and a broad mix of neighbors.
We can still go and watch our Wolverines hopefully beat the Buckeyes (OK I’m an Ohio State fan so I had to throw the word ‘hopefully’ in there) but be outside the hustle and bustle of Ann Arbor.
The tired 1988 layout and décor had to go. Nona and I asked her sister if she would let us put a bid in on the home – since she was planning to pass on it. Our bid was accepted and that’s how this condo redesign journey began.”
In this article I’m going to highlight 5 condo design ideas Bob and Nona used to recraft their space around their needs and tastes. This project is an example of how a condo can combine good function (practicality) and good form (personality). Let’s check out these 5 ideas.
“Glass block designs are BORING, Melissa said to me. Aren’t those the things used in basement and bathroom windows and old commercial buildings for security? Why would you even THINK (she practically shouted out to me) I would put those inside my new loft?”
Melissa has a point. Glass blocks became as boring as sliced white Wonder Bread in a world of artisan inspired French baguettes. They became functional, pedestrian and mundane. Yes – the traditional blocks are useful. However, when you’re designing a sleek, minimalist loft or Boho-chic luxury residence or uber-cool (OK – Uber may have a bad connotation here) commercial office build-out the last thing you want in the same-old, same-old. You want style. You want drama. You want impact.
As styles change product offerings MUST change with them. If not, they will go the way of your Atari game console, Pong arcade game, or bag or cell phone (I remember how cool I was when I spent $895 for my first car phone, but I digress!).
Design must be inspired – the result of late-night creative bursts from fashion designers, architects, interior designers or just regular folks like you and me.
The fashion capitols of the world are the inspiration for many design breakthroughs. Cool dresses you’re drooling to get your hands on – if they won’t break your bank. Fun features or your new home or ‘coming soon’ remodeled bathroom or kitchen. Cities like Milan, Paris, London and New York lead the way.
Given these hubs of fashion-forward designs it’s of no surprise to me the new re-imagined glass blocks have their origins from a Milan designer named Allesandro Mendini. No, he’s not to be confused with escape artist Harry Houdini – but Harry could have been brought in also to help glass blocks free themselves from their boring self.
If you’re like most reading at this point, you’re probably asking, “So what’s so hot about glass blocks. Why should I check out these new designs with a product which feels as dated as a 1980’s mullet?”
Read on to see 5 fashion-forward glass block designs which will change your perspective. If you think these blocks are BORING, then please give my wife a call. Tell her I’m even crazier than she thinks already and get me professional help ASAP!
Your contractor has never done a glass block shower before either.
Your local suppliers are clueless about the product.
You’re not really a lazy person, but you only have so much time left in your crazy-busy day to figure out this part of the project. It’s just one (although important) element in your bathroom remodel.
How do you get this shower built without blowing a hole in your budget or pulling out your already-too-thin head of hair?
As crazy as this may sound, when you strive to get lazy (AKA being more efficient), this job will go smoother for you and look nicer at the end. In this article my job (and I’m perfectly cool with accepting it) is to give you practical ideas to get this project done efficiently and effectively. I’ll look to cut your research time and installation frustration (hey- that rhythms). My job is to keep you within budget and eliminate unnecessary errors which can come with being a “first-timer.” At the end (in the comments section) let me know how I’ve done and or any other “blanks” you need me to fill in. Now, let’s get to the tips.
Do you get an idea in your head and are determined to do it despite the naysayers all around you? When you came up with the idea for the glass block walk in shower the doubters came out in force. Here’s some of the “input” from the doubters you’re already had to put up with:
Why do you even want this shower – didn’t they go out of style?
Who are we going to get to install this wall? Finding a mason in our town is like finding a needle in a haystack!
A curved glass block shower wall – that’s gotta cost a ton of money. There’s no way we can afford that!
I don’t see how we have enough room for a glass block shower in our tiny 5’ x 8’ bathroom.
As the Rolling Stones once said Honey, “You can’t always get what you want – but you can get what you need – and in this case, that’s a basic shower we’ll pick up at the big box store.”
Sometimes life should be about getting what you want (not just what you need)– even in a bathroom remodeling project. However, it’s impossible to get ‘er done without the drive to figure out what you need (having a plan) and then locating the right products, systems and installation approach to make it happen.
Since glass block showers are not a “run of the mill” home improvement project (they are a specialty shower wall system) you need to do your homework so you don’t have the “nightmare on Elm Street” remodeling project you wish you never started (if that happens those naysayers will have a field day with you).
If you really want a glass block shower, you’ll need to know how to navigate the landmines which can derail your project. Below I’ll give you the straight-scoop about mistakes (and myths) I’ve seen in my 32 years in the glass block industry (wow – this really makes me sound like an old dude!) with this type of installation. This project is completely do-able – but you don’t want to fall into any of these 5 traps below.
Figuring out a glass block shower can be a pain in the rear! If you’re using a contractor they may be vaguely familiar with this type of wall system – or, if they are not, they will try to steer you to a “standard” shower enclosure since it’s what they know how to do. But, if you have your heart set on the benefits of a low maintenance, high privacy glass block shower and want to make it happen – no matter how difficult it is to figure out – you’ll want to read this article.
Well I’m here to tell you a glass block shower doesn’t require a brain surgeon to design and install (and my wife would agree I’m not a brain surgeon – or at least I don’t have the listening skills of one)! I’ve been working with this product since 1985 (wow- that makes me old) and have learned a few “tricks” along the way about glass block design. In this article, my goal is to help you identify the top 6 glass block wall shapes. Then we’ll look at each shape (I’ll give you some “out-there” names for them) and look at the strengths and weaknesses of each so you can wrap your arms around which is best for you. Just to let you know I’ve saved the most popular design for last (but don’t jump ahead because the other 5 designs may be better for your project) So let’s get ‘er done and figure this project out!
Do you sometimes think taking on a bathroom remodel is something you must endure more than it’s something you’ll love doing? I’m sure Tami of Agoura Hills, California certainly had these thoughts during her journey (along with her husband Todd) to redo a way-too-small bathroom which had not been renovated in 30 years (see the before image below).
You see, Tami’s bathroom remodel took 8 months to complete (and a lot of personal research and effort). The project could have been done in a shorter time – but Tami was determined to get the best (and longest lasting) products for her project. It’s funny I would be writing this article about bathroom remodeling endurance and perseverance on my Dad’s birthday. You see my Dad passed away 28 years ago, and one of his sayings which is cemented in my mind even today is, “An ounce of perseverance is worth a pound of genius, and in this family Michael we ain’t got no genius, so you need to work your butt off.”
When Tami told me the story of her bathroom remodeling project it’s one of patience, planning and above all else perseverance (Dad would have been proud of you Tami). In this article, you’ll get an inside peak (and 5 inspiring tips) to see how Tami and Todd not only found ways to push through their bathroom remodel, but achieved an excellent finished product. Let’s dig in.
If your schedule is like mine it’s crazy. You’re personally joined at the hip to your cell phone. Work demands are well…too demanding. You feel (at times) you’re short-changing your family and friends. You know loving others is all that really matters.
At this point you may be asking yourself, “Mike, what does this have to do with bathroom remodeling?” Well, homes can and should go beyond bricks, mortar, lumber and shingles. A home (or bathroom) properly designed and remodeled can become a transformative experience (yes – I know it’s a bit flowery, but I’m sticking with it). Homes can create a feeling of peace, tranquility and a connection to nature with the right design which can provide a temporary refuge from your craziness.
While any of us can experience this connection to nature in a home by touring an architectural masterpiece like Falling Water designed by the great (yet completely arrogant) Frank Lloyd Wright, we can’t stay in this very cool mid-century modern home with our friends and family (boy – I wish I could).
Fortunately, if you want to escape the insanity of being a Soccer Mom/Dad or hard-charging much too busy city executive you can find places other than Falling Water to have this connection with nature or your family.
One such place is at Sequoia Beach Dreamery (owned by Andrew Zarrillo). This vacation home rental is located next to the Austin Creek and surrounded by 600 year- old redwoods in the tiny town of Cazadero, located in the Russian River resort area of Sonoma Country, California. This unique Zen-inspired home is now even more special with a transformative bathroom remodeling project which connects the homes awe-inspiring exterior with a tranquil interior.
Join me on a journey and see how this home’s “wet areas” (bathroom, outdoor shower, hot tub and river) can help you disconnect from your “busy-ness” and reconnect with nature and those you love.
The Sequoia Beach Dreamery Bathroom Remodel
A bathroom (or your bathroom) can be simply thought of as a collection of a lot of things. You’ve got a vanity, sink, toilet and shower/tub. To have a special, transformative bathroom you need to create an “experience” beyond just a bunch of plumbing parts. To do this step back and ask these questions:
What’s the theme of my bathroom remodel?
How do I want to feel when entering and leaving this room?
How can I inject my passions, my personality, into the space?
When I asked Andrew about the theme of this bathroom remodel he said to me, “Mike – it’s simple. I wanted the look, feel and tranquility of a Japanese garden. I wanted to bring the outdoors into the bathroom.”
These earth tone colors create a relaxing “earthy” feel to the shower
As Andrew expressed to me that while the old bathroom was functional, it was also dated and had a small enclosed shower which wasn’t welcoming.
The bathroom before was a bit drab – but functional
Based on the on-line review below I think Andrew has done a darn-good job achieving his goal of transforming this dated bathroom into an inspired and beautiful design.
“Andrew has thought of everything. He has an eye for design and creating beautiful spaces.”
Let’s see how Andrew made his bathroom vision come alive.
Marilyn called me in tears. She said, “Mike, my glass block shower has become a nightmare. These idiot contractors don’t know what they’re doing. The grout joints are lousy, the shower pan and walls don’t match up. Can you help me?”
I wish I could tell you this was the first time I’ve received a call from someone whose glass block shower project was not going well. You may be wondering, “Why is that?” The biggest reason is most contractors (and DIY homeowners) have not done this type of project before. They may be experienced in bathroom remodeling– but a glass block shower (a material you can’t cut to fit like tile) requires a game plan to make sure all the elements (the shower pan, glass block wall and interior shower wall panels or tile) work together seamlessly.
In this article my goal is to not only give you the 5 reasons you don’t want to build a glass block shower without a plan, but provide you with inside tips to make sure you get it done right the first time (note – I think I can help with this because I’ve been supplying and installing glass block showers since what feels like back when Moses was a boy. I started with this product line in 1985 – when I had more hair and a mustache). I don’t want you to be the next “Marilyn” I mentioned above or for your project to resemble the quote below.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin
I love sunny falls days in Ohio where the leaves have turned multiple shades of yellow, green, red and orange – yet we still get near summer (in the low 70’s) temperatures. Life was made to be enjoyed surrounded by light, color and not too cold temperatures (unfortunately the winter will not be too far behind– bummer). You might ask what does all this talk about the crispness and colors of Fall leaves have to do with glass block windows? Well – I’ll tell you!
Glass block windows are a “workmanlike” product. Trustworthy – built thick and strong like a tank to protect your family and keep intruders out. Functional – they keep the nasty winds from whipping through your basement windows. Private – helping get light in places like bathroom windows without worrying about peeping Tom’s looking in. But maybe, just maybe, glass block windows can be about more than that!
Have you ever thought about a glass block windows as fun, colorful or even a piece of art (while still doing the “dirty work” of protecting you and your family against high energy bills and intruders)? This may be a “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” moment for you – but this timeless material can actually be fun and functional.
If you’re remodeling or building new home this Fall take a peek at some imaginative and evolutionary things you can do with glass block now! Life (and your windows) doesn’t need to be lived in “black and white” any longer. Don’t be afraid to jazz up your windows with pattern and/or colors to give them your unique sense of style. Check out these 6 ideas.