Specialty glass doors let in light, maintain privacy

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Real Estate,Audrey Hoffer

Homeowners love filling a room with natural light, but using glass front doors to let the sunshine in can create issues of privacy and security.

The glass door was one of the reasons Michael Nelson loved his childhood home the Cleveland Park. "It's high on a hill so we could comfortably leave the inner front door open to let in light through the outer glass door," he said. "I could stand in the entryway and look outside at the trees, grass and flowers and feel connected to nature and my neighborhood."

Cleveland Park is one of those neighborhoods that seems made for glass doors. The land is hilly, and many houses sit high up off the sidewalk so passersby cannot look straight inside. Having a glass in these circumstances does not present a big problem.

For those without the advantages of a high front porch, there are many ways to modify a glass door to address privacy concerns. Sections of glass can be sandblasted and etched, making them translucent, said Amy Gardner of Gardner Mohr Architects. Light will flow into the house, but no one will be able to see through the glass. The sandblasted areas can be stylistically designed to suit individual tastes.

RESOURCES
FORMA Design Inc.
formaonline.com
Gardner Mohr Architects LLC
gardnermohr.com
Rill Architects
rillarchitects.com
Medallion Security Door and Window Co.
medallionsecurity.com/entrydoors.php
Galliher & Huguely
galliher-huguely.com

Translucent sections can be integrated with plain glass. "We'll put a glass border around the etched glass and then you'll have a combination that sends in full and diffused light," Gardner said.

Colored glass panels -- similar to stained glass often found in a church -- are another option. These panels can be designed in different motifs, with black wrought-iron metal seams forming a picturesque imprint on the door. Light will pass through the glass but no one will be able to look inside.

A double set of front doors is popular too, typically featuring a louvered or solid wood inner door behind a glass outer door.

"This arrangement allays people's fears about security at night," said Jim Rill of Rill Architects. The solid door can be left open during the day, letting light in through the glass, and in the evening, when the light is gone, the inside door is closed.

Windows in a single solid door, either high up, like a transom, down the side in a series of panes or across the upper half, let in light while keeping the home secure. For security, Preston James of Medallion Security Door and Window Co. in Forestville, Md., said full-length laminate glass would crack if shattered but still hold together. Known as safety glass, laminate is composed of a center layer of plastic or resin embedded between two sheets of glass. The middle layer prevents the glass from breaking into pieces and creates the "spider web" pattern typical of broken safety glass.

Another security option for a full glass panel door, said James, is a screen that covers the door, usually on its own hinges. The grille, made of steel or cast iron, can be decorative or straightforwardly practical in the form of vertical bars.

"I have five books -- 100 pages each -- showing door styles with glass," said Brian Roberts of Galliher & Huguely. "With technology these days, if you can draw it we can build it."

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