When people dine at the Embassy Circle Guest House bed and breakfast in the District, they notice a scrumptious assortment of breads, pastries, juices and berries served on beautiful mahogany antique sideboards.
Most ignore the glass tops covering the sideboards. By design, custom glass toppers are a clear way to protect valuable antique tables. They are used to protect antique tables from scratches, nicks and water damage without interfering with the furniture's aesthetic.
The owners of the Embassy Circle Guest House ordered the glass from Hutchison Glass & Mirror. A family-owned business, Hutchison makes custom glass tops for most of the store owners on Antique Row in Kensington.
Carol Hutchison said glass tops make most sense for tables that see repeated use and are subject to spills, such as cocktail tables and sideboards.
Her company uses paper to trace the pattern of the table by hand. "We can do the most intricate designs," she said. "I haven't come across a design we couldn't do."
Most glass companies keep oval, round, square and rectangle glass tops in stock. But these usually are to serve as the tabletop of a base, Hutchinson said, and are "too thick and not suitable for protective covers."
"If you want to see the wood and not the glass, you go with a quarter-inch thick," said Emre Tunc of Dulles Glass and Mirror in Sterling. "Some people pay $5,000 to $8,000 for a table, and they want to protect that investment but they don't want to cover it up."
Tunc recommended using a low-iron glass, which has a more transparent finish. This is perfect for showcasing wood grains and colors found in antiques. The low-iron glass lacks the light-green hue visible in standard tops.
"Glass is made of sand and has lot of iron, which is what causes the green color," Tunc said.
Dulles also offers a shatter-resistant tempered glass that if broken breaks into dull pieces instead of sharp shards. Tunc said using a flat, polished edge makes the glass appear invisible.
Though the Washington area is home to some of the oldest historic districts in the nation, Tunc said Dulles Glass and Mirror gets orders from all over the country. "We can take measurements for most standard-shaped tables and match it."
Because antiques are rarely perfectly round or square, Tunc recommended on-site laser measurements for a "precise cut."
Margaret Goldsborough, co-owner of Goldsborough Glynn Partners Antiques on Antique Row in Kensington, advises customers concerned about protecting their investment to go with protective tops, depending on the piece.
Rarely does someone order protective glass covers for dining tables, she said.
"They usually get custom table pads or just use tablecloths," Goldsborough said. "The key is analyzing how the piece will be used."