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Designing

The glass house

A turn-of-the-century beachfront home becomes a showplace for a colorful art.

By Marni Elyse Katz
November 29, 2009

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“It all started in the master bathroom,” says Jean Verbridge, an interior designer and principal at Beverly architecture firm Siemasko & Verbridge. In the process of renovating and expanding a client’s late-1800s oceanfront home in Swampscott, Verbridge was transforming a grand former bedroom into a full bath. Because of privacy and other design considerations, the room’s new main attraction -- a freestanding soaking tub set in front of a fireplace -- lacked natural lighting. Her solution: adding a stained-glass transom window to bring light in from the other side of the bathroom. Soon after, plans called for decorative glass to appear throughout the house.

At the outset of the project, the homeowners didn’t realize that they would be commissioning a dozen works of glass art. But after meeting with Somerville artist Daniel Maher, whose work incorporates found glass objects into traditional stained glass, that’s exactly what happened.

In this house, the most distinctive specimens are the transoms in the master bath and the windows in the wine cellar, all executed in fresh hues of greens and blues that echo the seaside surroundings. The bubble-like patterns are a contemporary play on the type of thick, circular “bull’s-eye glass” used in 18th- and 19th-century windows. However, while bull’s-eye glass has concentric ripples, this glass does not. Some circles are smooth, others have raised centers or scalloped edges or embossed text and designs. The circles are made from the bottoms of bowls and vases, tops of apothecary jars, and, in one case, the border of a Depression-glass plate.

The windows in the wine cellar are made from wine-bottle bottoms, more than 100 for each. For raw materials, Maher took to the streets on recycling day, waving to his neighbors as he collected their empties. The amber glass between the bottle bottoms is handblown stained glass imported from Germany, and roundels at each corner are made from wineglasses.

Like the bathroom transoms, which let light seep from one room to the next, the windows in the wine cellar are functional -- though they serve the opposite function, limiting the light in the room. That is part of Maher’s clever use of his materials. “Different objects bend light in different ways,” Maher says.

But there’s one thing that all the glass in this house has in common, he says: “Even if you are standing still, the glass is very active, like jewels.”

Marni Elyse Katz blogs about design at stylecarrot.com. Send comments to designing@globe.com.

  • November 29, 2009 cover
  • november 29 globe magazine cover
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