Interior vs Exterior Glass Finishes: Which Should You Choose?

Interior vs. Exterior Glass Finishes: Which Should You Choose?

MAY 1, 2019| SpeedPro


Interior Design

Environment plays a big part in determining how well people can do their jobs. People who work in offices with windows spend 15 percent more time on work-related tasks than people who don’t have windows.

Exterior glass walls or large glass windows can increase the light inside an office or storefront, helping to give employee productivity a boost and make the interior of a workplace feel more inviting. On the interior, glass walls can help to divide up an open layout, creating a sense of privacy and separation.

Interior and exterior glass designs can help to increase privacy as well. Design and finishes on the inside of a building can help to boost morale while serving as room dividers. On the exterior, an architectural glass sign can help to catch the attention of passersby. It can also provide a bit of privacy, shielding the interior of a workspace and also blocking out the sun’s rays.

Whether custom glass finish work on the interior of your building or the exterior of your building makes sense for you depends on a few factors. Learn more about the differences between interior and exterior glass finishes, where you might see examples of each and the pros and cons of both options.

Where You Might See Interior Glass Finishes

Where You Might See Interior Glass Finishes

For a while, the open office plan was all the rage. Grouping employees into one large, open space helped to increase communication between team members, particularly among employees who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to interact. Other benefits of open office space included increased design flexibility, lower rental costs and improved aesthetics.

Open office spaces aren’t perfect, though. The more people in one large office space, the higher the rates of sickness and absenteeism. Employees can also become distracted more easily in a wide, open space.

Adding glass walls and glass finishes to an open office layout can help to divide a large space and create individual areas where people can go to work when they need some quiet or when they need to discuss something confidential with a client. Graphics on the glass can help to obscure the view of what’s in the separated space, without completely blocking off the space.

A few examples of architectural glass that you’re likely to see on the interior of a building include:

  • Glass conference room walls: Conference rooms tend to be located in the middle of a building’s interior, without access to windows or natural light. Using glass walls around an interior conference room can help light from the rest of office space filter in while keeping the room itself separate from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the office. The opposite can also be true — if a conference room is located along a bank of windows, having a glass wall separate it from the rest of the office space allows natural light to flow into the rest of the workspace.
  • Glass partitions: Glass partitions can separate employee’s desks from each other, similar to the way felt-covered cubicle walls provided separation in the 1980s and 1990s. You are also likely to see glass partitions in use in a wide variety of businesses. For example, in cafes and restaurants, a glass partition can separate one dining area from the waiting area or keep the more casual bar area of the restaurant separate from the more formal dining room. Glass partitions can also separate recreational areas, such as a swimming pool, from a lobby or spectator zone, while still allowing people to see what’s going on inside.
  • Glass accent walls: A glass accent wall can serve as a divider between areas or can be a purely decorative feature. For example, an accent wall set up in the lobby of a big building can feature artwork on one side or can present a timeline of the history of the building.

Pros of Interior Glass Finishes

If you’re going to use interior glass finishes, there are a few benefits to doing so. Perhaps one of the most significant benefits of putting a finish on a glass wall or partition is that it increases privacy.

Undecorated clear glass walls create a division in an office or another area. They might be able to block sound or at least dampen it so that people working outside of a conference room aren’t distracted by the meeting going on within. But people can still clearly see inside the room if the glass is left unfinished. Applying a finish to the glass, such as etching the surface to create a frosted appearance, can obstruct the interior of the room, while still allowing light to filter through.

Another benefit of a finish on a glass wall or partition is that it can increase morale. For example, the glass walls of a conference can be covered with inspirational quotes or with an attractive picture or design. Another option is to create a design with your company’s name and logo on it and print that on the glass wall.

Interior glass finishes can also increase the flexibility of a place of business. For example, a restaurant can have moveable glass partitions that separate one dining area from another. When it needs to open up a dining area to make more room, it can move the dividers out of the way. With the partitions, the restaurant can rearrange itself based on the needs of its customers, allowing it to offer more options to customers and increase its sources of revenue.

Cons of Interior Glass Finishes

The most significant disadvantage of an interior glass wall or partition is that the option won’t work for every business. Although glass-walled offices might create an open and airy feel in a building, there are times when a wall is the best option. For example, a patient coming to see a doctor about a medical concern might feel a lot more comfortable speaking to the doctor with an opaque wall and a closed door.

Where You Might See Exterior Glass Finishes

Glass-walled buildings have become increasingly popular, in part for the views they offer and in part for their ability to let in plenty of natural light. Newer buildings with massive glass walls or large windows have become more energy efficient than their predecessors, reducing the carbon footprint of those who occupy them and helping to keep the interior cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Architectural glass finishing can appear in a variety of places on the exterior of a glass wall or window. Some areas where you might see exterior glass finishes include:

  • Outside of a storefront: The windows of a storefront can offer information customers need, such as phone number, opening hours and website URL. The windows also provide an inviting display that makes people want to go inside the store and shop.
  • Outside of a theater or cinema: Theaters and other performance spaces often have glass walls the let passersby see inside to the lobby and box office. Before a show, people can look into the lobby and see the theater patrons milling about, waiting for the performance to begin. The glass walls on the exterior of a theater, performance space or cinema also offer the opportunity for the company to advertise its upcoming season and encourage people to purchase tickets.
  • Outside of a conference room or office space: Just as the glass walls surrounding a conference room on the interior of the building can be finished to create a privacy screen, glass windows or walls that face the exterior of the building can also be finished to block off the view to the inside of the room from the street. Applying a glass finish to an exterior window or glass wall can be particularly helpful if the office is on the street level.

Pros of Exterior Glass Finishes

Perhaps the greatest benefit of glass finishes for exterior windows or walls is the added privacy you get from applying a design to the glass. Although all-glass buildings might be popular, so is the practice of covering up the glass with blinds or shades.

Glass finishes can create privacy, either by tinting the window so that people can’t look in or frosting the glass to obscure what’s behind the window. Applying a glass finish to an exterior window or wall also gets rid of the need to have a curtain, shade or blinds covering the wall or window. There are two benefits of eliminating the need for window treatments. One, it can help a business save money, as custom window treatments tend to be pricey. Two, it eliminates the need to dry clean or launder those window treatments.

When used on a storefront, exterior windows of a restaurant or cafe, the lobby windows of a performance space or on the exterior walls or windows of any other commercial venue, glass finishes can be an effective way to grab people’s attention. A customer might decide to stop into a store because of a glass finish advertising a sale or might note the time and date of an upcoming concert or play.

Cons of Exterior Glass Finishes

If your business is in a building that has large glass windows or glass walls, applying a finish to the glass is an ideal way to increase privacy, block out the heat of the sun and advertise your business. The only potential drawback of exterior glass finishes is that you might not get the results you want if you occupy a higher level floor of the building.

For example, designs on the exterior of a first-story window or glass wall are probably going to grab the attention of people on the street. But if you’re up on the second or third story or even higher, people aren’t as likely to look up and see your fantastic window displays. You can still benefit from the light-blocking effects of the finishes, though.

Types of Interior and Exterior Glass Finishes Available

Types of Interior and Exterior Glass Finishes Available

Generally speaking, the types of finishes available are the same whether you’re looking to put something on an interior window or glass wall or an exterior window or wall. Here’s a quick rundown of your options and what’s involved with each one.

  • Frosted glass: If a typical piece of glass is transparent and see-through, a piece of frosted glass is foggy and somewhat opaque. Light can still filter through it, but people will have trouble deciphering what’s going on on the other side of the glass. Frosted glass can be created by sandblasting or etching standard glass or by applying a film or coating of special paint to the surface of the glass.
  • Reflective glass: Reflective glass creates a mirror so that people passing by see a reflection of themselves, rather than what’s on the other side. When it’s used on the inside of a building, it can make a room or corridor feel larger. On the exterior, it can help to keep the sun’s UV rays from getting into a building. Reflective glass finishes can create either a one-way mirror, where people on the inside can see out but others can’t see in, or a traditional mirror.
  • Tinted glass: Tinted glass is glass that has been dyed to change its color or glass that has had a colorful film placed on top of it. Tinted glass can help to filter light, increase the opacity of a glass window or wall and provide more insulation than traditional, clear glass.
  • Satin glass: While frosted glass is typically physically treated to create an opaque surface, satin glass is chemically treated, usually by soaking it in acid, to create an opaque surface. Satin glass comes in a range of thicknesses. The thicker it is, the more opaque it is.
  • Glass films: Glass films are the least permanent of all the glass finishing options available. They can be applied to the interior or exterior of a glass surface, custom designed based on the needs of a customer and changed or removed when wanted or needed.

What Are the Best Interior and Exterior Glass Finishes for You?

When deciding between interior or exterior architectural and glass finishes, you want to think about your overall goals as a business. If you have an open floor plan in your office space, store or restaurant, installing glass walls or partitions can help you divvy up the interior, creating specific zones for individual projects and tasks. If you need an area to be private, choosing a frosted glass or satin glass finish can be ideal, as the glass won’t be transparent, but will still have the illusion of openness.

Perhaps your goal is to attract people into your business. In that case, glass films with useful information or eye-catching designs, installed on the walls or windows that face the exterior of the building, is the way to go.

If you need privacy from passersby on the street but want to have an attractive exterior, it can be worth considering reflective glass. People will glance at your building as they pass by and on sunny days, the windows will seem to shine and shimmer in the sunlight.

Find Your Perfect Glass Finish at SpeedPro

Ready to get started designing a custom finish for an interior or exterior glass window or wall? The design experts at SpeedPro are here to help. We’ll work with you, listening to your needs and wants and helping you to put together a finish that reflects your business goals. For more details, find the SpeedPro studio that’s closest to you today.

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