Opening Doors

February 6, 2014

How Decorative Glass is Making a Comeback

by Casey Neeley

Where does decorative glass fit into today’s market? As the deep recession that hit the door and window industry over the past few years begins to recede, members of the industry say with the lessons they’ve learned over the past few years, decorative door sales could come storming back. Touting the benefits to customers, as well as knowing how to sell to consumers who quickly adapted to recession spending could help increase those sales.

Talk About Benefits

“Decorative glass lends a more elegant look for an entry door,” says Lindsay Washington, owner of Stained Glass Overlays in San Diego. “Glass is a great option because it will allow natural light to flow into the room versus a wood option. A lot of people are taking advantage of glass because of the natural light and decorative glass lends tremendous beauty.”

Though members of the industry agree it is a more expensive option, the added value decorative glass offers to homes makes it a worthy investment.

Kenyon says custom work is what help keep his company afloat during the recession.

Kenyon says custom work is what help keep his company afloat during the recession.

“Aesthetically I think the consumer and visitors have a good feeling with a decorative entry. It gives a warmer and more comfortable feeling,” says Chris Kenyon, owner of Kenyon’s Stained Glass Factory LLC in Grove City, Ohio. “Re-sale value is a financial benefit because it could shorten the length of time a house sits on the market. Aesthetically, people can apply their personality to their homes without major changes.”

“From a financial perspective, a decorative lite will cost a homeowner more; there are no cost savings associated with a decorative lite over a solid door but I think aesthetically homeowners can really upgrade the decorative look of that entryway,” says Derek Fielding, senior product manager for Therma-Tru.

“There is perspective. If you look at a home in which the owners chose to invest in glass … the curb appeal is a higher value,” he continues.

“Decorative door glass is a really strong statement for a home,” says Amanda Fowler, channel marketing manager for ODL. “It’s one of the first thing people see and curb appeal is very important. Utilizing decorative glass in a door lets people know what your style is. I don’t think people are shying away from the cost of decorative glass. When they get it they don’t mind putting the money into it because they know it’s going to be there for a long time.”

Have a Little Variety

Understanding varying price points and having multiple design options could help win sales when it comes to decorative doors.

“Even though some people think the price point for decorative glass is high, there are glass options for every budget,” says Washington.

“I think it’s important to have a spectrum of different price points available so that if customers find a design they like but it’s out of their price range they can still find something,” says Donna Contat, senior product manager for Therma-Tru. “I think having that range allows you to have something in your portfolio for everyone. You want to make sure you have a well-rounded portfolio to tackle the varying degrees of style and needs associated with the door systems.”

“Aesthetics are the number one purchase driver,” says Follower. “Consumers are looking at number one, aesthetics and number two, price so we try to make sure we have something that fits both of those for every option.”

Know the Consumer

In addition to offering a variety of options to fit consumers’ varying budgets, understanding current trends in the decorative glass market can help draw new leads.

“We do market research across the different spectrum; one of the things we find is that people looking to remodel will typically replace with glass. Even with the downturn, we’re not seeing a drastic shift,” says Contat. “Those who have had glass will stay with glass.”

“It’s important to make sure you’re staying up on today’s trends and offering consumers what they are looking for,” says Fielding.

“Each year we do consumer research,” says Fowler. “We do online research with about 2,200 homeowners through a third-party research company comparing our existing designs to competitor designs and ask the a lot of questions such as purchase habits including where people purchase, why they purchase, how much they expect to pay; lots of different trend questions about what they are doing in the home and what they expect the door to do.”

“We get a lot of insight into what consumer preferences are for decorative door projects and that allows us to have the most trend-savvy offering we can give to our customers,” she continues. “We continuously develop new decorative glass products; we’re exploring some things that will give us new and fresh looks. As far as functionality, we continue to make sure we are up to code and meet standards as codes change. We’re really getting involved in the rebuilding of the East Coast after Superstorm Sandy. We want to make sure our glass is the safest option for the homeowner.”

For the browsing consumer, Fielding says Therma-Tru offers tools to help them discover the right door option on their own.

“We have some interactive programs on our website for homeowners and contractors to be able to go on there and explore,” says Fielding. “We have a program called ‘Build Your Door’ on our website which allows owners to go through and look at … the different entry door selections and put in different pieces of glass and they can save those creations and they can go back and look at those entryways they configured … then take it to a dealer to get a quote on it.

“There’s another software tool on our website called ‘Picture Perfect’ designed for dealers and contractors working with homeowners for replacement purposes. They come out to the house, take a picture of the home and can swap out doors on the home to give a visualization tool for homeowners to see how the door can work with the home,” he adds.

On the Upswing

Though sales may have been weak over the past few years, industry members agree the desire for decorative glass and sales continue to increase as the market changes.

“Our decorative door glass sales are very strong, we’ve seen a shift in the types and sizes people are buying,” says Fowler. “They’ve moved from large doors to smaller lites. You’re seeing a smaller craftsman option instead of a full lite.”

“I think it’s going to grow differently than it has in the past,” she adds. “The sizes are going to change and that’s going to be defined by the style of door people are choosing. Traditionally, door glass has been very ornate, with beveled glass, but we’re seeing a trend toward mid-century modern designs which are simpler and not so ornamental. All of the door manufacturers we supply are hitting the craftsman style. You have a lot of people renovating craftsman houses as well as new homes, which are taking architectural cues from craftsman styles, so we’re going to continue to grow that side of the business.”

“People are starting to reach out again for the more expensive decorative glass options for their homes now, versus during the recession when they opted for the less expensive option, or nothing at all,” notes Washington.

“It’s still not one of the needed materials and I don’t think the economy is back where it was at its height. I think people who are loosening their wallets are opting for decorative glass, but I don’t think decorative glass is something average consumers are considering as much for their projects,” she adds.

Though the market isn’t back to pre-recession levels, some members agree it will eventually see a significant upturn.

“Being on the custom side of things, the remodeling sales are what kept us going. With housing starts increasing decorative glass is likely on the tail of that, not the front,” says Kenyon.

“Decorative glass is poised to grow,” states Contat. “The trends of including sidelites, homes getting smaller and rounding out your whole door system may change but if somebody has a lite in their window now, they want to replace it. You won’t see people trading down. When you think of the new homes that are being built, I think decorative will always play a role in it and grow as long as you are offering things that they like.”

Kenyon says he imagines the market as the Kentucky Derby, with everyone poised and ready, waiting for the buzzer to go off and the gates to open.

“We learned a lot over the last five years, though, so we’re looking at some growth in 2013,” says Kenyon. “I think everyone got smarter and they’re waiting to get out of the gates and start the race.”

Casey Neeley is the assistant editor of DWM magazine. She can be reached at cneeley@glass.com.

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