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Acrylic opens new, stronger window on world of décor

"The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend." Robertson Davies (1913-1995), Canadian novelist, "The Wordsworth Dictionary of Quotes"


What’s better than glass? What’s lighter than glass? What’s stronger than glass? Give up? It’s acrylic. It’s perception.

It’s really not a contest, it’s just a matter of preference. I had the opportunity to work with a lot of acrylic pieces earlier this year and I loved them. Acrylic is basically a plastic that looks like glass, but has certain properties that makes it a really good choice for home décor.

The images accompanying this article are pieces from a line created by Haziza (www.hstudio.com). Haziza has been designing these beautiful pieces for many years and the line includes everything from tables and chairs to water fountains, table and wall art. It has a showroom at the World Market Center Las Vegas.

When I was prowling around looking for factual information about acrylic (I really hate to confuse us all with facts, but …), I found that it is also used for things like shower doors, bath enclosures, windows and skylights.

According to wisegeek.com, "It is chosen over glass for many reasons. It is many times stronger than glass, making it much more impact resistant and therefore safer. Falling against an acrylic shower door will not likely break it. Baseballs that crash through glass windows will, in most cases, bounce off acrylic windows. Acrylic also insulates better than glass, potentially saving on heating bills.

"Another great advantage of acrylic is that it is only half as heavy as glass. This makes working with acrylic much easier. It can also be sawed, whereas glass must be scored."

One of the most unique properties of acrylic is that you can shape it. Take a look at the beautiful curved legs on the stool and bench. They have such character and style and you just couldn’t achieve the same look in glass.

Wisegeek went on to say that there are some misconceptions about acrylic, namely that it yellows, turns brittle and cracks over time. This is what I always thought about it, but it’s much like any other thing. Cheaper materials will not last as long or perform as well, but acrylic holds up.

Apparently, according to the article, "Fighter planes of World War II had acrylic bubble-tops. Airplane windows are also acrylic." Well, for my money, if acrylic can handle hurtling through the air at a zillion miles an hour, it can certainly live a long and happy life in my living room!

Another concern is that acrylic scratches, but I know firsthand that scratches can be easily buffed out. The other thing I learned the hard way is that you can’t use Windex or a similar glass cleaner on acrylic. Why you ask; well, it’s not glass. A soft cloth with plain water works like a charm.

Wisegeek also put up a few red flags. Acrylic can be more expensive than glass and, if exposed to a direct flame, it will melt and eventually burn. Well, really, how often do we hold a flame up to our furniture?

Acrylic is certainly very popular today and you will find more and more lovely things for your home made out of this magic material. It’s tough as nails, looks lovely and you can see through it. If this matters to you at all, having acrylic legs on a regular upholstered piece of furniture gives the appearance of taking up less space.

Look around in your favorite home store or browse online for acrylic pieces. I think you will enjoy having them in your home. If taken care of properly (no flames or glass cleaner), you will have them for a very long time. Those World War II airplanes are still around!

Carolyn Muse Grant is a founder and past president of the Architectural & Decorative Arts Society, as well as an interior design consultant/stylist specializing in home staging. Her Inside Spaces column appears weekly in the Home section of the Review-Journal. Send questions to creativemuse@cox.net.

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