MASTERS OF THE TRANSPARENT MEDIUM

by ALAENA HOSTETTER photography by HOLGER OBENAUS

Whether functional or purely decorative, glass can add a striking design element to any home or office. Think glass-topped desks and coffee tables, balcony partitions, stair railings, shower doors, kitchen backsplashes, sliding doors, office partitions and many more applications.

Florida Glass Masters moved to Southeast Florida in 2015 and services residential and commercial glass needs within a 50-mile radius of its home base in Sunrise, Florida. Though the company is a relative newcomer to the area, its history goes back much further, to proprietor Jose Paz’s roots in Venezuela, when the company was an engineering, construction and glass fabricator.

Government instability made doing business in Venezuela difficult, unsafe and costly. “Venezuela has a lot of political problems, and the government doesn’t like to see private companies growing,” says Paz.

Those practices, combined with his teenage son’s desire to go to college in the United States, spurred the family to migrate here and open their glass business.

In Florida, Paz expanded operations to encompass just about any kind of project that clients, designers and builders could need. In addition, Florida Glass Masters can make glass staircases, sliding glass barn doors with acid-etched designs and decorative glass printed with artwork.

Florida Glass Masters carries several designs in its inventory and has connections with European fixtures manufacturers and Canadian suppliers for artistically etched glass. And, Paz can special order just about anything his clients dream of. While Florida Glass Masters completes large commercial commissions, some of Paz’s favorite projects include stunning glass-enclosed wine cellars for affluent clients. “This glass wine cellar enclosure in Naples was designed by the designers of Wine Cellar International. It was a really big, high-end project with a beautiful stone floor illuminated from underneath,” he says. The semitransparent, pale white stones glow with light in the 12-foot-tall enclosure. It’s all visible via neutral-toned, low-iron glass walls. Paz says it’s the iron content that gives glass its typical green hue.

There’s no shortage of examples of beautiful cellars on Florida Glass Masters’ website. Another project worth noting was a rare request from a homeowner who asked Paz to print an artist’s designs on glass for her kitchen and bar backsplashes. The kitchen backsplash depicts inquisitive, brightly colored flamingos peering directly at the viewer, while the bar backsplash provides an aerial view of vibrant orange koi fish in water.

“It was our first time doing a graphic printed design on a backsplash; we usually do backsplashes in solid colors, so I was a little nervous. I didn’t know if it would look good, but the client was so happy. It’s very different and turned out very well,” he says.

Paz says his team took great care with the size and shape requirements of the project. They worked directly with the artist to ensure the finished piece avoided distorting the original work when it was converted to a digital file and printed onto the glass with special ink.

Whether the project is purely aesthetic or more functional, utmost precision is required to complete it successfully. For example, there are many shower glass installers in South Florida, but when the project is outside the box of standard sizing or needs a full enclosure, Florida Glass Masters has the right equipment to do the job.

“A lot of competence is required to do shower projects,” Paz says. “The customer also might have special measurements or a thicker glass. We have all the tools to mill the glass and drill holes to attach it together. We can do something different for the customer.”

For specialty projects, Paz has an inventory of hardware mostly in brushed steel and chrome, and Florida Glass Masters’ showroom has catalogues full of options touting bronze, pewter and other finishes that take only two to four weeks to be delivered.

“We have a lot of clients with different tastes. I like the modern style, but other people might not,” says Paz. “The most important thing is our clients’ satisfaction. If the client is happy, I’m happy.”

In addition to Florida Glass Master’s attention to detail and creative flexibility, being bilingual puts Paz ahead of many competitors in South Florida, where Spanish is a primary language. “People have more confidence when talking to us,” says Paz. “They feel we understand what they want.”

As South Floridians know, great customer service translates well in any language.

Alaena Hostetter is a Dallas-based journalist who writes about her favorite things: art, design, culture, music, entertainment and food.