The choice is clear

Stainless steel or chrome? So last year - if you want cutting-edge good looks for your modern home, the material to go for is glass, says Nicole Swengley
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The Independent Online

Architects and developers are using glass in increasingly glamorous ways to bring light into their designs and create a sense of space. Interiors, too, are benefiting from a new love affair with the material, and design gurus predict that glass could soon supplant the current vogue for stainless steel and chrome.

Architects and developers are using glass in increasingly glamorous ways to bring light into their designs and create a sense of space. Interiors, too, are benefiting from a new love affair with the material, and design gurus predict that glass could soon supplant the current vogue for stainless steel and chrome.

If you fancy an ice-cool look in the heart of your home, then check out William Ball's new Nigella kitchen. Laminated worktops and aluminium-effect carcasses give the design a thoroughly contemporary look at an affordable price (base units cost £170 each), while transparent glass doors make it easy to find ingredients or utensils.

Glass is also used to good effect in Poggenpohl's kitchens. Storage units with sliding glass doors set in aluminium frames (from £2,900) and cabinets with single or double glass doors (from £1,320) are among the company's latest designs. Nor need you worry about keeping them clean - the frosted glass doors have a transparent lacquer coating to resist greasy finger marks.

Glass doors are perfect for fridges, too, and the new Amana MXM fridge/freezer with its mirrored-glass doors in a stainless-steel frame is the latest in American-style refrigeration. If mirrored glass isn't your thing, then choose black or grey glass and options such as a temperature-controlled beverage chiller. State-of-the-art designs don't come cheap, however - this model costs from £2,392 at Buyers & Sellers.

Glass is not only used for transparency. Black or coloured glass offer luminosity and a high-gloss shine similar to the glossy lacquered finish of kitchen units. Boffi's kitchens excel in mixing glass with other materials. The reflective silvered glass used on upward-lifting cupboard doors has a matt surface that works perfectly with the high-gloss polyester lacquer of the base units and the sheen of stainless-steel work surfaces. Also check out the sliding black glass doors on other Boffi units.

Black glass hobs look smart and are easier to clean than stainless steel surfaces which can discolour close to heat. The latest designs from the Italian kitchen manufacturer, Baumatic, cost around £199. Even the humble toaster is being re-styled with frosted glass sides. Russell Hobbs's two-slice glass toaster will retail at £59.99 when it hits the shops this spring.

Glass fixtures and fittings can offer the illusion of space in the typically compact British bathroom. Avante has a big collection of stylish glass basins in a variety of colours from cool ice-blue to warmer smoky violet or glossy black. Finishes can be crystal-clear or the crushed ice effect of crackle-glass or a textured sandblasted look.

For something more unusual, West One Bathrooms' Alchemy basins have fossils fired inside the glass (from £1,694). Vetro's rectangular Washplane basin (£5,066 from West One) has a bevelled back so the water flows over the edge, before draining away into a hidden channel and waste.

Even more exotic is West One's Ice Bath. This 150cm diameter circular bath sits on glass supports (or you could choose slate or limestone) and is filled from a free-standing chrome tap. It costs £10,575 while a matching basin costs from £411. As the bath and support weigh 200kg you'll need to check that the bathroom floor will carry this weight before installation.

Glass-topped tables have long been popular in our living rooms but now you can hang your curtains from toughened glass rails from the Curtain Exchange. It's a fun idea to fill their clear glass ball finials with sweets. A 120cm rail with end brackets, finials and 12 rings costs from £376.

A glass staircase is perhaps the most impressive way of using the material. The combination of glass and very thin stainless-steel stringers make Bisca's custom-built staircases appear to float on air. Glass treads may look slippery but building regulations stipulate a visible strip at least 50mm wide running across the front edge to give good grip and make each step visible. Sandblasted glass treads can provide greater under-foot friction while looking attractively textured. Staircases can be curved, cantilevered, spiral or suspended to fit specific locations and prices start from £15,000. Eat your heart out, Cinderella.

Entries are invited for the Bombay Sapphire Prize 2004. Now in its third year, the £20,000 prize is open to artists and designers working with glass. Contact the Bombay Sapphire Foundation, 58 Queen Anne Street, London W1G 8HW (020-7224 0994; www.bombaysapphire.org)

www.wball.co.uk; 0800 581 107

www.poggenpohl.co.uk; 0800 2981098

www.buyers-sellers.co.uk; 0845 085 5585

Boffi kitchens from Alternative Plans, 020-7228 6460; www.boffi.com

www.baumatic.com www.boffi.com; 0118 933 6900

www.avantebathrooms.com; 0113 201 2240

www.thecurtainexchange.co.uk; 01376 561199

www.bisca.co.uk; 01439 771702

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