In the residential space, few product innovations have lent themselves to the design whimsy of architects as much as opening glass walls. Open or closed, the systems allow for an interplay of space, an extension of design, and an embrace of the contemporary.

By blurring the lines between indoors and out, multi-panel doors and other operable expanses of glass allow for a home’s views to be a central part of the interior experience while ensuring a seamless transition both physically and visually. Well-appointed outdoor kitchens and warm, rich decking and stone are suddenly just as much a part of the home as the great room.

“Opening glass walls lend themselves perfectly to today’s open-concept layouts, helping to lengthens sightlines even further,” notes Sean G. Smith, director of product marketing for JELD-WEN. “The natural flow so consciously created for the interior seamlessly extends to outdoor rooms.”

For homes with tighter footprints and smaller square footages, even a smaller multi-panel door can be an essential tool for expanding the space visually while bringing in much needed natural lighting and ventilation.

As the market for multi-unit patio doors has expanded, so have the options. Widths of 32 feet or more accommodate larger homes and outdoor living areas, for example, and advanced operational systems are less cumbersome than before, allowing panels to glide and tuck away with ease. Wood and clad-wood units provide greater choices in color and look, and advanced material technology is permitting sleeker, narrower frames, helping to further enhance views and retain a contemporary feel even when the doors are closed.

The broader availability also ensures opening glass walls coordinate perfectly with the rest of the window and door package.

For those clients who want to remain on the cutting edge, automation is likely to be the next big thing. JELD-WEN, for example, recently introduced a 20-foot multi-panel system that opens with the push of a button. Other technologies, such as automatic tinting, are on the horizon.

No matter the product, designers will also need to factor in the heftier weight of multi-panel doors, with wall and framing systems engineered to accommodate the mass, load, and balance requirements of units that are simultaneously large and movable.

Indeed, long-term performance is just as important as aesthetics. Multi-panel doors and folding glass walls are extremely unique in their application; architects should insist on the hiring of qualified installers experienced with these types of units. Suitable weather-stripping and weep systems, level frames, and proper flashing are just a few of the key elements that will guarantee quality and a solid reputation.

JELD-WEN offers numerous support and concierge services to assist, as well, including a new in-person learning center and an extensive online Learning Management System.

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