In Pane Sight

Walls of glass give rooms with a view new meaning in this North Hills home.

"Our neighbors call this the ‘see-through house,’” Sharon Basick says with a laugh. Standing in her sunny living room almost made entirely of glass, it’s easy to understand why.

Many walls and nearly every door in the sprawling home that Basick shares with Valerie Morris are made of glass. With a huge deck running the length of the house, the pair enjoys the kind of indoor/outdoor living that’s more likely to be found in California.

It resembles a ski lodge or a quiet mountain retreat, but the house is located in a busy section of Hampton Township. Basick and Morris bought the house in 2005 after selling their Fox Chapel condo. They were searching for a home with an open floor plan and lots of sunshine. They saw this house, Morris says, “and we knew this was the one we wanted.”

It’s a roomy ranch, with a lower floor that includes a den, master bedroom and three guest rooms with full bathrooms. The kitchen features a large walk-in pantry. But the focal point of the house is the airy, sun-filled living room.

By day, natural light fills the high-ceiling space. And in the evening, rows of small lights installed along the ceiling beams are reflected by the walls of windows, giving the room a sparkling glow. The overall effect is warm and inviting—it’s the perfect place for entertaining.

The Privacy Factor
Large windows can be a blessing and a curse. In many homes, letting in natural light can mean sacrificing privacy. But rather than being on display in their glass living room, the couple has quite a bit of natural privacy, thanks to the slope of their property.

From the street, passersby aren’t looking directly in the windows; a flight of stone steps leads downward to the front door. And as the property continues sloping downward behind the house, several acres of land are filled with trees that create a natural screen.

Even during winter, the trees filter daylight and the view from outside. So, the effect inside is more sun-dappled than sun-drenched.

Basick and Morris keep two large folding screens in the living room, which can be positioned for privacy. But generally, the screens are used just to give the living room a bit of delineation from the adjoining dining room.

The Greenhouse Effect
In wintertime, you might think a home with so many windows would be expensive to heat. But the large expanses of glass actually cause a greenhouse effect, collecting warmth from the day’s sunlight that lasts into the evening.

“I think,” says Morris, “we must have the lowest heating bills in the neighborhood.”

A stand-alone fireplace in the center of the living room brings extra warmth and adds to the room’s cozy glow on winter evenings.

So far, these homeowners have come across just one challenge: The glass panels that make up the home’s front and back walls aren’t the size of standard windows. If they need to replace one in the future, window retailers estimated that it will cost about $1,000 per panel.

To Basick and Morris, that’s a small price to pay for their unique home.