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Jerry Jacobs Design

Interior Glass Floor Design San Francisco

Interior Glass Floor Design in San Francisco

This Blog on Glass Floors was first published July 7, 2015. However now it has been updated in many ways, we hope you like it and find it useful. Thank you for visiting and for sharing.

All photographs are now also linked to the source they were obtained from, or to our website. We welcome your feedback.

A little bit of History.

Glass Floor. My earliest recollection of a glass floor was in 1986 (30+ years ago) while doing the “Aca Joe” Store Design in London’s Piccadilly Circus, Tower Records was next door (both stores history now) .

Walking into Tower Records, hence I discovered a set of 4-5 “Glass Steps”, between one department and another. I recall glass block floors maybe 20 years earlier as they now go back almost 100 years. Most noteworthy I also recall the glass staircases by Eva Jiricna at the London Joseph stores around 20 years ago (see our Pinterest Board). So Glass floors are not new.

A brief description of the historical evolution of Glass from Arch Daily

Burlington House, London.

Glass blocks, a predecessor of glass floors, has been used in floors for some time, probably since 1930. As you can see it has cracks and repairs, however no one has gone through (Who knows maybe some bank robbers?).

Jerry Jacobs DesignGlass block floor bringing light in. Burlington House, London. Notice 2 broken top blocks, still active.

Update 2021

Needles to say one of the nicest uses of glass floors is the suspended in the air brdge pool at Embassy Gardens London. I have yet to swim in it, hopefully it is warm outside too. Revelation: I understand it is acrylic not Glass.

Transparent Sky Pool Jerry Jacobs Design

Update 2019.

In San Francisco at the Transbay or Workforce Park, raised 4 levels up and spanning 4 block, part of the floor is glass. At some point it could be supporting hundreds of people at the same time. Yes it has a grid structure below and it is frosted, and anti slip as an exterior floor has to be.

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Interior Glass Floor Design in San Francisco

Interior Glass Floor Design in San Francisco. Because they are so useful, glass floors will become so much more popular as a result. As real estate becomes more expensive, spaces tend to become smaller, so why not enlarge them this way.

Glass Floor. A two level PentHouse in Buena Vista Park, San Francisco, CA, brings natural light and view up and down through a glass floor.

The space looked dark while I walked in. Then I realized I could use an old trick; Bring natural light into the lower level from the skylights above, visually communicate the two levels and create drama. Certainly a great idea for the Interior Design of this home, out off the box.

Sometimes in homes with two or more levels, you find out there are spaces that can benefit from remodeling or incorporating visionary Interior Design concepts, those that extend the envelope. The upper level had so much natural light due to skylights, while the lower level had none. So we solved it with a glass floor.

As Interior Designers in San Francisco, we are called in to a project usually to furnish, and decorate, perhaps some built-in cabinetry, remodel kitchens and baths and bring in new furniture, but not so often for dramatic remodeling.

When I finally explained to my client what we could do, I thought she was going to fire me.  Instead she got very excited, said it was a genius idea, hence ran to call her husband on the spot and told him how excited she was. Then we designed it and built it.

Interior Glass Floor Design San Francisco Jerry Jacobs Design

From the top. Now in glass the upper foyer floor provides view of the new custom library-bar  cabinet below. Partial reflection of the skylights on angled mirror below, see at top.

The advantages of removing part of the floor can be numerous. We have all experienced split levels, but this is different, it means replacing an area of the floor, with glass to step on. Consequently you can join the two levels, visually, and carry the light, loose no square footage, and below in addition to light, it does give you a sense of split level too.

What you can achieve.

  • Light goes down through the transparent floor.
  • Visual communication. You can see the other level.
  • Openness. Makes space look larger, you enjoy more of it.
  • Lifestyle. The unexpected. Drama.
  • Security. Helps to know if someone is up there or down there.

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How to.

  • Before and after. The hallway had two closets popping out. Their beautiful salvaged doors were relocated.
  • We had to tear down, cut joists, and reinforce the slab.
  • Structural plans. Earthquake zone. You want to make sure there is no risk. Meet code and get it inspected.
  • Pre-engineered systems are available. If they work for you, that is great.
  • Tie into the existing Interior Design. God is in the detail, so you try.
  • Sometimes it is too dark below. You can gain some light.
  • You don’t know who is upstairs, this way you might.
  • Even more you also gain a little bit of height as the glass is thinner than the slab. Or a lot more if you can see the upper level ceiling.

Waterfront Townhouse.

This 3 level staircase has 2 landings. In both we elected to bring through light with a Glass Landings.

They hired us to do an Interior Design project for a two level Penthouse, and we come up with an Interior Architecture solution. Certainly not decorating.

Staircase landings In this case two levels have the same glass landing so you see through 2 levels Jerry Jacobs Design

Interior Design in San Francisco can be tricky. Smaller lots or high density ones, and the core or central area can be affected by the lack of light. In Western Europe the use of glass floors is more common and is certainly not new, also because houses tend to be smaller (Manors excluded), well they do use the solution frequently.



A sandwich must be formed with layers of glass, usually 3/8-1/2” thick and at least on tempered. Then there is lamination, required by UBC (universal building code) for all overhead glass.

The structure. Actually reinforcements to the framing had to be done all around, per the structural set of drawings. Those you can no longer see. After those came a metal frame attached on the structure. Then came the glass and floor supporting frame you see.




Please don’t run! The glass is not smoother than marble so you can slip just the same. Certain finishes are applied, to create a less smooth surface and prevent slipping. Such as sanding or grit sometimes built-in other times added after. Make sure you don’t drop your drink and think it is a skating rink, it is not.


Who cares! Fortunately when given the choice for transparent or frosted this client went for the visibility transparency gave.

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Acrophobia. Not Vertigo!

The word vertigo was popularized by the Alfred Hitchcock’s movie of the same name. The proper term for feeling dizzy from a height, the fear of falling is actually called Acrophobia. Aside from a chronic illness, there is really nothing to fear, so long as the glass floor you are stepping on is built properly, designed well, engineered to code and swell manufactured.

Vertigo, sudden breakage. Just think of Philippe Petit, who walked on a cable across the two Towers of the world trade center. Wouldn’t you walk on flat glass across the hall.


Glass Staircases.


No one can compete with the vast amount of Glass Staircases Apple has incorporated into their stores. They have patents on hardware and the most reputable worldwide firms specializing on the subject. We have only designed a few of them and show bellow a completed one and one deigned and in process.

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Jerry Jacobs DesignThe two photos above are from The Apple Flagship Store by Lord Norman Foster, and are a perfect example of how it can be Best done. When it is for public safety and budget is unlimited.


Villa on the Beach.

Interior Glass Floor Design. Here we where doing a staircase at the top of an atrium to reach the Roof Graden terrace from the Townhouse fourth level. We did not want any element obstructing the atrium openness and proportion, and we wanted something light weight  and thin. We used the atrium walls as structural support, load bearing, and steel stringers and steps frames. Only the threads and landings are glass 50′ above the Foyer.

Glass staircase Jerry Jacobs DesignInterior Glass Floor Design. Villa on the Beach by Jerry Jacobs Design.  Here we are directly below and before the Tuscan. Chandelier was installed.

Jerry Jacobs DesignInterior Glass Floor Design. Villa on the Beach by Jerry Jacobs Design. A much better photograph and with the lamp.

Jerry Jacobs DesignInterior Glass Floor Design. Villa on the Beach by Jerry Jacobs Design.. From the top landing, view to Foyer and Atrium.

Two level Townhouse in San Francisco. In progress.

The purpose in this smaller Townhouse is certainly not to impress but while doing so make the costly space look bigger, and cleaner and to be more Transparent, add above all space visual communication. Also certainly to update and remodel the space.

Home Office Design Jerry Jacobs Jerry Jacobs DesignInterior Glass Floor Design. San Francisco Townhouse by Jerry Jacobs Design.This one has a home desk-office below, and is all glass supported as well. Pull outs from humidor. and Laundry closet

Commercial examples.

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Skywalk over the Grand Canyon. Don’t worry they are safe, or 99% of them. Thank god not a DIY.

Current commercial examples of safety in public use are many. Here are three dramatic ones. Apple stores also have done a tremendous job and taken advantage of this source as well.

  • At CCTV by Rem Koolhaas (2008), it is a feature, three small glass floor portholes looking down to the ground floor 30 stories below. You are welcome to stand there.
  • The sears tower, now Willis tower in Chicago recently added a feature, so called Skydeck, which after thousands of visitors presented a non-critical crack.
  • Or at Skywalk, Horseshoe shape cantilevered structure over the Grand Canyon, AR. Shown above.

So you don’t need to panic, seems like a lot of people do, just think about it and if the advantages beat the disadvantages, well you have a winner.

  • China has made an habit of building hundreds of pedestrian bridge with Glass Floors. Just the floor is glass. Problem is when it rains it is too slippery. see link below.
  • Venice and Piano did a new exterior bridge too. However  it does present some problems to

Technology and proper Interior Design and Architecture are essential. It is all done to San Francisco Building Code, even more so an earthquake zone one. So don’t worry, if it is well designed and built, nothing happens, other than you Enjoy!


Credits, Sources and Links.

The glass bridges in China.

Thank you for visiting!

Jerry Jacobs Design. San Francisco . Belvedere-Tiburon.  +1.415.435.0520   Contact