Debi Fox Photography

Among the many design challenges architects encounter, finding a way to make a small room seem larger often assumes the top spot on the to-do list. The challenges become even trickier when square footage is at a premium and the need for versatility is acute.

This was the problem Washington-based Division1 Architects encountered when it was designing The Lacey, an award-winning 26-unit condo project in D.C.’s ultra-hip U Street Corridor.

Because some of the condos—which include studios, one- and two-bedroom flats, penthouses, and live/work units averaging 700 square feet—are small, the firm had to find a way to make the living areas feel big but flexible enough for alternative uses, says principal Ali R. Honarkar.

Division1’s solution was floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors between rooms. “We wanted to make the space look as big as possible and without the sliding glass doors it would have been very dark,” Honarkar says. “The doors make each unit very flexible as they can transform it from a studio to a one bedroom.”

The glass panels made a huge difference, but the execution of the system should get the credit. Instead of a typical framed stile-and-rail glass door, the firm used all-glass panels instead.

“We were looking for a frameless model to give us the most natural light,” the designer says.

Division1 specified safety glass panels from the glazing company and simple hardware from Hafele America Co. in Archdale, N.C., at the bottom of each panel. A plain aluminum rail sits flush with the wood floors, and each panel slides on its own track for easy movement.

“The system was very simple,” the designer says. “I’m surprised more architects don’t use it.”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Washington, DC.