ROOM WITH A VIEW
New York — You have a window, but no view. Perhaps you look out onto a drab inner court or a dismal-looking back alley, at busy street traffic or other people's living rooms. What do you do about a window that looks out on something you want to camouflage, or at least make less intrusive? Windows were invented to let in light and air and they are important architectural and decorative elements. The way they are treated helps establish a room's personality, look, feel, and mood. Here are some tips from New York City interior designers on ways to deal with awkward windows with less-than-stellar views.
Daniel Sterling has a semi-basement studio apartment in Greenwich Village. To conceal small, ugly windows at the top of the room, as well as wall-hung stereo speakers, he placed commercially produced natural wood trellis from floor to ceiling across the window end of the room. The grille panels add architectural interest to the room, and soften and fuse the light that comes through the high, unaesthetic windows.
Hal Adams lives in a Manhattan high-rise apartment building, but his living room window has, in his estimation, ``no view at all, since it looks into a brick wall a dozen or so feet away.'' His solution was to plant yew shrubs on a tiny terrace, and cover the terrace with a green awning. He had a string of electric lights placed under the awning, so he could look out into illuminated greenery at night. During the day, he says he feels like he is living in a penthouse and looking out into ``things green and growing.'' When he wants more privacy, he drops a roll-up matchstick blind down over the glass.
Artist-designer Russ Elliott shut out a bleak view with a single textured window shade pulled down over a pair of off-center double-hung windows. He rigged up his own window-framing garden inside, with potted palms, ferns, a hanging basket of English ivy, and assorted other plants for the window sill. The translucent Stauffer shade controls light on the greenery and is trimmed with yellow and spring-green braid. The artist carried out the floral theme by hand painting flowers and leaves -- Tiffany style -- on the valance of Plexiglas across the top of the window. The whole effect keeps the eye centered on what is going on in the window area rather than the view beyond.
It was a small window in a tiny Manhattan study that urged designer John Van Koert to paint a cityscape of his own choosing onto the window blind that pulls down over an uninteresting inner apartment-house well. He used the colors of the room - bittersweet orange, black, white, and putty - to delinenate the buildings on his painted shade.
Stewart R. Skolnick, a member of the American Society of Interior Designers, used a whole wall of mottled glass brick to diffuse a mundane view of the family garage in a kitchen-breakfast area addition to a Victorian mansion in Westchester County, New York.
``I wanted to let in as much light as possible but filter the view,'' he explained. ``But to give the woman of the house an opportunity to see what was going on outside, we inset a small window into the glass brick wall, just opposite the sink.'' He chose the glass brick called ``Decora'' by Pittsburgh-Corning.
Another designer, who lives in a small apartment in Manhattan's Upper East Side, helped screen out a busy street view and the uninspiring hulk of the apartment building across the way by placing a prize painting right in the middle of the window wall. The placement of the painting against the pane is a trick, he says, to stop and enthrall the eye, but allow in light all around the art work. The same device can be used with a piece of hanging sculpture, a sculpture placed on a centered pedestal in the window, or a framed panel of stained glass.
One city teenager, who wanted a playful solution to hiding the dim view out his window, made a curtain of paper clips, which both provides texture and diffuses light. But it wasn't cheap. It took 10,000 paper clips, a lot of time, and cost well over $100.
Other ideas, offered by other designers, include such simple solutions as the following:
Use vertical and horizonal thin-slatted blinds to regulate light and mute the view.
Place a flower box inside the window frame with latticework covering the frame, then train vines to grow up the latticework to give an informal, cottage-like look.
Have sliding Japanese shoji screens installed. This look works particularly well in very streamlined modern or contemporary interiors.
Use folding or paneled screens, which stand on the floor or may be fastened to sections of the wall or windows. When made of translucent materials such as plastic, caning, or rice paper, they let in air and sunlight, but screen out, partially or entirely, the views beyond.
Roller shades, hung reverse-roll or with the roller exposed at the top, can give a neat, architectural look within the framework of the window.
Bathe large glass expanses with semi-sheer fabrics hung completely across them. White, cream, and pale yellow are the neutrals considered best for such fabric treatments because they filter light in a natural way.