Shutters control light without obscuring view

April 04, 2005|by ROSE BENNETT GILBERT/Copley News Service

Q: The front hall of our house has a row of long windows across the wall opposite the entry door. It's disconcerting to open the door and be looking right out the window, but the light is so nice I don't want to block it with curtains. Maybe shutters?

A: Shutters are always a good answer when you need to control light without obscuring the view because, unlike curtains or other fabric treatments, they have a substantial architectural quality. They look as if they were built-in, especially if you match the shutters to your wall color. While you'll still get the light, you'll avoid the sensation that you're going out again as soon as you come in.

Another possible solution is nicely illustrated by the room we show here. To maximize the light and airiness in their Nantucket Island, Mass., house, the homeowners had a row of windows built across one wall and accessorized it with a low table that underscores the importance of the windows without stealing any of the view. That view is well worth cherishing, according to designer/author Lisa McGee, who features the house in her book, "At Home in Nantucket" (Chronicle Books; $40).


The inside view is equally intriguing: the house belongs to Todd and Liz Winship - she's the owner of famed Nantucket Looms, the landmark crafts gallery that has woven rugs for the likes of Jackie Onassis, who used them in her Martha's Vineyard beach house.

Q: My husband wants to turn our living room into a library, so I'm looking for inspiration, also for advice about, well, indulging in a bit of fakery. Somewhere I read about a company that makes fake leather-bound books. That would be wonderful for the upper shelves - our ceilings are 10- and 12-feet tall. and those top shelves would be useless. Is this kind of thing ever done?

A: Often. And shamelessly, for logical reasons. The literati might squirm, but commercial designers think nothing of faking wall-to-wall books in public places, such as restaurants and hotels. There are even trompe l'oeil (eye-fooling) wallpapers that look like the real thing, at least from a distance.

More realistic - and lots easier than hunting down yards of actual antique books - there exist panels of "old" book spines that have been molded in resin from 18th and 19th century originals, then hand-colored, gilded and waxed. Installed on bookshelves, they make you out to be a gentleperson and a scholar, but the information therein is really shallow, pun intended: the "books" are only 1/4 to 1 1/8-inches thick.

These elegant fakers were originally made in England by a century-old company, Goodchild's Inc. Now relocated to Dallas (, Goodchild's also offers restoration services for antique furniture, and makes antique and new wood paneling, built-ins, and unique pieces of traditional furniture.

With three generations of experience behind them, some of Goodchild's tips for antique wood care are worth repeating (and heeding):

Cherish the patina that builds up on furniture over the years. Waxing protects that patina, but cleaning should be done gingerly, using a soft damp cloth or chamois. Wipe the wood then immediately dry with another soft cloth.

To remove cold wax from wood, lift off in a slab. Or warm it first with a hot water bottle wrapped in cloth, then lift off.

Never use metal cleaners to polish brass mounts and hardware while it's attached to the furniture. Cleaners can damage the wood itself.

Protect wood from strong sunlight (a filtering window film like Vista UV Shield,, will help).

Fluctuations in temperature and humidity can damage wood, especially inlaid or veneered pieces. Never turn A/C or heat completely off when you're on vacation.

Two final pointers: Never drag furniture, and never tilt back on an antique chair's rear legs.

Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of "Hampton Style" and associate editor of Country Decorating Ideas. Please send your questions to her at Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112-0190, or online at

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