Think beyond the cute curtains stage


Q: The living room in our new house is small and the floor space is kind of complicated. For example, one wall has several windows that face the street. Passersby can look right in. I want to cover the windows for privacy, but I don't want to cut out all the light. Friends have suggested cafe curtains across the bottom, which would leave the top of the windows open to the light, but I think our furniture (mostly 19th century antiques) is too far on the formal side for cafes. What's your advice?

A: You could come up with cafes that feel more formal in their own right. Damask, silk or taffeta would qualify. Rows of silken fringe would cinch the formal feel.

Or you could think beyond curtains and consider one of the many new window solutions available these days. For example, the windows we show here wear an ingenious new concept in shades (Duette Duolite honeycomb shades from Hunter Douglas), that combines light-blocking materials with sheer fabrics that radiate natural daylight without being see-through, much as a translucent lamp shade lets the shine out while masking the bulb itself.


Custom-fit to your windows, the combination can be ordered with the opaque material on the bottom so you can pull it as high as necessary for street-level privacy, leaving the upper windows wearing only fabric sheer enough to let in the light.

Because shades may be too minimalist for your formal room, you might want to lift an idea from this room's designer and dress them with a layer of formal side curtains, hung from ribbons and tied back to uncover most of the window area. To check out all the options, go to

Q: We are stuck with wall-to-wall carpeting in a peachy-pink color that runs through the living room and dining room. We stretched far just to buy this house, we really cannot afford to pull up the carpeting and replace it with a color we do like. What can we do to make it less offensive?

A: First, rethink your impression that you can't afford to pull up the carpeting. You don't have to replace it, you know. Double-check with your Realtor or pull up one corner of the carpeting and have a peek underneath. You just might find that the floors are wood that's worth refinishing, which is much less expensive than buying new wall-to-wall.

Besides, that's an old look. Today's hunger for natural materials has put bare wood floors high up on the most-wanted list. Use smaller area rugs in strategic spots here and there to soften the floor, literally, and add color and noise control.

Until you get around to stripping up your old wall-to-wall, you can also use area rugs right on top of it to brighten certain spots, such as a seating arrangement. Choose a pattern than makes visual reference to the color of the carpeting underneath so it blends in. And ask your rug dealer about thin mats used under them that will keep the smaller rug from crawling around on the larger carpet's pile.

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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