Home designers don't have to dress out-of-reach windows

July 04, 2009|By ROSE BENNETT GILBERT / Creators Syndicate

Q: What should we do with the slanted wall at the end of our dining room? It has a big picture window on the bottom and a half-round window at the point where the ceiling angles meet. Can I treat them separately? Or do I even have to dress that upper window?

A: The answers are yes and no. Yes, you can treat dissimilar windows differently in the same room, provided they are as dramatically unalike as yours. And no, you really don't have to dress that little decorative window at all - as long as you aren't bothered by glare, fading and invasions of your privacy.

Your problem is a common one, given the tendency for builders to design tall walls with oddly shaped windows. In one way, that makes sense, also given their tendency to build rooms with cathedral ceilings. Both can make a room feel spacious and gracious, heating and cooling bills aside.


Happily, those out-of-reach windows have also inspired curtain and shade designers to new heights. For example, Hunter Douglas makes coverings such as pleated shades and wooden shutters, which can be fitted to most unorthodox shapes. Some can even be opened and closed; go to for ideas.

In addition, designer/author Nancee Brown suggests draping the arch with a floor-length scarf, caught in the center and at each side. Or gather a "sunburst" curtain on a rod that's custom-fitted to the window shape.

However, Brown has chosen to go bare on the window that is pictured.

High up, just under the apex of the ceiling, the half-round (or demi-lune) window is a grace note in the family room. The designer underscores it with the line of decorative plates that emphasizes the triangular motif. In this context, it makes perfect visual sense to dress the picture window and sidewall windows separately, hanging simple, gathered draperies on wooden poles.

Q: What's the news about what's old?

A: If you're already a collector, you know that antiques, like all decorative objects, come in and out of fashion. So, it was interesting to hear three expert opinions on what's old-and-in and what's old-and-out - when the New York Chapter of IFDA (International Furnishings and Design Association) held a mini-forum in the posh quarters of Clinton Howell Antiques on East 72nd St.

Journalist Wendy Moonan (Architectural Digest, New York Times) signaled that now's a smart time to buy that George Nakashima table you've yearned for; heightened interest in the mid-century master woodworker has "flooded the market, so prices are down."

What's still premium? Swedish furniture as well as 18th-century French and English antiques.

To which Clinton Howell added, anything in lacquer by 20th-century Irish modernist Eileen Gray. A chair recently sold for $20-some-million. Howell said, "But remember, she worked in real lacquer, which was poisonous!"

Designer Eric Cohler, known as "The Mix Master," says his work is about "frisson, the tension that comes from mixing styles." His example: four 18th-century Chippendale chairs around a Saarinen table. Check them out at

People want something with "gravitas," he explained, "antiques add gravitas."

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