Decorative panels can work wonders with windows

DESIGN LINE

May 30, 1993|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer Los Angeles Times Syndicate

A few elements of interior design are generally considered to be as sacred as motherhood. Fireplaces, windows and built-in bookcases come immediately to mind. To most people, it's practically unthinkable to alter these sorts of fixtures -- let alone eliminate them entirely. Never mind that they may actually be quite ugly or out of sync with the style or use of a particular room.

It may be difficult to camouflage the size or appearance of a window. Adding a window to a room is a common redesign project, but seldom does anyone decide to seal one up.

But a poorly placed window is by no means unusual, especially in a contemporary home. Even residents with a touch of claustrophobia may eventually conclude that something needs to be done to make such an opening seem less awkward. The standard solution is to introduce some camouflage, with a drapery treatment being the most obvious possibility. Unfortunately, these treatments frequently fail to produce the proper balance between the window and the rest of the room.

Let's take the case of a window situated above the sink in a bathroom. It's pretty obvious that a mirror ought to be there rather than a window. If ripping out the window seems like an unspeakable affront, then a practical compromise might be to install a mirror in its bottom half.

A similar situation would involve a window directly above the kitchen sink. Assume for a moment that the daytime view is not particularly memorable. And, at night, the window becomes a gloomy, even somewhat scary, dark hole. Curtains could be the answer here, but they're likely to get wet and soiled when hung right above a sink. A better alternative might be to install shelving across the window. Plants or colored glass items could then be placed on the shelves to pick up the light from outdoors.

Clerestory windows, which are located high up on a wall, can sometimes pose special problems. They are vital sources of light in many settings, but it isn't easy to regulate the sunshine that streams in from so far above. The need for privacy might also be a factor. Yet, curtains and decorative treatments are generally .. unattractive in these situations. And extra-long cords and cleats for operating blinds aren't my idea of pretty details. Filtered light and pleasing visual effects can be achieved, however, simply by replacing the window frames with decorative glass. That was the approach taken with the clerestory window shown in the photo.

This glass panel was designed and executed by Larry Zgoda of Chicago. He devised a contemporary application for a centuries-old technique by which lead is made to act as a framing element for architectural glass panels. Lead, a soft metal, cushions the glass and allows it to be glazed in a variety of designs and textures.

This kind of treatment will prove very effective and attractive in either contemporary or traditional settings. Its use also isn't limited solely to clerestory windows. A decorative application like this one would be appropriate for any awkwardly sited window where privacy and light control are important considerations.

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