Consider a swivel-hinge window

Design Line

May 11, 2008|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Tribune Media Services

We're thinking about including a 30-inch lunette-type window in the bathroom of a house we'll soon be building. The aim would be to introduce additional light and air, but for privacy purposes, would it be OK to treat a window of this sort with a shade?

We'd also like your ideas on surfacing materials. Can marble be used with tile, or is it better to stay with one material in a space the size of a bathroom?

A lunette -- French for "half-moon" -- is usually placed high enough on a wall that it doesn't have to be covered for privacy. But in cases where it's at eye-level or even lower, a shirred fabric is often installed as a permanent covering. That does defeat the purpose of letting more light and air enter a space.

An alternative, as shown in this photograph from Glass House: Buildings for Open Living, a Vendome Press book written by Nicky Adams, is to install a swivel-hinged window that can be opened while still protecting privacy.

And do take a look at the two circular mirrors over the cabinetry. Notice how they repeat the shape of the window while also creating a focal point, instead of serving merely as mirrors.

This photo also addresses your question about using more than one material. Here, the floor and deck of the built-in tub are made of marble, while small ceramic tiles in a contrasting color have been affixed to the walls and the front of the tub.

There are some good reasons to use a combination of materials in a bathroom. Cost is one of them, since tile is less expensive than marble.

Maintenance issues should be considered as well.

Note, for example, that the grouting of tiles stays cleaner on vertical rather than on horizontal surfaces. The sink and storage cabinets likewise feature a combination of wood and plastic laminate. I'm assuming that this choice was made not only on the basis of design preferences but also because of cost and maintenance factors.

Glass can be used successfully as a building material and as a design element for the home. In colder climates, however, it's not necessarily the right choice. And unless properly treated, a glass expanse can result in fading of textiles, as well as in damage to wood and other materials.

In general, the use of only one or two materials and colors does have the effect of making small spaces appear larger. But what's gained in spatial enhancement can be lost in imaginative design.

Rita St. Clair is a Baltimore-based interior designer. Readers with interior design questions can e-mail her at rsca@ritastclair.com.

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