Lots of windows? Create privacy without blocking out the sunlight

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You see it in brochures for model homes and hear it from real estate agents trying to seal the deal: Lots of windows. Plenty of sunshine.

Large windows can be a great selling point. But "plenty of sunshine" also means "no privacy" when windows in a bedroom or bathroom face the street or a neighbor's house.

So how can you create privacy without banishing sunlight? Here are some thoughts from four home design experts:

*Wooden shutters (often called "California shutters" or "plantation shutters") are beautiful and very popular, says Sarah Richardson, host and producer of Fine Living TV's "Room Service." If the slats are thick and the frame fixed, "you reduce your light filtering into the room by about 15 percent," Richardson says.

Instead of wooden shutters, however, Richardson recommends high-quality wooden blinds with 2-inch-deep slats. They cost less, and, she says, "you can draw them up as you would a Venetian blind."

Wood blinds are available in many colors and stains. Interior designer Maureen Footer suggests having them painted to match or coordinate with your trim or walls to incorporate them into the room's design.

*Woven wood shades are hot now, says Sue Sampson, co-author of the "Window Treatments Idea Book" (Taunton, 192 pages, $19.95). These shades are "an all-natural, green product, so they're getting a lot of attention," she says. Texture, thickness and linings vary, so you can choose one that is partially transparent or one giving total privacy and room darkening when closed.

Like blinds, shades work well with sheer drapery panels or cafe curtains. Burnout sheers are great, says Richardson, for adding "a veil of privacy, while still allowing light to filter through." She suggests soft, unlined panels with a pinch pleat or inverted pleat: "These are textured sheers, not your granny's sheers, not the little half-height puffy things that people would have put in their living room 20 years ago."

*For bathroom windows, Rental Decorating Digest editor Tammy Jo Schoppet suggests window films. Don't cringe, says Schoppet: "There are really nice ones, stained glass, where the light still will shine through. ... In the right style, it would look great."

It's an easy, low-cost option -- the film is essentially a large decal, which you cut to fit and apply without adhesive. They are easily removed or repositioned and bathroom humidity isn't a problem. Levels of transparency vary, though, so make sure before buying that you'll get the right amount of privacy.

Schoppet mentions one downside: Your view is blocked completely, so "you could get claustrophobic not seeing out your window."

*Shoji screens are fabric or paper panels stretched across a wood frame, used traditionally in Japanese homes as room dividers or window coverings. Schoppet recommends these for bedrooms, because they offer privacy, plus interesting design.

They also take up little space. If they're set on rollers, they can be moved aside in the daytime when privacy may be less of an issue.

The look is clean and architectural, says Sampson, who also is a fan of the screens. Like shades and window films, though, transparency varies, so it's important to choose the right one.

*Go green , says Footer, who recommends using window boxes filled with plants to add privacy. "Something fairly tall . . . provides a natural screen" but doesn't block sunlight, she says. "You can do seasonal things that will have some endurance. So you won't be changing weekly, but the look will vary throughout the year."

If you're trying to create a look that you'll be happy with for years, Footer says, it may be worth spending a bit extra on good quality. She recommends working with experts at a local window treatment store to have your windows measured properly.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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