Interior Design for Living: No curtains for you? Try plants instead

By SUSAN GILL SPELLMEYER

Q: I have some windows across the back of my house that are now bare. I have no need or desire to cover them with draperies or any other traditional window treatments, because they let in beautiful light and I don't need the privacy.

Do you have some ideas that might "soften" the windows and add some interest? They need something, but I'm at a loss as to what to do with them.

A: If you don't need the privacy in the rear of your home and want to soften the effect of bare glass, the most obvious suggestion would be plants. Whether you use large floor plants, hanging plants, a shelf (or shelves) with smaller plants, or any combination of the above, they are always effective. Be certain to select plants that are appropriate for the light, give the textural appearance and color that best suits the room, and arrange them in an interesting grouping.

The windows can also be softened with plants that you use on the outside. Window boxes can be filled with various flowers and greenery through­out the year, depending upon the season. Plantings in the ground can be accented with lights — especially those designed to shine up through the leaves. It gives a very dramatic effect, highlighting the various shapes, but it is also very subtle. Flood lights provide a more general light source, but are much harsher than the "uplights." Consider, too, using some hanging plants outside. They can be very colorful and attractive cascading down in front of the glass.

Another idea for adding interest might be to hang an interesting piece of stained glass on the inside in front of a window. Especially if you receive direct sunlight during the day, the color and pattern will spill all over the room. The effect is striking and can be maintained in the evening by installing a light outside to shine through the stained glass at night.

An interesting loosely woven macramé or perhaps a piece of beautiful lace or crochet can also be very effective. The light emphasizes the intricate pattern and highlights the detailing. The weaving may be heavy enough to maintain its shape if sus­pended from a pole.

More than likely, the lace or crochet will need to be attached top and bottom on small rods. This will hold the fabric taut and secure. It should be relatively flat to achieve the desired effect. If you do decide to hang something such as this in the window, be careful if the sun is very strong. It may damage a fragile fabric.

You mentioned that you don't want, or need to use any type of window treatment for privacy. Have you ever considered a simple swag or piece of gathered fabric, either in a pattern or a solid, that drapes only over the top of the window and down the sides?The rod or brackets can be mounted a few inches above the top of the casing, so the bottom of the fabric doesn't cover much of the glass.

This can be as simple as draping a length of fabric and securing it at the top of the corners of the window. It will let in almost all the light, but will also soften the wood trim around the window.

Since we're talking about the back of your house, and the appearance from the outside is not as crucial as "if "it" were the front, you could also use a contrasting colored lining. The effect, with the light shining through, is very unusual and gives the fabric a "glow." Also, as the material hangs down the sides and turns, you'll be able to see the accent color. The overall look is very simple, but very soft and appeal­ing.

If the sun is very strong at certain times of the day, you may also think about using a sheer pleated shade. It will control the sun, but you'll be able to see right through it. When pulled up, it is virtually out of sight

You could also display interesting pieces of sculpture, pottery or woven baskets on glass shelves. The light from behind will emphasize their unusual shapes and the glass will almost disappear against the window. Again be careful of the effects of the sun when making your selections.

A track light or hidden valance light above, the window, will highlight the objects in the evening and the glass will reflect like a mirror.

The unusual window treatments are often the most interesting. I hope some of these suggestions will be helpful in deciding what will work the best for you.

More than likely, the lace or crochet will need to be attached top and bottom on small rods. This will hold the fabric taut and secure. It should be relatively flat to achieve the desired effect. If you do decide to hang something such as this in the window, be careful if the sun is very strong. It may damage a fragile fabric.

You mentioned that you don't want, or need to use any type of window treatment for privacy. Have you ever considered a simple swag or piece of gathered fabric, either in a pattern or a solid, that drapes only over the top of the window and down the sides?The rod or brackets can be mounted a few inches above the top of the casing, so the bottom of the fabric doesn't cover much of the glass.

This can be as simple as draping a length of fabric and securing it at the top of the corners of the window. It will let in almost all the light, but will also soften the wood trim around the window.

Since we're talking about the back of your house, and the appearance from the outside is not as crucial as "if "it" were the front, you could also use a contrasting colored lining. The effect, with the light shining through, is very unusual and gives the fabric a "glow." Also, as the material hangs down the sides and turns, you'll be able to see the accent color. The overall look is very simple, but very soft and appeal­ing.

If the sun is very strong at certain times of the day, you may also think about using a sheer pleated shade. It will control the sun, but you'll be able to see right through it. When pulled up, it is virtually out of sight

You could also display interesting pieces of sculpture, pottery or woven baskets on glass shelves. The light from behind will emphasize their unusual shapes and the glass will almost disappear against the window. Again be careful of the effects of the sun when making your selections.