The New York Times / March 2008
A. Whether they face an air shaft or a neighboring building, windows with a view obscured by a wall usually let in some natural light, even if only a little. But staring out at a brick wall can feel a little claustrophobic or even depressing. The trick is to preserve the natural light while diverting attention from the offending wall.
Some people cover the windows with plain sheer curtains, but other options will add a decorative element to a room. Felicitas Oefelein, a New York interior designer who owns F.O. Design, recommended printing a semitransparent solar shade with a custom image to create the illusion of a different environment outside.
“When you put that in front of your window, you still get the light coming in, but you also have a view out onto a garden or courtyard or whatever makes you happy,” Ms. Oefelein said. “It’s not too expensive, and you end up with a great window treatment.”
How stylish or kitschy the effect is depends entirely on the image you choose, so choose carefully. Creative Shading, which makes custom solar shades, charges according to size, material and printing options; prices start at about $160; (888) 322-9962 or creativeshading.com.
For a designer solution with a similar effect, consider Silent Gliss shades likes the ones above, made with Kvadrat Shadow by Tord Boontje, a sheer fabric with stylized flowers and shadows of branches that appear to be cast from trees outside. They are available as Roman shades (starting at about $600) and panel systems (from about $1,800) at Home Works, 480 Broome Street (Wooster Street), (212) 343-9900 or homeworksny.com.
You could also treat your window like a diorama. Christopher Myers, a New York landscape architect who owns a company called Just Terraces, suggested this approach, which he said he learned while doing set design and art direction for the Walt Disney Company and Universal Studios. Mr. Myers said he created dioramas in waiting areas at theme parks, like the one at the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride at Disneyland Paris. “You’d have what looked like an outdoor environment, but it was actually just a two-foot-deep space,” he said.
Mr. Myers is planning to use this technique to spruce up the view outside the window of his new office in the Just Terraces showroom at 422 East 75th Street (212-570-4830 or justterraces.com), which faces an air shaft. First, he said, he will hire an artist to paint the wall with an image of a cyclist riding through the French countryside. He then plans to install a window box filled with boxwood, to create a closer focal point that plays off the landscape in the painting. (Mr. Myers said he chose boxwood because it requires little water and stays green year round; he also recommends ivy and miniature cedars.)
If you can’t paint the wall opposite your window, you might consider creating an escapist environment on a smaller scale, in a terrarium or a cloche on the windowsill. With an intricate composition of small plants, shells or stones, you can help take attention off the view outside. Smith & Hawken, at (800) 940-1170 or smithandhawken.com, sells lidded terrariums in two sizes ($39 and $49) and a large cloche with a saucer ($69).
You can mix and match these ideas if you want, but “thematically, it has to be done really well,” Mr. Myers said. Don’t just “throw some pots on a windowsill and hope for the best.”