There is a fundamental dilemma in interior design, and it is this: architecture and view preservation are at odds with the need for privacy. A common architect’s mantra is evidenced in this summary: Beautiful architecture and beautiful views should not be covered. Doing so is not interior decoration, but rather inferior desecration. The dilemma is that many occupants don’t feel the same way. They want privacy.
What to do? Most homeowners and office workers want it both ways—easily, beautifully, naturally.
Most people who live inside a home or work inside a building may enjoy the view and sometimes appreciate the architecture, yet feel unprotected and vulnerable when evening comes bringing a clear view to the inside. Think of the simple phrase, “We see toward the light.” Privacy and protection then become paramount, regardless of the majesty of the architecture or the daytime view. True, nighttime views can be spectacular, especially in some cityscapes. Yet, the need for privacy here is just as strong for the occupant.
During the day there are many times when a person working or occupying a space near an untreated window feels a need for privacy as well as a desire to redirect sunlight or seek protection from its heat or excessive brightness. It is interesting that even if those outside cannot see into a building during the day due to the lower level of interior lighting, it is normal to feel that we can be seen.
For example, think about working near an uncovered window at home or in an office or other public location. When performing a task, especially one that requires movement such as getting up and moving about, there may be a sense that your actions can be seen or followed. There may even exist a feeling of insecurity or fear that someone may be lurking and even could be planning an assault or robbery. Frightening thoughts, indeed.
WHAT WORKS FOR PRIVACY
Privacy is the state of being free from intrusion or disturbance in one’s private life or affairs. In the United States we have “a right to privacy,” which we deem a basic privilege in a free society. It is akin to respect for human life.
Beginning in the 1930s with the development of large sheets of glass installed in modern-style offices and homes, there has been a serious problem with heat build-up, glare and lack of privacy. This dilemma resulted from steel-framed and glass-glazed buildings often referred to as curtain wall construction, as the interiors invariably needed screening, protection and an assurance of privacy solvable only through ceiling-to-floor fabric window treatments.
Curtains is a somewhat outdated term now. During the mid-20th century, it meant pinch-pleated draw draperies on conventional traverse rods. Popular in homes and buildings with large expanses of glass these draperies, or curtains, were made of casement-like textiles where light still could penetrate during daylight hours, screened through interesting knits or weaves made of complex or novelty yarns in contemporary colors. Those who have been interior design professionals for a few years may cringe slightly as they recall the “burnt orange,” “harvest gold,” and “avocado greens” that intensified as natural light penetrated through the loosely constructed casement fabrics.
Over the years, many more treatments have been developed to suit a variety of needs, from light screening with lovely semi-sheer fabrics to blackout treatments for sleeping or home theatre installations. Draperies, cellular shades and even woven woods, today, can be ordered with blackout linings.
MAKING IT EASIER
Yet again, the original dilemma is having the option of fully opened treatments when the view is desirable and fully closed treatments when privacy is required. The product list shortens when considering the ability of a treatment to “disappear” on demand for the sake of view and to showcase architecture and still provide privacy when needed.
Draperies require stacking space; shutters are substantial in bulk; flat panels still require the space of a single panel, even when stacked. Other considerations include the ability of the hardware to hold the weight of the treatment, which may limit the use of weighty fabric draperies; and the desire for treatments that require less dusting or upkeep, limiting the use of mini-blinds or two–inch metal or wood blinds.
The advent of featherweight polyester fabric fabricated into shades or shadings is proving to be a sensible choice to meet the requirements of view and architectural exposure with privacy. These treatments allow for neat, tight installation nearly unnoticeable or tucked out-of-sight beneath a top treatment, for example. With clutch mechanisms or simplified and stronger headrail operating systems, shades and shadings are easy to operate. Motorization makes operating treatments even easier with a flip of switch or the press of a remote-control button. From draperies to shades, blinds and even shutters solving the dilemma of having both the view and privacy is made almost effortless.
Karla J. Nielson, Allied ASID, WCAA, is assistant professor of design at Brigham Young University. She has authored several books including Window Treatments, Un-derstanding Fabrics and Interiors: An Introduction, 3rd Ed. Nielson is a regular correspondent for Draperies & Window Coverings addressing the areas of fashion, education and merchandising.