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The Baltimore Sun

My 220-year-old townhouse has a formal dining room with a pair of tall windows opening onto a busy street. The room gets plenty of daylight but presents privacy issues. We have therefore covered the windows with heavy floor-to-ceiling draperies. But there's little wall space for stacking the draperies and under-curtains when they are not drawn across the windows. Can you suggest a less ponderous treatment that would allow daylight to enter the space while still preserving our privacy?

Yours is a situation in which both practical aims can be achieved without resorting to a treatment of questionable stylistic integrity. Let's look at the photo from "House Beautiful Classic American Decorating" for a possible solution to your problem.

It shows a traditionally designed dining room, perhaps much like your own, furnished in a variety of compatible styles. The room's pleasant look and comfortable layout are enhanced by the matching draperies that grace the pair of tall and narrow windows while framing the space between them.

The asymmetrical design of the swags and jabots, along with the one-way pullbacks on each window, combine to create a dramatic effect on the wall. The treatment serves to make the room look wider.

The translucent floor-length sheer fabric shades allow daylight to flood the space while preserving diners' privacy. The decoratively trimmed sheer curtains partially pulled to one side of each window perform the same function.

It's an effective, clever and appropriate treatment - a three-way success, in other words.

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

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