Are the 15k Window Shutters A Good Idea?

Recently, I received an email from a reader, Sara, with some small peculiar little windows. She’s thinking about doing window shutters. So, I told her to send me some photos with a view that it might make a good blog post.


Here’s what Sara said:


Dear Laurel,

I have a new construction home in California (Sacramento area) with these bloody 23”x23” square windows that are too close to the ceiling. And, they’re driving me BONKERS because I don’t know what to do with them!


small ugly windows - family room - window shutters, yes or no.

What happened is: We spur-of-the-moment purchased a new builder’s house about a year ago.

A week later we were at the design center and went in with a plan for the kitchen.  The idea was to copy one of the models and that would be fine.  However, in hindsight I was six months pregnant and what I selected is NOT me.

window shutters kitchen view - dark kitchen


Alas, I’m not replacing the custom, upgraded kitchen because it cost a lot and will probably be banged up in a few years, anyway.

Please don’t be mad at me, but we chose flooring (both the carpet & tile) we don’t love. But, the thinking is that they will withstand the toddler years. We plan to replace everything in a few years.


We took your advice and hired a designer who says to leave them uncovered.


But, that’s not an option because the south-facing living room gets quite hot in sunny California.  Duh. Oh, there’s more, Laurel.

All the while, we’ve been thinking window shutters. Just replace everything in shutters and be done.

We chose this designer because in her portfolio there is a navy room with white window shutters and wainscoting– very pretty. Other projects have a lot of beautiful antiques.

So, we hired her for a consult and THEN I find out that she HATES window shutters!


What the hay? Call me crazy; but isn’t it dumb to put something in your portfolio that you hate?

In addition, her other ideas are phenomenally pedestrian.  For example, she suggests doing one grey-brown paint color throughout the house. yawn…

She hates my antique mora clock. Obviously, she is not the right decorator for us.  She did suggest Benjamin Moore Balboa Mist or Pale Oak for wall colors. I might take that suggestion and get some test paints.

Other info that I think is helpful to know


We have a 1-yr-old and a 3-yr-old and I’m a stay-at-home mom.  The living room with the three small windows is an open concept with the kitchen and eating area.

This room is where we live.


However, those three dumb windows face south and stream sun in throughout the afternoon and it’s blinding.


 window shutters in living


The huge window, under the sofa, faces west.  So, you’ve got it; that room is pretty much on fire in the late afternoon until sunset.


The current blinds were installed by the builder. We put up some off-white linen IKEA curtains.  I meant to get rings and drapery hooks but it just hasn’t happened.  The huge window is next to a full length glass door which is next to the kitchen.


The cabinet under the three silly little windows hold toys and is not centered because that is the area where we make a fort and spend time reading. Oh, that’s where the throw pillows are too. lol



I know that you’ll understand that, because you raised two little boys. Right?

The builder options were outrageously expensive so we chose the first upgrade that wasn’t horrible. I love Gustavian, unique pieces, and antiques.

I’m not certain white shutters will go in the rooms well.

Yes, I know that I sound all over the lot. But this is how jumbled up my thoughts are.

Woven wooden shades are also high on our list but I feel like they would be a pain to keep clean with little hands always at the windows.


And, wouldn’t they look funny on the small windows??


Like, they’d be half-covered with shade when open.  And, what about a full glass door which faces west??  The combo of small windows and small hands is steering me to window shutters.
So, we have a bid for window shutters in the range of 11k-15k.  The bid is for Hunter Douglas shutters (2.5” louvers on the small windows and 3.5” louvers everywhere else).

I just keep thinking with the small windows next to the huge 95” window (that’s 8 feet facing west!) is the best solution.

By the way, my husband is incredibly skilled at woodworking and all things building related.


He worked for a custom, high-end home builder in high school and college.  He can do pretty much anything extremely well and will be doing more work in our home.  We have plans to put  custom surround for the weirdly angled mantel-less fireplace.

I’m just in this difficult phase with toddlers who are at home all day.  I want it to be nice but things need to be easy to clean and not expensive. I’m not super-neurotic either about stuff like ketchup and juice.

The shutters appeal because I could remove curtains to have that hide-and-seek battleground removed.  I also like how they look from the street.

Sorry this is so long. I hope that it all makes sense.

Sara Lee


Holy Moly, Girlfriend!


Actually, this is a few emails, edited into one. And no, her last name is not really Lee. But, I told Sara that I would take this one on because this home presents with a lot of common issues in decorating– window shutters, aside.


The first issue is purchasing a “builder’s home.”


They generally give you three choices. Cheap, Medium and Expensive and tough shit if you don’t like any of them. You are paying for whatever is in the offering and if you change it, not only do they not give you a credit towards your new purchase, they’ll charge you more for putting in something unique.

The reason is obviously because they will now have to think instead of constructing on auto-pilot.

(here are some other beefs I have with many home builders)

But, before someone craps all over me. This is how MOST builders work. I am sure there are some builders who are far more obliging. But, in my experience, it’s more the exception than the rule.


In fact, I’ve heard numerous stories of people who do exactly what Sara and her talented husband are doing. They just go with the thing they don’t want and later on, rip it out and put in what they DO want. It is actually a more cost-effective way to do things.

Crazy-pants, I know, but it’s true. Please hold your hand up if you’ve actually done this.

And that includes kitchens too! Although it sounds like the Lees had a choice of kitchens.


So, I am not going to fault Sara for the tile floor or kitchen cabinets or anything else. Well, except for one thing.


Rule number 36 in the Decorating Code specifically states that women shall not make any major decorating decisions during gestation and for the three-month period, postpartum.


Alas, very few pay any heed to that one. ;] So, we will have to work with what we have.

But, in fact, this is a very nice house!

There’s a ton of potential and I know that in a few years, it’s going to be gorgeous!

And although, Sara sent some pics of other spaces, I’m only focusing on the living room/kitchen area.


Okay. Let’s deal with the three little windows and the possibility of window shutters.


Sara, sweetie, please go grab yourself a tall, cool drink of your choice.  And then sit down on the leather sofa. You can rest your drink on the wonderful trunk.

Please sit facing the three little windows with your feet UP.

And get very comfortable.


I want you to stare at those three windows for a solid 30 seconds.


When the 30 seconds are up, please close your tired eyes.

Good. Inhale deeply, breathing in the cool blue healing light and feel all of your muscles and tendons and eyeballs letting go…

Very good. You are now in a deep state of relaxation.


Now, tell me honestly.


How do you feel about those three little windows?


Can you speak up hun? I can’t hear you very well.

Oh, never mind.

I already know the answer. I know the answer because you’ve already told me exactly how you feel. In fact, you told me several times throughout your thoroughly delightful correspondence.




Sara, darling-fort-building mama; you need to think outside the window. The answer is very simple.

It’s just four little words.

Are you ready?



See, wasn’t that easy?

Imagine yourself in a room devoid of those prison-block windows that NEVER should have been put there in the first place!

jail cell photo via Boston Post

via Boston Post


I don’t know about you, but I sure feel better. Put some beautiful art prints up instead, or frame your kids’ finger paintings.

Landscape Oil Painting CUSTOM Large Modern Abstract Sky Cloud BAY ART by J Shears instead of window shutters

I found some gorgeous original art pieces on Etsy. And she’ll do something custom for you too.


Now, by getting rid of the windows, there are a few ways this can be accomplished.

  • Option one: You do not need to get rid of them from the outside. Put up some dark paper and then Mr. Lee will know how to add sheet rock from the inside. Spackle, tape and repaint. We’ll get to the latter, in a sec.
  • Option number two is to get rid of them entirely, but that will be big bucks.
  • Option three is to leave the windows as is and put some big art over the opening. But this one is tricky because of the spacing. They are also spaced too close to the ends, so the art would have to be about a 36″ square. And then hung just covering the outer edge and top of the end windows and then of course, the center one would be centered. And light might come through. This one is problematic, potentially.
  • Option number four is the least expensive. Cover the windows with a light diffusing film.


3M Controltac Translucent white frosted privacy window vinyl

This link will take you to one such product.

I’ve never used it, but this is the idea. They made the design on the edges.


Here is what your weird little prison windows with shutters will look like


windows-and-blind-ideas-small-window-shutters- please dear God-- nooooo!!!

I rest my case.


And, quite frankly, I’d save my dollars and not do the shutters anywhere else, either. You’ll get the biggest bang with what you have, for now.

I would spend the money elsewhere. There are other things you can do with that money that will make a HUGE difference.

Let’s begin with the walls. The family room is at least three different colors.


Not sure what’s going on. It needs to be one color. :]

I like the color on the little window wall. That one has enough oomph to handle the sofa, black chair and the dark kitchen cabinets. Very handsome. If there’s any change, maybe just one little bit less gray and a touch more blue-green. But no lighter than it is.

Benjamin Moore Balboa Mist and Pale Oak are terrific paint colors. In fact they are both in the Laurel Home Essential Paint/Palette Collection.

However, I don’t see them in this room. Balboa Mist is a pale greige that can either go a hair green or lavender. Not right for this room. And Pale Oak is more beige than greige with a slight blush undertone in some light. I don’t see either of those in here.

How are you doing honey? Do you need another drink? Something stronger, perhaps? You’re looking a tad pale. Better eat something first. :]


Let’s move on.


Most of the furniture is fine. LOVE the coffee table. And I found an email where you said that you had gotten it with an affiliate link. But first you said that you thought that it was too big. I think that you sent me a photo.

It is NOT too big! The size is perfect.

Love the trunk.

Love the black chair. It needs to come in closer to the conversation area, however.


I would paint the TV cabinet; perhaps in a chalk paint in a shade very similar to the walls.


Maybe one shade darker. Yummy! It should not be white because it’s too match-y with the other book-case. Although I love the one in your dining room, I think that it’s too formal for this space.

The white case is pretty. I would put a couple of lamps that won’t topple over easily on top. And you might need a floor lamp by the black chair. I can’t see what’s there, so not sure.

Okay, I realize that your kids are young, but I also see that you have great taste.


I rarely say this and I’m trying to set a good example so that we don’t have any room bashing this week. Please folks, we’ll have none of that.


However, maybe could we please think about getting rid of the brown rugs? I know… it’s for the kids but… IMO, they are bringing these rooms down.

The Oriental is big enough. If you’re worried about your kids hurting themselves, please don’t. They need to learn that the world is a hostile place and to be careful when walking.

I should talk.


If you absolutely must have something else, then how about some big sea grass rugs.


Yes, they are a little rough, but you’ll be so much happier. If you go to the rugs on sale, there’s a very inexpensive one that usually comes in big sizes. Or look on Overstock.

I realize that you need the high chairs for at least one of your kids. But, you know… you’re going to be whistling Pomp and Circumstance before you blink. It goes sooooo fast!

How about a round breakfast table?

Maybe something like this. It is on sale now at W-S Home with code: SUMMER and it comes in two sizes. The bigger one is a little price-y, but I just saved you at least 11 large. The small one will seat four, but the big one will seat 6.

Serena and Lily outdoor Riviera side chair

And then some cool bistro chairs. This is one of my favorites from Serena and Lily. They are indoor/outdoor, so super durable and also on sale right now.

rejuvenation pendant - dozens of options


And then, it would be great to have a pendant light fixture over the table. This one from Rejuvenation is very reasonably priced. And also on sale right now. There are zillions of options for the finish and the shade. I used to order for clients from them and was always happy with their products.

I think that these pieces will help balance out the kitchen cabinets better.

For fireplace mantel ideas please check out this post.

and this one too.

Now— here’s the whipped cream on the chocolate cake.

It looks like there’s room between the trunk and the door to put in what’s sometimes referred to as a pony wall or a knee wall or a half wall.

I did one once and I wish that I had taken photos but it was before my i-phone.

This will add so much value to your home. And while it will still be very open, it’ll also keep it from feeling like it’s just one room.


Here are some examples of half-walls for inspiration.


Harmon Architects - Living-Dining room with knee wall room separator

Harmon Architects – Living-Dining room with knee wall room separator


Depending on how wide your room is, you can add a little wall, but you don’t have to. All you need on the wall side is the wooden pilaster.

You can also create a little book-case, but the base can also be solid.

via Addicted To Decorating - via HGTV-pony-walls-with-columns-Rehab-Addict-project-with-Lebron-James-living-room-and-dining-room

found on Addicted to Decorating but from the HGTV show Rehab Addict


There’s also a nice half-wall in this post. (one of my favorite posts)


Here’s another post about how to deal with difficult windows.


Well, I hope that was a help to you Sara and to other people with some similar issues.


PS: please don’t forget to check out this week’s hot sales


PSS: super important and I don’t know what to do.


I’m so sorry, but I’ve had at least 15 requests for blog posts to address your unique problems. Some of these are very long, detailed emails. While I love hearing from you, I can’t handle the extra requests.

And you can read why I can’t here. The issue was better but since I hit my head, it’s made a come-back. POTS  (I had a very bad episode on Sunday) Today, is a good day, however. And please, a reminder. No medical advice. My physicians are excellent. This is not a life-threatening condition unless I pass out and really hit my head! But it IS debilitating.

I don’t get migraines, however, it is like that in that when I’m having an episode, I’m incapacitated. It is not age related. It’s an autonomic nervous system disorder which actually more commonly affects younger women. But it can affect anyone, male or female at any age. It is not stress, anxiety, depression or “all in my head.” To put it succinctly, what’s going on is an elevated heart rate, while standing, coupled with a severe drop in blood pressure. Although, the latter has happened while sitting in a warm place.

If you’d like to make a suggestion for a blog post, it would be best to do it at least a week or two after I do a post like this.

And please keep the initial request fairly short. I understand. I’m the queen of overly-long emails, but if it comes in at the wrong, time, it may not get read as carefully.

I hope that I’m not coming across as a bitch. In an ideal world, I would have more help, but what I need is help to organize the help. (edit: October 2018. I have more help now, especially for technical matters pertaining to the running of the website.)

So, before you send something, please think carefully and as objectively as you can if this will be of interest to a large number of readers. If yours is some quirky and unusual sitch, it is not going to end up on the blog. I wish that I could accommodate everyone, but it’s not possible.

Thanks so much for your understanding. I love you all!



108 Responses

    1. Hi Kathy,

      Well, I have a problem with the stained glass idea because it’s not going to look right, IMO. Stained glass, even clear, usually goes in older homes. Genuine Victorian, Edwardian and Craftsmen styles. The only exception might be a bathroom and occasionally a kitchen but only as an accent.

      The problem with these windows isn’t just the light, it’s the placement and size of the windows which is awkward.

      I’m always open to the ideas of others, but in this particular case, I feel exceedingly strongly that the windows should disappear.

      They should not be a focal point in any way. So, plain film is fine- especially in the short term. Covering them is even better and getting rid of them is the best.

      The main idea is should the Lees spend a wad and do shutters everywhere, and I say no to that too. I believe very strongly, that would be a mistake.

      However, this DOES sound like a fun project with the kids. If there’s a playroom, it would be cute to put these up in those windows or their rooms, maybe.

  1. Thank you for the wonderful post! We’ve been reading through the comments and seeing all the other fabulous ideas. Thanks to everyone!

    I appreciate you taking the time to devote a blog to this topic. We’ve talked about covering the windows with art or getting rid of the windows and moving the fireplace to that wall. In the meantime we will be putting window film up as an easy fix! Why have we never thought of this? Out the back window my husband is in the process of putting up a redwood pergola (with flagstone patio and outdoor kitchen, woohoo) and we are training table grapevines to cover. It will provide much needed shade for the door and large window. Grapes grow well in Sacramento and will cover the area in no time.

    I want, Want, WANT the marble table and looked into this particular table, previously. Unfortunately, when I looked into it marble doesn’t seem well suited to crayons, berries or kid anything. Any ideas for a sturdier material?

    The half-wall piqued our interest and we might investigate putting one in! What a wonderful idea to break up the big room. We talked maybe we would do that with our other living/dining space as it already has an arch/thingy (obviously my scientist training did not prepare me for using proper architectural terms).

  2. Thank you for the wonderful post! The comments are fantastic and we are reading through them for further inspiration.

    I appreciate you taking the time to devote a blog to this topic. We’ve talked about covering the windows with art or getting rid of the windows and moving the fireplace to that wall. In the meantime we will be putting window film up as an easy fix! Why have we never thought of this? Out the back window my husband is in the process of putting up a redwood pergola (with flagstone patio and outdoor kitchen, woohoo) and we are training table grapevines to cover. It will provide much needed shade for the door and large window. Grapes grow well in Sacramento and will cover the area in no time.

    I want, Want, WANT the marble table and looked into this particular table, previously. Unfortunately, when I looking into it marble doesn’t seem well suited to crayons, berries or kid anything. Any ideas for a sturdier material?

    The half-wall piqued our interest and we might investigate putting one in! What a wonderful idea to break up the big room. We talked maybe we would do that with our other living/dining space as it already has an arch/thingy (obviously my scientist training did not prepare me for using proper architectural terms).

    1. Hi Sara,

      You’re very welcome! And I love all of your ideas. Too funny about the kitchen table and that you were actually looking at that very table!

      I’ve written about marble countertops and while marble doesn’t actually stain very easily as some fear, it does etch which is a discoloration that can be seen but only if the light is hitting the right way.

      One solution is letting it naturally weather and then in time, it’ll all be etched. I’ve even heard of some people pouring lemon juice all over their marble. That would take a lot of courage and I would recommend trying it on a sample first.

      The marble can also be honed which minimizes etching.

      Short of that, the table does come with a wood top, but I’m not as fond of it for your kitchen. The only other idea I have is that if you can find a similar base, you could do a quartz material round top which would be the same look, but more impervious to stains and won’t etch.

      arch/thingy is an appropriate architectural term IMO. :]

  3. Did you address the large window? If so, I missed it in my haste to read the post. I would consider putting up an awning outside to block the harsh afternoon sun but still get the light. I’m with you, though. Skip the shutters. (Said by one who has a lot of shutters in her house.)

  4. Thank you for the great ideas. We’ve talked about covering them with art and getting rid of the windows and moving the fireplace to that wall. In the meantime we will be putting window film up as an easy fix! Why have we never thought of this? Out the back window my husband is putting up a redwood pergola and we are training table grapevines to cover. It will provide much needed shade for the door and large window. The tile actually does not cover the entire first floor. The brown, non tile flooring is carpet; the first “not terrible” upgrade to tide us over a few years. We don’t know what we will replace it with but removing all flooring in the first floor and staining the concrete slab is something we’ve done before. It’s hard work but we loved it in a our previous home. I WANT the marble table and looked into this particular table, previously. Unfortunately, marble isn’t well suited to crayons, berries or kid anything. Any ideas for a sturdier material?

  5. Excellent post. All her questions will resonate with many of us. Your assessment is just a pleasure to read.
    Bought a new builder house spring 2013. Great builder in California Central Valley But to keep our costs down we only upgraded lighting and added all the patio sliders offered. Picked out a basic carpet color knowing we would replace flooring. Picked one of the no extra charge granites only paid for the upgraded edge because our realtor (she worked in the model office for the builder but was So helpful) told us that in Her opinion, and the other builder-realtor opinion, the one thing that made the biggest difference in the completed homes was a nice upgraded edge, not a more expensive granite. Excellent advice.
    4 yrs later we decided to move to Georgia. Put house up for sale and it went fast. I was so glad we had opted for the upgraded lighting and patio access instead of spending for things people might want to change. I had repainted (builders paint choices all decent but the light taupe I’d chosen was wearing on me) in Gray Owl throughout. It gave the home a fresh soft vibe that appealed to many. Our tile had been one of the no cost options too. A couple of well placed area rugs can do wonders for even neutral tile.
    It’s a shame people have to choose options unwanted but really, we almost always pay for SOMETHING in any house we buy that we dislike, right?


  6. OK, as soon as I post this, you may have gotten a bunch of comments that say the same thing!

    But….Sara Lee does have some pretty chunky molding at the ceiling. There is molding around the doors. If she does add a pony wall, she will be halfway to a cottage or craftsman style. One of your reader comments did talk about craftsman style houses in the northwest. Is the exterior vaguely craftsman?

    I googled “craftsman built ins” and there are a ton of photos of built ins with little windows above that have molding around them and look good with the built-in. I know these windows are a little far apart, but perhaps some shelving in between? You can also go big with the moldings around the window if you are referencing craftsman style. Benefit would be storage. And you might be able to incorporate a new mantel with it. I know you might lose the fort, but Sara would have to weigh changing the windows against adding a fort somewhere else in the room.

    Shading the outside might be easiest, but if things were looking more craftsman, then some type of new glass (leaded or stained or frosted or wavy) might look good. Check out Frank Lloyd Wright if you want stained glass designs that look very modern. Here’s one from etsy
    Thanks, this was fun to think about!

  7. Agree with your suggestions Laurel and particularly like the idea of the addition of a pony wall or similar. As for the ‘prison windows’ I am wondering if they are a trend as seeing them in new-builds here in Canada as well, on homes of every style. Personally and with no intent to offend; I really don’t care for their appearance as they remind ‘me’ from the outside of the openings (crenelles?) you see on medieval castles and/or old military fortresses and if lack of natural lighting was an issue I would much prefer the installation of a skylight (or a conventional sized window). -Brenda-

  8. It seems to me this is a masculine area that needs a feminine touch to balance the rooms.
    How about instead of the bistro chairs Sara buys chairs that can be upholstered in a laminated fabric and rather than the pendant light something more feminine?

    1. There are dozens of ways she could go, although that’s just something I threw in for good measure. And I’ve done numerous chairs in fabric I sent out first to be laminated. They are terrific!

  9. Laurel. I agree with your suggestion to get rid of/hide the small windows. My suggestion is to cut BLACK foam core board to the exact size of each opening–it will block out 99% of the light. Maybe a little bit of light will creep in around the edge! Put the foam core board in each opening and then cover the windows with 3 vertical works of art, framed posters, etc. I think she needs some larger art on that wall. Believe me, the black foam core blocks out light and heat. I have used it. I love reading your blog!
    From: a Southern girl!

  10. I’d seriously consider an awning (for the sliding door side). My grandfather used to make and install them a few hours south of this home. That valley gets HOT! Alternatively, Costco sells a huge free standing square pergola type structure that would block much of the sun. I like the climbing vine idea, too, but not sure what would grow nicely in that heat.

  11. Hi Laurel, interesting and informative as always. You made me scratch my head when you recommended the tv cabinet not be white due to overly matching the other cabinet. I thought your cardinal rule was that if it existed in one part of the room, it must exist in another part, for balance. So I always try to make sure there are at least two of each color. … What am I misunderstanding, Design Guru? Thanks! 😁😁

    1. Well, we have white mouldings and there will be a white fireplace mantel, most likely. White can also be in pillows, lampshades, accessories, art, etc and I would bring more creamy white into the kitchen. That’s what I mean by balance. If you look at the composition as a whole, two perpendicular sides are white and the opposite two are brown and black. That’s not the best balance, IMO.

  12. Taking a cue from Sara’s fondness for Gustavian style, I would have her husband add some muntins and frosted window film to thoses little windows.
    If she went that route, I would add some nice moulddings around the windows too.
    And a huge yes to the pony/half/ knee wall!

    1. Hi Rebecca,

      Well, then the muntins would have to go on the big windows and door too. I don’t see the windows as being in keeping with Gustavian style. They are quite contemporary. But, yes, a window casing would help to some extent, but then, there’s no sill and they don’t open. I love muntins, just not here.

  13. My first thought was to lengthen the windows and use draperies or blinds. Looks like the one on the far left may be too close to the fireplace to use draperies. My second thought was to get rid of them! If hubby is skilled, it could be worth drywalling on the inside, and closing it up and matching the exterior on the outside. My third thought is to use leaded glass maybe with a frame around it – similar to what you sometimes see in older homes that have these smallish windows on either side of a fireplace. You could fill the space in between the windows either with mirrors that mock the leaded glass, or put up sconces.

  14. You are brilliant and funny! “Get rid of them” is sound advice for so many things! The homeowner will save big bucks by taking your advice, and she will be much happier (IMO) with the result. I’m sorry that her experience with the designer didn’t work out, but I’m happy she realized they weren’t a good match and moved on. You and others who have commented have made such wonderful suggestions. Lots for the homeowner to consider. So happy that the homeowner focuses on her family and accommodates their play. An off-center cabinet is such a small thing and provides such a great benefit from its placement. Who wouldn’t want to build a fort!

    1. Indeed! Forts are cool and in a few years, will be a thing of the past as the children move on to other things like the drum set in the basement. lol (if there’s a basement)

  15. When looking up the colors I saw a color called Sylvan Mist which I thought would brighten things up a bit from all-over brown and might go well with the oriental rug, which I like.
    Another idea for the windows is stained glass.

    Oh,and now my condo cries out for a knee wall! Thanks for the idea (I think).

  16. Another fun fix to shade that big window would be planting the three sisters – beans, corn and squash – in front of it. Attractive and tasty! Or clematis, sweet peas, sun flowers – anything tall or leggy that likes lots of sunshine, really.

  17. Hey Everyone,

    Thank you so much for your incredible comments! There are a lot today and I promise to get to all of them, but will not have access to my computer for a time, just now, so no worries if you don’t see your comment published yet. Check back later and you’ll see it. xoxo ~ Laurel

  18. Hi Laurel, i love, love, love the half wall idea! Such an elegant and practical fix. It gets rid of the bowling alley look (not that this room is too narrow-a pet peeve of mine). It also provides extra storage/display if the talented Mr. Lee adds cabinets.
    I would think about extending the tile thru the living area, if a match can be found. I had it in several houses. So easy to clean and it stays cool in sunny southern rooms. Or put a transition strip between the half walls and go with similar color wood. Then rugs for softness and sound absorption. I would also move the cases toward the west and use the fireplace corner for a reading fort. With no windows there’s no worry about centering. After closing up the windows, Sara can put art anywhere on the wall that works with the new arrangement. I might move the art from over the fireplace and add a mirror there to bounce the light around. Rooms with light from only one side can be glaring
    I also am a big fan of the round table. No legs to bump knees on , and you can always squeeze in one more for lunch. I love the dark base you chose. With the dark pendant, it pulls the cabinets into the plan, makes everything more coherent.
    All in all, I’d say Sara has a great beginning, and terrific taste. This will be a beautiful comfortable home with a little tweaking, and you’re (much better than the hired decorator’s) advice.

      1. The tile actually does not cover the entire first floor. The brown, non tile flooring is carpet in both living areas and dining area; the first “not terrible” upgrade to tide us over a few years. We don’t know what we will replace it with but removing all flooring in the first floor and staining the concrete slab is something we’ve done before. It’s hard work but we loved it in a our previous home in combination with rugs.

        1. Hi Sara!

          Oh sorry. My bad! For some reason, my brain told me that it was an area rug!

          And actually, I love the idea of using the concrete slab as the floor.

  19. Laurel, I hope some builders are reading your post. Considering the number of professionals that get involved with house design/construction, one would think someone would have improved the windows or siting of the house.

    I agree that the window film is the best solution. Even in Southern California, where I live, interior light is a positive commodity. Without that southern light from the small windows, the entire living area could be gloomy until afternoon.

  20. “They just go with the thing they don’t want and later on, rip it out and put in what they DO want. It is actually a more cost-effective way to do things.”

    This is so intrinsically wrong, on so many levels. Waste of money, energy, time and resources, and the wanton waste of materials is what is now destroying our planet. This is not a political statement, but fact.

    I am absolutely not getting at you, Laurel, but pointing a finger at the builders who are too greedy and too lazy to take into account the destruction they are wreaking; they are a huge problem.

    We bought a builder’s house 25 years ago, faux-Georgian look, great floor-plan, and it was fine with a lick of paint on the white interior walls, and we sold it two years later when we were posted back east again. I looked it up recently – new grey asphalt roof, new grey vinyl walls (to replace the original stucco-on-styrofoam), new beige no-maintenance garden (we’d dug a pond for wildlife to catch a drink, it being the Prairies), new triple-glazed windows, new everything – what you might call lipstick on a pig. Whereas the house we’re in now was built 150 years ago from stone, with a cedar shingles roof. It’s had ONE new roof (steel) since then, no change to the walls, one set of new windows. It’s as sound and solid as the day it was built.

    These new houses, built to not last, are an egregious example of affluenza.

    Getting off my soapbox now! I know this isn’t an environmentalist’s blog but a designer’s blog.

    And I hope Sara Lee gets sorted – it’s not her fault she was boxed in by the bullying builder, and she deserves a better start for her family’s life. She’s approached you for guidance, so she’s clearly a clever girl with vision and determination!

    1. Thanks Fenella!

      Lipstick on a pig. lol That’s a good one. And I agree that it boils down to greed. And while there are some builders who do, do a beautiful job and take great pride in their work and will make accommodations. But most don’t.

  21. Brilliant ideas, Laurel! Because I live in the PNW where darkness is almost omnipresent and we have lots of Craftsman and foursquares with little windows that are charming, covering windows doesn’t come to mind often – but it makes sense. Sara does have a lot of good stuff to work with too!

    1. Hi Ruth,

      A craftsman home is an entirely different animal because the small windows make architectural sense within the design. We have them here too in some old homes and usually they are in over a built in bookcase, flanking a fireplace. And yes, they are very charming!

  22. Hi Laurel,
    You’ve come up with some great solutions for Sara. Dry-walling over the three little windows makes so much sense. Some affordable black-out window treatments for the other windows could help with the sun control as well.

    And were you snacking on some pound cake or cheese cake when you wrote this post? Sara Lee…LOL

  23. Just a word of encouragement to Sara. I have a 4 and 5 year old and I am 6 months pregnant w/our 3rd. I know you are tired and overwhelmed but eventually this will come together. Keep reading and learning from Laurel. I have been working on my home for 3 years w/her good advice. Mine was a 25 year old builder grade home when we bought it 3 years ago. Three years later it is looking so much better. I enjoy being in my rooms thanks to hardwood floors, paint ed kitchen cabinets, seagrass and jute rugs, Crypton performance fabric that looks like white linen, natural fiber wall mirrors, easy care house plants, and many other updates big and small. I have found all of these things to be very child-friendly. If you don’t own Laurel’s paint color and palette products, I would highly recommend them. I was able to create a whole house plan and work it as time and money allowed. If your husband is handy, you already have a huge advantage.

  24. Just wanted to chime in on the window film. I’ve used it a lot and it could be the fastest cheapest option at least for right now. There are actually a TON of different kinds and at least in my area there is a good selection at Home Depot and also on Amazon. They are super easy to install… just cut the piece to size, put a bit of slightly soapy water on, and stick them on. Use a credit card or a squeegy to get the air bubbles out.

    There are many different film types… There are films that are intended as UV/light blockers. There are ‘privacy films’ like what you showed. And there are ones that look like stained glass and some are actually quite decent. I had a friend who had a window in a basement bathroom and we used a darker stained glass type film in there and it looked great. Total cost $40.

    So if she just wants a solution NOW I would try that. Long term I tend to agree with you about getting rid of them entirely. The thing about hanging art over that is that they are in such a weird place to begin with, you’re still accentuating it.

    As for the weird windows to begin with… my friend up North just got a new builders home and it has those same windows… on a wall that’s literally 6′ from the neighbour’s house. So they have a nice view of their neighbour’s brick wall. Why??

    1. Hi AWG,

      Thanks so much for all of the great advice! I did another post that had a more decorative window film in it. Hang on. Here it is.

      As to why? Because they can? Should they? Probably not unless it’s a densely populated urban area.

  25. Laurel, your suggestion to cover the small windows with 3 pieces of artwork is absolutely BRILLIANT. Love it. If Sara covers the backs of the pieces with white paper, they’ll look fine from the street side of the window.

    1. Thanks Jana,

      I’m thinking that the windows are on the side of the house, because the big window is the back of the house. And as someone said earlier, it’s most likely because there’s another house very close by.

  26. I also have lived in California and the light is bright! Another option that may calm down the light through those windows, if you don’t block them up, is to add some type of awning or little roof outside to shield from direct sun. Or can you add a trellis outside to cover them and plant a fast-growing vine? Actually, since it’s a corner of the house, if there’s enough room maybe there could be an exterior patio with roof that could extend around both sides and block the harsh sun through the three windows and the big one over the couch.

    Or, since she likes antiques, what about antique stained glass windows that you could hang inside to cover the window openings? You could probably find some of a similar size. That way you could get some light and some character too. You might even be able to work with a stained glass designer or shop to get something custom for the space. (P.S. If you get antique windows, either strip or seal the paint that is already on the window frames.) Of course you would have to check colors of the glass and the light so you liked what you saw in the room!

    These options do keep the windows however, and if they are just too bothersome, I agree with covering them up! Also like the pony wall idea.

  27. So I have a different idea for the windows that may or may not work, and may or may not be expensive depending on your skill level, but have you considered turning them into stained glass windows? If the color is dark enough, it will filter out some of the light, and the effect might be quite nice, like art but with a bit of light coming in. We had stained glass windows in our last place and it was one of the things I liked about the house.

    One cheap way to test the idea would be to get some colored cellophane or even transclucent colored plastic file folders or envelopes and cut them to fit the windows. You could play around with simple shapes – squares or rectangles of different colors – and then tape them to the windows to see what it might look like. That way if you decide it’s not for you, you haven’t spent much at all on the idea.

    In our current house, we have a stained glass skylight that is a very simple design of blue squared pieces of glass surrounding a larger rectangle of green glass. The colors filter the light in s pleasant way so it’s not just a shock of bright light, while still providing the light we need on the top floor. It’s really lovely.

    If you decide you like the look, you could either make your own stained glass or purchase custom-made panels that would fit into your windows, or you could look into the stained glass window clings. I’ve done that option as well and it looks very nice (and it’s another cheap option while you’re deciding on whether you want to get rid of the windows entirely).

    I think your home is lovely and I hear you on wanting to wait to invest time and money until your kids are older!! My youngest is now 5 and I just finally bought a couple of pieces of furniture that I never would have considered until now (too sharp/light colored). I have also bought some well loved oriental rugs from eBay that were really cheap, figuring they still looked pretty good, were the right color, and were cheap enough that it wouldn’t matter if my kids destroyed them, and I am glad I did. They look good! Good luck with everything!

    1. Hi Kiera,

      I love stained glass, but only in certain types of homes that are genuinely old as in Victorian through early 20th century. And I think that it needs to be real leaded glass or it will look cheap. But, it also makes a statement in the room and I’m thinking that it might serve to call more attention to the weirdness of the windows. Of course, there are stained glass patterns that are more contemporary. But I do think that in any case, it would be expensive.

  28. Laurel, Thank you for your comment about builders. God forbid, they have to think…. As a designer, my frustration level with most of them is well over a 10. Great advice on dealing with the options they give. And thank you for ALL of your great advice. I love reading your post.
    I have one suggestion for Sara that I think will make a big difference. Paint that blinding white woodwork a cream color. I’d paint the crown, ceiling, baseboard and island.. So much more soothing and less contrasting to the dark cabinets and milky brown carpet. Hope this helps!

  29. I think the idea of getting rid of the windows inside the room (cover with drywall) makes the most sense. We did this with a small window on our second story that was located inconveniently where we wanted to add a shower. A black painted piece of plywood inserted between the window sash and the new drywall gives the illusion on the outside of simply a dark room. If the windows are more visible from ground level on this house,perhaps Bahama shutters on the outside may work, depending on the style of the house.

  30. Love the idea of covering the windows – bye-bye…and I think that round table is fabulous! I remember the days of play doh ground into the grooves on my farmhouse table…it goes fast. enjoy the madness!

    1. Hi Téa,

      Yes… it all goes so, so fast– that is… except for the first three months. That goes verrrrrrry slowly – lol as one is adjusting to taking care of a crying (no make that shrieking), pooping, peeing, projectile vomiting adorable little being. After that… it’s fast forward (remember the old answering machines?) and getting AARP shit in the mail. Thanks for reminding me! haha

  31. In total agreement on those little windows.

    For the short term, while you find just the right thing, you could get some foam board (available at dollar stores near me), cut it to size and wrap it in some nice fabric.

    I wouldn’t take away the drapery on the big window. Those kids have to hide somewhere. 🙂

    If heat is a problem with that window it may be worth changing to insulated draperies that you can close during the afternoon.

    I able to find some acceptable ones at a reasonable price on Amazon that cut the light and heat and also muffle sound/improve acoustics. Mind you they are not gorgeous and I had to spend quite awhile pressing them.

    They are a heavy thick synthetic which should stand up to toddler abuse well. And for under $60 you won’t be heartbroken if they don’t.

    Seconding the big round table after having spent a lot of time in a home that had two of them. I believe they were at least 60″ tables and worked well for 4-5 people but could also squeeze in twice that number when needed.

  32. This is such a great post, because these are issues most of us relate to, in a house that most of us relate to. We did the half-wall-with-post between our kitchen and family room, and it was the single most effective change we made to our home. And so easily done by a handy husband!

  33. I had a problem with western facing windows thru which the afternoon sun blazed and made the house extremely hot, and let blindingly bright light enter the house. You can fix that with landscaping!

    Put up a trellis outside by the 3 windows and plant a flowering deciduous vine. Put it several feet away from the house so you can walk between the house and trellis. Also, the distance allows diffused light to enter – but the greenery blocks the heat and the blinding light.

    To block heat and blinding light from the sun entering the house from larger west or south facing windows, one can plant beautiful small deciduous trees – again, at the proper distance from the house.

    So this is how you can turn a problem into an asset!

  34. Laurel, I wouldn’t get rid of the windows completely because then there will only be light coming from one side on the room. I used the film on my large floor to almost ceiling windows and it made a huge difference in keeping the room cooler and stopped the fading of my rug. I would put the film over ALL the windows/door that let in the afternoon sun. It will keep the whole house cooler!

    1. Hi Maggie,

      That’s a good point which Sara will need to weigh which she prefers. The room will still be plenty bright because of the other windows, if they are covered.

  35. I have a suggestion which may not be that expensive and make the room look bigger. How about 3 square, framed mirrors? That fit pretty perfectly either inset into the windows or hanging over them so that should they move, they can always take them with? I am not a designer but just a thought.

    1. Hi Karen,

      I like mirrors, but I like the idea of the color of the art better for this room. And it’s so bugging me that the windows really are too high to cover up unless whatever’s covering them is large enough to come down several inches below where they are. That’s fine because there’s also a lot of space between the windows. I’m thinking about a 30″ square would be the ideal size.

  36. The right type of window film would help immensely with both heat control and light control, would also greatly reduce the potential for fading due to UVA and UVB damage.

    I’d center that white piece under the three small windows, add some lamps on top of it, I’d also introduce some more pattern and color into the room with some throw pillows, placemats on the dining table could coordinate.

    I’d also add a tall tree/plant someplace for some greenery.

    If the sills of the three small windows are deep enough, I’d experiment with placing some colorful glass vases to draw your eye up in an attempt to do the lemons/lemonade thing.

    1. Hi Rosemary,

      It sounds like you missed the part which states that the reason for the off-center book-case is to allow for fort building in the corner. That’s also where the throw pillows currently are. And as FL Wright so astutely said. “Form Follows Function.” lol But, great ideas, so thank you!

  37. Hi, laurel

    When I saw this post I was super excited because I thought wow right this will help a lot of us! Because many of us have those bloody windows in our basements. However we need the light and don’t want to cover them up. So I guess it’s back to the drawing board for us cellar-dwellers 😉

    1. Hi TinaMarie! I have done Roman Shades on those odd little windows for my clients. Mostly I have done faux shades (so they don’t work), but you could do working ones as well. I install them higher up on the wall (generally right under the crown moulding), so it looks like a taller window. It really helps the look of those short square windows. I hope that helps!

      1. That could work if the cabinet were about a foot taller, I think, or just a different configuration. What bothers me the most is how high up the windows are. And there’s no moulding, they don’t open, etc.

        1. Hi Laurel! You are right, the Roman Shades wouldn’t work well for Sara’s windows. I just wanted to give TinaMarie an idea that might work on her basement windows. I’ve noticed these little windows more and more on new homes, especially in smaller communities (at least around here). Hopefully, the builders will move on from that soon! Thanks for all you do!

  38. I’ve lived in homes similar. Did the diffuser thing and added two glass shelves and put up my colored glass items. The light coming through made pretty and elegant viewing. I agree with all your thoughts regarding painting and such. You are always “right on!” (At least, I think so.)

  39. Hi Laurel,
    I like the idea of covering those three windows with sheetrock but, over time, isn’t a lot of dust/dirt going to accumulate between the sheetrock and window glass? Is that something to take into consideration?

    Anyway, always a pleasure to start my day with a post from my favorite designer!

    1. Hi Anna,

      That’s a good question. I don’t think so because the sheetrock gets taped and then spackled so nothing should go through it and even if it does, because a nail got pounded in or something, who cares? It won’t be seen. These windows don’t open, so very little if anything coming in from the outside.

  40. Laurel – great post and such a good idea to get rid of those windows. I did the same on my last house so the new kitchen cabinets would be placed where i wanted them, and it worked out great. Also couldn’t agree more on painting the white cabinet. I have painted many pieces of furniture with Annie Sloan Chalk paint, and it is so easy and nice looking. Here is a link to a site where you can virtually mix your own color – try the proportions of different paints to get to what you want before you buy the paint. They will also ship the paint and wax to your door.


    1. What a great resource Kim! I’ve never used the chalk paint but I’ve read terrific things about it. There are a zillion tutorials online as well. I just had my little book-cases painted and it’s regular paint but they look perfect. Wish I had done it sooner.

  41. I would like to mention that no matter how Sara decides to dress (or hide) her windows on the inside, in order to stop any excess heat, she could consider some type of exterior shade or awning.

    She would still have the light and the view, but be much more comfortable.

    1. Hi Mary Elizabeth,

      That’s great advice. I forgot about that. They were more common in southern Indiana. Hot as hell in the summer with insanely high dew points and temps hovering near the 100 degree mark. I lived at the pool club we belonged to and was on the swim team! But getting back to awnings, they are rare in the northeast because our summers are short and I for one, welcome the warmth. I just wish I could bottle it for the winter.

  42. Good advice Laurel. I vote for getting rid of tiny windows. Plug em with Sheetrock. I have the frosted sticky film over some of my bathroom windows and it works really well so people can‘t see in…but you don‘t have that problem and the foil still lets in a lot of light, which may still burn out your retinas.
    Those tiny windows are, 99.9% of the time, only put in by the builders because there is another house 3 ft from your own house, as „privacy windows“. But they are almost always balony.

  43. Good advice Laurel. I vote for getting rid of tiny windows. Plug em with Sheetrock. I have the frosted sticky film over some of my bathroom windows and it works really well so people can‘t see in…but you don‘t have that problem and the foil still lets in a lot of light, which may still burn out your retinas.
    Those tiny windows are, 99.9% of the time, only put in by the builders because there is another house 3 ft from your own house, as “privacy windows“. But they are almost always baloney.

    1. Baloney indeed! This looks to be an eight-foot ceiling, so anyone 5′-7″ or taller, can easily see out. I would’ve put the fireplace on that wall and flanked it with bookcases. And I’m not thrilled with the hole in the wall style– either. But nobody asked me. lol I would suggest that a proper hearth be built when the fireplace gets dealt with. This room has a ton of potential!

  44. The knee wall is a fantastic idea. We did that when we put on the addition. It gives the room structure, allows for an easy transition with paint color and it is the best of both worlds as you get the open concept but have individual rooms. Great idea Laurel!
    And the idea of just eliminating those annoying windows is really good. I think we get stuck when we are looking at something and just can not figure out what the heck to do. And with kids you don’t have time nor energy to actually look at things outside the proverbial box. Good luck Sara, you have a great start.

    1. Hi Carolyn,

      I love the knee wall elements. I could do an entire post about them. I think that it’s fine to have open rooms, but that’s just it. I still like there to be some delineation between spaces. And one reason is for the vast uninterrupted expanse of ceiling. And yes, it’s also a great way to switch paint colors!

  45. Laurel, I love that table and those white/gray bistro chairs for the kitchen. As you said, they will balance out the colors in the kitchen beautifully. The whole kitchen will look pulled together because of those.

  46. *waving from about an hour east of Sacramento* 😉

    What about custom designed, floor to ceiling bookcases (for books or other things). Especially if your husband is handy with such things? I don’t know about the window closest to the fireplace, but maybe you could do the drywall thing on that one? Just an idea… 🙂

  47. Thank you Sara for sharing your home with us – it’s going to be lovely once you’ve put all your talents and ideas to work. Laurel, I LOVE the idea of getting rid of those windows. I know someone that blocked a window in her home. She hung an inexpensive Venetian blind inset into the window frame with the slats open and slightly angled up. Then she inset a piece of plywood painted black behind the blind (on the interior), then dry-walled over it. From the exterior it looked like like the window was still functional and it solved a design dilemma on the interior. As for the big west-facing window, an awning would be the answer if it works with your exterior. Awnings can cut down solar gain up to 75%. Check out this link on pinterest, your hubby could probably build one of these.
    Good luck and keep cool.

  48. Why oh why are builders putting in weird windows. Why? We bought an old 1900 farmhouse that needs new windows. I refuse to put vinyl windows in, and every single contractor looks at me like I am crazy. Old wood windows look right on old houses. Vinyl does not. Not only that but as long as they are kept painted they last a whole lot longer than the new ones where the seal fails. I did a lot of research and there are several wood window restoration folks out there. Will probably get storm windows for winter.

    1. Hi Korina,

      I guess they think that they’re being fashionable or interesting. I really don’t know the thinking. But great that you found some wood window restoration folks!

    2. Hi, with older homes there are many people who strongly believe original windows are an asset. You can look at a product called indows, they are inserts to keep your curb appeal but give you good insulation. There are also a lot of tutorials on fixing them. And you are right, a lot of people can work with them. ❤️

  49. Hi Laurel,

    I have covered over many a window in several homes over the years! I usually just dry walled the opening so on the outside the window was still there and it looked like a curtain was covering it (I never did this on the front of the home… usually was on the side). On the inside I had it dry walled…..end of problem!

    By the way, we lived in Sacramento for 5 yrs. and it is bloody hot there for about 6 mo. out of the yr.! So go ahead and rid yourself of a major design headache!


    1. Hi SS,

      Yes, we did it too a few times. And we moved doorways and added walls. I always loved making those kinds of changes because it made sense and improved the spaces. And we did as you did as well. Did not remove the window entirely.

    2. I like the idea of sheetrock, but no paper on the glass. This might be the cheapest except for the paint unless the builder did not leave partial cans of each color used.

      The new squares would be a perfect place to test colors for the living room

      Another idea: go to an art glass shop which makes stained glass window hangings. Chose dark colors or opaque glass and mount them against the glass. They can be very simple and/or abstract. You could use paintings you like as color inspiration.

      When you sell the house, you can take them or leave them.

      Of course, I agree with Laurel that there are a multitude of things you can do which will make your place more beautiful.

      Can’t you fit one of those kiddie tents in the bedroom. Are you afraid that you won’t be able them when cooking, etc.

      I think one of those cute tents will be irresistible!!

      I lived in Sacramento for 25 years ending in 1999. I here it has gotten much hotter.

      1. Hi Ramona,

        I was expecting to see tents, but I see a glass company instead. That’s an interesting idea, but it depends on the style of the house and style of the glass. And regarding the paper, I should’ve said because they would need to attach some small wood studs to attach the sheetrock to and that wouldn’t be so attractive to see from the outside. Of course, it could be fabric and someone put in some blinds which would be great if there’s enough room.

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