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Carve out private space from public room

In the open-plan design prevalent in loft-style living, there is seldom a natural divide between public and private space. When the move has been made and the furniture in place, you might discover that you crave a quiet corner.

We are not accustomed to living with the whole picture, and while the living room, dining area and kitchen can be happily integrated, the bedroom is still naturally thought to be a separate and more personal space. So how do you make the divide, given that you don’t want to erect any permanent walls or partitions?

In the serene loft bedroom shown in the accompanying photograph, I fashioned a delicate but effective treatment with lengths of sheer fabric. The panels were hung from a rod suspended from the high ceiling by rigid poles so that they would not sway or twist.

The curtain panels serve two purposes: They act as a visual break and also afford the opportunity to build on the existing decorating style. You can look for curtains in a style that suits your décor, but extra-long panels might not be easy to find. Making your own is not difficult, with the great selection of fabrics available at sewing and upholstery stores. Inexpensive yardage can be decorated with paint, dye and trimmings for a unique custom finish.

The owners of this loft dearly love their trips to the South Seas, and wanted their northern home to share some of the airy appeal. The island mood is reflected in the choice of color and materials. Indigo-blue paint has been washed over the walls and tie-dyed into the sheer curtain panels. The bamboo bedside unit and wicker lampshade are also exotic touches.

The old iron bed discovered in an antiques store is designed to circulate hot water to heat the bed, a luxury in a time when there was no central heating. Although it no longer works in this way, the bed looks grand and is a focal point in the loft. This is something to think about when all corners of the living area are in view. More care is taken to bring continuity and character to each part of the whole.

DEAR DEBBIE: Like so many others, I am struggling with what to do about the windows in our great room, dining room and kitchen, which are essentially one big room. We live in a rural environment and prefer to keep things very simple and earthy. Do I cover the transoms, or just the lower part of the windows? — Michelle and Sam.

DEAR MICHELLE AND SAM: Like choosing colors for your room, what goes on the windows is a very personal decision. I am not a great fan of curtains and hang them only when necessary for privacy.

But there are many great options today, and I suggest you do a bit of investigating on well-established Web sites such as www.hunterdouglas.com. You can see how the wide range of blinds look on different window configurations.

Blinds come in wood, metal and sheer fabrics in a range of colors. When you are dealing with one large room, it is advisable to stick to a single type of window treatment. If possible, don’t break up the large windows with the transoms above by hanging curtains over the lower section only. It interrupts the architectural integrity of the windows.

Debbie Travis is a columnist for King Features Syndicate. E-mail questions to her at house2home@debbietravis.com.

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