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Window films have vision

I admit that when it comes to decorating, my first or even second thoughts have nothing to do with windows. I start with what sort of mood I want to create in the room, and then move to color and furniture choices. It's only after I've been living in a fishbowl for far too long and getting curious looks from my neighbors that I make my move.

There is no shortage of draperies, blinds, shades and shutters on the market, all available in an exceptional range of fashionable fabrics and styles. However, I have discovered one more option -- window films. What intrigues me about window films is their versatility. Here's a decorative feature that can be both practical and stylish. Practically speaking, there are films that cut damaging sunrays, provide insulation and even strengthen the glass in your existing windows and doors. And there is a finish or design that will enhance any room; with today's manufacturing prowess, the decorating options are endless.

Plain glass can be transformed with film finishes that include frosted, tinted or stained, pebbled, etched and feathered. You get a whole range of expensive glass looks at a fraction of the cost of the real thing. This is an advantage if you want to add some historic window detail to a new home, or match up a design that is difficult to find.

Available light is a precious commodity, particularly in rooms with small windows. Semitranslucent films block out images while allowing some light to penetrate -- a great solution for bathrooms and hallways. And because you can cut and fit film to any size, you need cover only as much of the glass as is necessary, or plan a design that is only partially cloudy.

New technologies have made unique custom designs possible. The stylized glass option on the sliding glass door shown in the accompanying photograph demonstrates how an ordinary doorway can become a work of art. A specialized computer film-cutting system has been used to cut a graphic tree image into a sheet of frosted film. Please visit www.apexfilms.ca to see more of its exciting installations.

Imaginative applications are well-suited to interior glass doors, both plain and multipaned. Repeat a motif from a favorite fabric or carpet, or continue a series of lines or architectural details found elsewhere in the house. These patterns will appear to be etched in the glass.

The floor-to-ceiling windows in lofts and many new condominiums present their own challenge. Such a large expanse of glass is not only difficult to cover with traditional draperies, but room temperature and damage from the sun are issues to be considered. Low-emissivity reflective film insulates to block heat transfer, which translates into energy savings and comfort. Films can also filter out harmful ultraviolet rays, protecting furnishings, draperies, floors and artwork from fading and sun damage.

Window films are available at home and decorating stores as well as specialty shops. You can choose to do your own application or have them professionally installed. Simple film is not difficult to put up: It requires a clean surface, water and a squeegee or scraper to smooth it down.

These fashionable films are worth a good look.

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

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