Market Ready

The New York TimesJune 13, 2012
Q. What’s the best way to deal with windows that open onto an air shaft, to make my apartment look as appealing as possible?

A. Windows that look out onto an air shaft (or any tight interior space) are rarely desirable, but they are a fact of life for many people who live in the city. Still, it’s possible to make them seem less problematic by adding well-considered window coverings.

When buyers tour your apartment, “you want the focus to be completely away from that view,” said Emily Beare, a managing director with the New York real estate company Core. “You don’t want people’s eyes to go there first,” which is likely to happen, she suggested, if the windows are left bare.

Window coverings that obscure the view may keep buyers from rejecting the apartment outright the moment they walk in, even if they peek behind the curtains later. “You want them to experience the apartment and fall in love with the space first,” Ms. Beare said. “Then the view comes into play.”

That was the thinking behind the way she helped stage an apartment she was selling in the Flatiron district, which had only interior views. “We did beautiful window treatments with sheers on the windows, so you really didn’t see what was outside,” she said, but natural light could still filter in. “And then we had very good lighting inside.”

But you don’t have to stop at sheer curtains, says the New York interior designer Amanda Nisbet. Windows on air shafts “are pretty typical for New York apartments,” she said, and “I like to treat them as you would any window, and maybe make an asset out of a difficult architectural issue.”

In her own apartment, Ms. Nisbet did just that. In a hallway with three windows that look onto an air shaft, she added silky orange Roman shades and floor-to-ceiling gray satin curtains. “I really dressed up an otherwise ugly element,” she said. “It’s something visually lovely to look at and makes the hall more interesting.”

Most of the time she leaves the curtains wide open and the blinds three-quarters of the way down. That way, she said, “you still get a little light below, but the top part, at eye level, is closed.”

If you don’t have the budget for such an elaborate solution, Ms. Nisbet says, blinds made from natural materials like bamboo, from a retailer like Smith + Noble, are a good option. “That adds some textural interest,” she said, while hiding the view.

Whatever you do to deal with the issue, she added, “it’s imperative to address it.” If you don’t, a potential buyer’s impression is likely to be, “Oh, this is an ugly view.”

ARCHIVES