Window coverings are not always curtains or blinds

November 9, 2011

Q. Do you have any suggestions for covering a patio door at night for privacy? For 30 years I have had curtains, but I really don’t want curtains or blinds. I’ve thought about a movable screen or room divider, but I am having trouble locating one.

Gaithersburg

A. Import stores such as Cost Plus World Market carry a variety of folding screens starting at around $60, or . you can go to a store that specializes in higher-end furnishings and get a screen custom-covered with the fabric of your choice. Rockville Interiors (301-424-1900; www.rockvilleinteriors.com) offers these with square or arched tops starting at around $250.

Besides a folding screen, which you’d need to store somewhere during the day, there are other solutions, some of which might get around whatever concerns you have regarding curtains and blinds. Fleur Yeganeh, owner of Fleur Interiors in Gaithersburg (301-417-2991), says customers who don’t want to see window coverings during the daytime often like Silhouette Shades from Hunter Douglas. The sheer, pleated fabric folds up into a heading just three inches tall, mounted to the top of the door or to the wall over the doorway. “It doesn’t look like a shade or window treatment at all,” Yeganeh says. “There’s just a piece of white heading over the window.”

Stephanie Fulop, an interior decorator at Rockville Interiors, recommends looking at Silhouette along with other window covering styles, including Hunter Douglas’s Skyline Gliding Window Panels, which stack to the left or right of patio doors. Rockville offers free in-home design consultation.

Q. We are remodeling our kitchen, and there are lots of cabinets that the builder put in. They are still very good, but they are almond color in laminated vinyl. We would like to keep them and change the color. Several contractors said we cannot change the color because they are not solid wood, and suggested resurfacing. Replacing all of the doors with different panels would cost more than our budget allows. Is there any way we can change the color of these cabinets and retain them?

Ellicott City

A. Yes. You can repaint kitchen cabinets, even those coated with vinyl. Rust-Oleum sells a kit called Cabinet Transformations that works on vinyl, even though the main marketing materials focus on painted wood, laminate and melamine, a different type of plastic. Or you can use a standard primer and paint.

With the kit, just follow the directions for scrubbing with a deglosser, painting on a bond coat and then finishing up with an optional glaze.

If you use standard materials, clean with mineral spirits or denatured alcohol. Wear gloves and make sure the room is well ventilated. Then brush or roll on a primer labeled as suitable for slick surfaces. Zinsser’s B-I-N Primer/Sealer, which contains shellac and has an alcohol base, works especially well because you can recoat it in as little as 45 minutes. Because the primer dries completely during that time, the final paint cures faster.

For the final paint, use any high-quality latex paint, or an oil paint if you wish. Glossy or semigloss paints are the standard choice for kitchen cabinets because fingerprints wipe off more easily from slick surfaces. Matte paints leave a rougher surface, though you can’t detect the difference by touch.

One caution when repainting vinyl: If sunlight streams in and hits sections of the cabinetry, you might want to use light-colored paint, because the vinyl underneath is almond. Manufacturers of vinyl windows and vinyl siding caution customers not to make a dramatic color changes when painting because dark colors absorb more heat from the sun than light colors do. Vinyl expands and contracts quite a bit as its temperature changes; you don’t want to add to the expansion and possibly cause problems with the lamination.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com . Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

The Checklist Read Jeanne Huber’s roundup of home-improvement tasks you should tackle in November, such as how to check smoke detectors, at washingtonpost.com/home.

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