Windows, being our eyes to the outside, are so in evidence, and can be a problem in almost any shape. They are invariably the largest vertical element in a room. People, as upright animals, tend to look at the largest upright elements. Windows must operate, and this invariably complicates the coverings we use to adorn or obscure them.

Whatever the reason, window treatments are big news in decorating - mostly because people, being inventive, are beginning to think about window coverings in fresh terms.

I've seen several good innovations. Wide, flat panels of lace, held to a rod on a traversing tract with sturdy clamps, covered a large window wall, transforming a simple dining room into an elegant space. Vertical blinds made of upholstery webbing, one of the truly inexspensive materials still available, are used at one picture window, their rough, natural textures totally in keeping in a roomful of wicker, sisal and canvas furniture. And hinged panels are taking the place of draperies in many homes.

Hinged panels can be a real asset to any space. In a dining room I designed, for example, there is a radiator under the set of three small, high windows. I had a parson's slab-end table built to fit cover the radiator and sit under the windows. White plastic laminate on the table matches the white window trim and provides a handy server for buffet meals.

On either side is a pair of hinged plywood panels, finished in the same white laminate, made the height of the top of the windows. This stately pair flanks the window-plus-table arrangement. The whole thing looks important while allowing the radiator and windows to work.

In a long, narrow master bedroom, the "window wall" was nothing more than an unimposing window in the center of one of the short walls. To give this wall the stature it needed to be in scale with the room, I had to enlarge the window visually. I needed to find something more interesting than draperies.

In a shop devoted to architectural parts, I found just what I was looking for - four matched wood panels that had formerly been part of the walls of a wood-paneled room in someone's elegant old home. I hinged the panels and reinforced the backs with a one-by-one stock lumbar frame (no one would see it so it only need paint). Odds and ends that don't fit into the closet, like storage baskets and plant stands, can be stashesd behind the panels.

Shutters come, as door, in full height lengths and can be hinged together to become self-supporting. In one room I used hinged pairs of shutters, left unfinished, matching unfinished chairs, with fat seat pads covered in white linen, and a glass table top on a white cube base, all resting on a natural sisal rug.

The wood of the old panels' face was reduced to its natural color and bleached to the same light finish as the bureau. Off-white upholstery on the chaise longue, taken from the background of the oriental rug and white matchstick in the window blinds, are combined with navy blue walls and plants and tables.