Girl with bird


Dear Miss Cote de Texas,

We recently purchased our home in a wonderful community.  I love our home and I love our neighborhood.  Our home sits on a zero-lot line, so our neighbor's home sits right along the side of ours.  The problem:  The view from every window on the South side of my home, is of an awful brick wall, roof and sidewalk.  This is what I see from my formal dining room, and it continues as you walk up the stairs and in my teenage daughter's bedroom.

I have racked my brain and just can't come up with any ideas that would allow me to hide the view, yet still allow for all of the natural light that these windows bring into the home.  I have tried closing the blinds and the entire house goes dark.

Please, please, please Miss Cote de Texas, HELP!




The dining room – love the chairs and the tile floors.  Pretty console with mirror and crystal chandelier.



The view outside the dining room window – it overlooks the space between her house and the neighbor’s house.



And further, to the right is the issue of the a/c units.



The view outside the stairs shows the neighbor’s house.



And looking down at the a/c units.



Close up view of the issue from the stairs.



First I must say that I too have this same problem at my house.   Our lot is only 50x100 – while our house is 40’ wide – so, we have 5’ on each side until the fence – and then another 5’ from the fence until the neighbor’s house.   On the west side of our house – we have no windows downstairs, so it’s not a problem there.  But on the east side, we have windows in the dining room and kitchen that look out over the fence – a mere 5’ away.  We struggled with this issue too – how to make such a small space attractive?  And, also, because the neighbors are so close – our house on the east side tends to be dark. 

I think you are approaching the problem from the inside – but it should be approached from the outside.  If you make the view more attractive – why would you have to hide it behind shades that darken the house?

The most obvious answer to your problem is landscape.  You can’t control the light coming into your house but you can control the view.  There’s no reason why you can’t landscape that area and make it attractive to look at.   



In my dining room, there is a French door that overlooks the side fence.  Luckily, the house beyond it is plain taupe stucco, so it kind of blends into the sky. 



It’s hard to see the house in this picture, but trust me – it’s there.   Hi Micki!



And looking out the French doors, we have some landscaping against the fence, along with a decorative element, a statue.




The other window in the house that overlooks our neighbors on the bottom floor is in the kitchen – you can see the house more clearly here.



Here’s what it looks like on the east side of the house – we have just 5’ of space.  First, we put in a bed in front of both windows.  Then we added gravel with large flagstones over it.   Originally we only had the vines on the fence, but we added the beds a few years later.  We used to have flowers, but now they are just box.  Ben bought me that statue for my birthday one year.  



And looking the other direction.  It’s not the best of landscaping jobs and probably should be redone, but from the house, it looks good enough and does the job of diverting the eye from the fence and the neighbor’s house.




As you can see, your eye really doesn’t focus on the fence, but on the statue and the bed instead.  The vine adds height that helps screen the house even more.




Addressing your air conditioning units.  Again, we have this same exact issue.   Our units used to be small and hidden at the end our porch behind a trellis fence.   But a few years ago, Ben bought two new A/C units and they are HUGE!  I almost fainted when I saw how much space the new units took up in my tiny courtyard.  All you could see were two HUGE A/C units.    So, we installed a larger piece of trellis fence and planted a vine over it.  Today you can’t even see the units at all.


DSC_3653Here are the units – hidden behind the vine which climbs over the trellis fence.   Now you can’t see the metal a/c units at all.  You can use this idea to hide yours too.  Just be sure to make the trellis high enough that it covers the view from the staircase. 



Another idea for the stair hall window – use a lighter shade that lets in more sun than the dark ones you are now using.  These are from Hunter Douglas.



And here – another light shade that lets the sun in more.


As for your other situation – outside the dining room window – here are some ideas I found:


It looks like you have a combination of surfaces out there with the fence and the brick.  You already have the gravel to start with.  I looked for some other ideas you might try to make the view more interesting:



Plant fig ivy on the brick wall, then in front – plant a line of small, ornamental trees.  See how pretty the trunk of these pear trees are?   It looks like you have enough room to even put some furniture there – to create an outdoor room.  Donna Brown of The Gray Door.




You could build a pergola from your house – reaching almost to the brick wall.  This would leave space for a bed where you could plant vines and box. 



You could put a tall fountain in the space with ivy behind it – like what Pam Pierce did in her courtyard.




This brick wall is left plain – and the plants are moveable in vases, as is the fountain.  This way if you move – you can take your “landscaping” with you.




Instead of a fountain – think about a tall pedestal with an urn on top filled with flowers.  Add box beds and a climbing vine behind it.  Pam Pierce.



Instead of gravel, add no-mow mondo grass with flags on top.



Or do a wide bed filled with all kinds of flowers and plants to add color.




Flags over gravel – and a fountain that sits more in the middle of the space.



Vines on the wall and ornamental trees in beds of box.



Try a bench against the wall with a iron grill above it – acting like a painting over a sofa.



Try planting just a row of trees like crape myrtle – with ferns in between the trunks.





This is a pretty look – with flags and  light and dark green plants for contrast.




  Here, in the before picture -  you can see how close these houses are.  And after, with hydrangeas planted, how pretty and lush it is now.



A curved fountain in front of a wall of fig ivy.



A bench with a brick path and all green plants.




Instead of just green, bring color outside.





Create an interesting pattern by planting an espaliered tree. 






Most important – don’t forget lighting outside.  Even if you just add fairy lights around a small tree – outdoor lighting is most important.  Otherwise, your view out the dining room will become a black hole at night!




This area has just two lights – but they really brighten it up.


I hope this gives you enough ideas to create interest outside your windows!!




I have a few suggestions for your dining room – first, the shades.  I would raise the shades to just under the rod – this way you would eliminate the “dead space” between the rod and the window.  Right now – it’s just white and it really sticks out.  If you raise the shades, you would have a more clean line and wouldn’t have that jarring white space. 



Here you can see in my family room – the shades are brought up to the curtain rod to cover the “dead space” between the rod and the windows.    There’s no jarring strip of wall showing – instead, it’s just one clean line. 



Next, I would move the armoire to a wall instead of it being in the corner.   It is really distracting the way it is now, plus it hides the curtains.   If there isn’t another wall, then consider moving it to another room.   And last – I would get an area rug.  Right now all the tones in the room are similar – the chairs, the floor, the table, the curtains. There isn’t any contrast.  I would consider getting a rug with some  color or white in it,  or maybe a bold stripe to add some pop to the room.


Malika Persian-Style Rug

From Pottery Barn – you could paint the walls a soft aqua.


Stark™ Concepts Custom Diamond Sisal Rug - Platinum

A textured rug in two colors – Pottery Barn




From Restoration Hardware.


From Layla Grace – a Dash and Albert stripe.


I hope this answers all your questions and then some!!



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