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New looks, new uses for awnings; for shade, for shelter, as design features ... with old and new fabrics.

A time-honored source of shade and shelter, the awning has grown up outliving its image as a half-a-pup-tent extension hanging over a storefront. New synthetic fabrics have made awnings more durable, versatile, and colorful than ever. Instead of short-lived add-ons, awnings have become long-lasting design features. Think of them as soft architecture.

The examples on these three pages show how Westerners have reinterpreted the traditional awning to create artful screens. We also highlight the types of awning fabrics available today. For shade without heat.- overhead geometry. Turning a once-overheated brick patio into a sheltered outdoor dining area, the five peaks of fabric pictured above form a roof that's both distinctive and practical for Margaret and Dan Majectich's 12- by 21-foot patio. The open-gable ends of the peaks allow built-up heat to escape. Galvanized steel tubing gives the cover its saw-toothed form. To blend the enclosure with the rest of the house, two 32-inch-square columns and outside retaining walls were given a matching coat of stucco.

For architectural accent. colorful entry awnings. Sometimes awnings can be small fabric statements, like the blue and green examples opposite. The blue umbrella over the entry at Dr. William and Beverly Volz's house in Bellevue, Washington, is not so much for sun control (although it does shade the glass door at times) as for rain protection. It's also a visual way to call out the front door.

The green synthetic canvas over the entry of the shed-roofed house at far upper right also marks the entrance while providing weather protection. Built on the banks of the Sacramento River, where passing boats sport similar portholes and canvas covers, the house plays on the area's nautical atmosphere.

For partial protection on a balcony. horizontal blinds. Calling to mind the open slats of a Venetian blind, fabric panels strung tightly on rows of tubing protect the west-facing deck on page 77.

Designed as an integral part of architect Helmut Schulitz's own steel-framed house in Los Angeles, the open cover blocks sun without being oppressive. Breaking up the individual fabric panels both horizontally and vertically allows canyon winds to blow through, and rising hot air to escape.

The panels are strung top and bottom on steel conduit that runs the length of the house. Horizontal rods above and below the panels hold them at about a 45 degrees angle. For shade without losing views: partial window screens. At top, a patchwork of green synthetic canvas, set a foot away from the walls, is lashed through grommets to a pipe frame. It shades the upper portion of the south-facing windows without blocking straight-out views. Heat collects on the awning instead of the house. For relentless sun: broad shadecloth roof. In places like Paradise Valley, Arizona, relief from sun is necessary during many months of the year. Shadecloth has proved to be very useful. In the lower picture, broad swaths of yellow cloth on square steel frames are essential to the design of Jan and Joe Kealy's house. The slightly sloped panels march across the south-facing (back) side of the house. On the front of the house, a similar trio of panels extends from the house to the driveway, offering shelter and defining the entry.

The fabrics: wider choices

These fabrics can be found in shops listed in the yellow pages under Awnings. Most shops also offer design services as well as fabrication and installation.

Use cold water and mild soap to keep awnings clean and extend their life. Cotton canvas ($9 to 11 per yard). Painted or oiled cotton canvas used to be the primary awning material. But exposed to the elements, it tends to fade, mildew, crack, and rot in a relatively short time. Cotton duck and more durable cotton-acrylic blends are still available, and some people prefer these for their authentic period look.

They also have an advantage over synthetics in that they can be custom-dyed or painted any color, and they can also be repainted. Some shops offer fire-retardant finishes.

Synthetics ($14 to $22 per yard). These are primarily acrylics, although there are a few coated polyesters and laminated PVCs. Many will last 10 to 20 years, depending on exposure and care, although most are guaranteed for just 5 years. This longevity makes them practical alternatives to other materials, such as wood, fiberglass, or glass.

Besides long life, synthetics offer advantages in color and opaqueness. For years, a few solids and a very limited number of two- or three-color striped patterns were the only choices. Now, manufacturers offer about 300 colors, and some even make tweed-like fabrics.

Most polyesters and laminated PVCs and some acrylics are fire retardant. Fiberglass shadecloth ($9 to $11 per yard). Although limited to about a dozen colors, this mesh material-unlike the synthetics boasts various degrees of translucency, blocking 40 to 95 percent of light. The tight or loose weaves, which determine light transmission, can provide a cover without turning a patio or adjacent room into a gloomy cave.

Shadecloth can be used to block wind as well as sun. It is also considered water repellent, although one maker has warned that, "you'd be better off standing under a maple tree."

Only the tightest weaves of shadecloth are fire retardant.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Jul 1, 1990
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