Treating Windows

Designing Window Treatments

Window treatments usually involve a window covering, which could be a shade, shutter, blind or working draper, and ornamentation, non-working drapes or valances and hardware. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Here’s what to consider:

  • Light control. This is essential in media rooms and home offices.
  • Privacy. Select a covering that provides the coverage you’ll need in, say, a bedroom, or a room that gets a lot of street exposure.
  • Camouflage. The right window covering can mask an ugly or crooked window, or one that looks onto the alley or the neighbor’s. If the window is out of square, or it’s really small, or the molding is unattractive, installing an overmount treatment can make the window look larger and mask architectural flaws.
  • UV Protection. Covering windows is the best way to prevent furnishings from fading or deteriorating due to sun exposure.
  • Design Options. Unlike 30 years ago, when the primary way to cover a window was with a cheesy pull down roller shade, today’s options really are almost limitless. Woven bamboo shades, pleated verticals, wood blinds, fabric shades, in all assortments of materials are popular options. Choose something that fits your décor, whether traditional, contemporary or rustic, that will also jive with your long-term design plan. If you plan to add a drape treatment or valance, be sure the covering you pick will go with the drape fabric.
  • Pick the treatment. Sometimes a blind or shade is enough. But if you want to dress the window covering, once again you’ll find literally hundreds of ways to put fabric around your windows. Flip through books of window treatments and shelter magazines. Copy styles you like. In general, you want side drapes that fall to the floor in dressier rooms, living rooms, dens, libraries, and master bedrooms. These long drapes can layer over a sheer, shade or blind, and have a top treatment (valance), or not. You’ll need to decide if these drapes need to operate; that is, do you want to be able to open and close them, or are they stationery, for looks only. Valance only treatments are great when you don’t want fabric to get in the way of the activity in the room. Use them in kitchens, baths and kids’ bedrooms.
  • Don’t skip the trim. It makes the difference between common and custom. And don’t skimp. When you see luxurious trims on pillows or drapes in show rooms, the trim has usually been doubled to add thickness. Great looks also often involve layering trims, or putting a cord or braid along the edge of a fringe.
  • Get good measurements. Have a fabricator measure your windows and tell you how much yardage you need. It’s best to have a fabric sample in hand, in case there’s a repeat. Show this person the hardware you’re considering so he or she can verify how much you need and double check the specifications (like making sure the drapes will fit the rod).
  • Fabrication. After buying all fabrics and trims, hand the job off to a good fabricator – unless you are a super sewer, or want to try your hand at the glue gun drapes I describe in my book.
  • Gather your hardware. While the drapery maker is making the drapes, get your hardware. This task can take time, while you weigh the mind-boggling options. Depending on your treatment, hardware can include rods, brackets, rings, tie backs and finials. Some drapery treatments mount to a board or box, hidden underneath, which your drape maker will likely build. When selecting hardware, you need to decide three things: material (wood, iron, etc.), finish and size. Be sure to consider the context. Choose based on what other finishes you have going in the room. You don’t have to match. Mixing, say an iron rod in a room with stained wood moldings, can look better than matching the wood.
  • Installation. It’s best if your fabricator is the same person who measures and installs your drapes, or at least coordinates the installation. That way, if anything is amiss, you’re probably not to blame.

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