There are several important factors to consider when planning your window treatments. These are: style, light and temperature control, privacy, and ease of use. Each room in your home might have a unique set of requirements—in your living and dining rooms, style might be the primary concern, while bedrooms and bathrooms demand greater privacy and light control. Window treatments that will be opened and closed on a regular basis should be easy to operate and require a minimum of “dressing” with each use. Think carefully about how you use each room and about the impact of natural light, which can damage furniture and artwork and affect the temperature of the room throughout the day. Also consider your need for privacy and how frequently the room is used. Are you only in the kitchen during the daytime? Do you want your neighbors to know when you have friends for dinner in the dining room?
Be realistic—your window treatments must be compatible with your lifestyle. If you’re considering silk draperies in your family room and you have three kids, a cat and a dog—think twice! Jim Ryan of The Decorating Studio adds that heavy, durable fabrics, which can be easily cleaned, are preferable options for these circumstances.
In addition to the factors listed above, there are issues of scale, proportion and architecture that a professional designer or workroom can help you with. Window treatments can enhance the architecture of your home or they can hide a myriad of flaws. A fabric treatment is an opportunity to disguise less desirable elements of the architecture and play up others, depending on your needs. Claire Schwab of Old Town Window Treatments notes that homeowners often make the mistake of limiting window treatments to the frame of the window. Changing the appearance of height and proporti on of a window is one of the most popular “tricks of the trade”. By taking window treatments to the ceiling or crown molding, for instance, the illusion of height can be created and impact the feel of the entire room. A professional will also look beyond the room itself. If your house has a beautiful view, your designer can show you how to frame it and draw attention beyond the windows. “Light and airy fabrics” work well for view emphasis, says Ryan. If, on the other hand, your line of sight includes your neighbor’s trash cans, you will want a treatment that emphasizes the room and its contents, not the view outside. For this purpose, Ryan suggests “heavier fabrics or a monochromatic look that blends into the wall.”
From treatments ready-made and ordered from a catalog to custom designs with all the bells and whistles, there are many, many resources available to you as you begin your quest for the perfect window treatments. Companies like the Silk Trading Company offer “Drapery out of a Box”—ready-made curtains that you can have by the time your guests arrive on Saturday night. The advantages of programs like “Drapery out of a Box” are that you can typically get your curtains right away and you’ll probably save some money over custom window treatments. Keep in mind, however, that ready-made window treatments come only in standard sizes and a limited number of styles. Silk Trading Co., for instance, offers 65 styles and two standard lengths. For a more custom look, consider working with a professional designer or directly with a workroom.
Before you approach a professional to help you with the design and execution of your window treatments, there is some research you can do to prepare and make the project less stressful. First of all—know your budget. It’s best to be realistic about your financial limitations going into this experience. That way you won’t get swept up in a design that is beyond your means. However, this is not the time to skimp. Window treatments are long-term investments that will have enormous impact on the overall design of your home. Robin Weiman of Drapery Contractors in Baltimore (to the trade only) recommends that you don’t try to get away with less fabric than you really need or forgo the trimmings that will make your window treatments look complete. She also stresses the importance of quality when it comes to the fabrication and installation of your window treatments. Fabric should always have the appropriate lining and interlining—and professional installation can make all the difference.
Another good way to start a window treatment project is to look through books and magazines and try to develop a sense of what kinds of styles you like. According to Matt Trunell of Exclusive Draperies and Upholstery in Chantilly, Virginia, this will cut down on a lot of guesswork for your designer or fabricator, who can use the examples you’ve selected to determine whether the styles you like will work with the size, scale and feel of your home. Do not assume that because a style looks good in the photo, it will work in your home. A professional can also help you determine what types of fabrics work the best with each window treatment style. Not every fabric is appropriate or practical for every window treatment style.
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Assessing Your Needs
With photos of what you like and fabric selections made, the next step is to consider your home. While interior designers will often collaborate with window treatment fabricators to consider your overall interior scheme, retail specialists such as Alexander Blank Fabrics in Timonium, Maryland have on-staff accredited interior designers who specialize in working directly with consumers as well as other interior designers.
Your designer will be able to guide you through the maze of window treatment styles availa ble to you, from the most current trends to the timeless classics. Sandy Miller of Apex Drapery in Pikesville, Maryland notes that traditional, classic styles are always popular among her clientele. Formal styles such as swags and jabots or panels on rings and rods are frequently requested for living rooms and dining rooms. Often, the fabric of choice for such treatments is silk, which is available in a seemingly endless array of colors and patterns. For less formal spaces, like family rooms and kitchens, roman and balloon shades are very popular as are a variety of “hard treatments.”
Treatments such as wood blinds, shutters, and shades are known as “hard treatments.” These styles are very popular for use alone or in combination with soft treatments. Plantation shutters have seen a surge in popularity recently. Appropriate for use in many decorative styles, they are commonly painted white but are now available in many colors or stains. A less costly alternative to plantation shutters is the wood Venetian blind, which gives the same overall effect. Another popular option is natural roman shades (or matchstick blinds). These come in a variety of materials such as bamboo or grass. Be sure to check whether the material you choose is appropriate to the level of light control and privacy you desire. Often blackout liners are available for an additional charge.
Honeycomb and roller shades are practical choices in situations where privacy and light control are needed, but they don’t typically add a lot of decorative punch. The greatest advantage of these styles is that when they’re not in use, they’re the least obtrusive option available.
A word of caution when considering hard treatments—precise measuring is a must in these situations. Keep in mind that shades, blinds, or shutters ordered from a retail store or catalog are not returnable because they’ve been made to specific measurements. Consider having a professional measure and install them to avoid costly mistakes.
Once you’ve settled on the style of your window treatment and the fabric, you’re halfway there. Now it’s time for the bells and whistles. What makes a custom window treatment special (in addition to the quality of the fabrication and installation) is the endless range of decorative options. Hardware is a very important element that can really add to the unique style of your windows. Since draperies on rods and rings are a very popular look, be sure to select hardware that complements and accentuates the style and fabric you’ve chosen to make your treatments unique. Don’t stop at picking a pretty fabric, either. Trimmings such as tassels, fringe, beads or tape are all ways to make your fabric treatments special. You can also combine fabrics and line curtains with a contrasting fabric for that extra touch.
With such a wide array of options and so many resources available to you, anything is possible and the sky’s the limit, but it’s wise to avoid costly mistakes by working with a professional. With proper guidance, a venture into the world of window treatments can be exciting and fun—with very satisfying long-term results.
-Lela Knight, ASID