Window treatments are an essential element in any space. Yet far too many people think of them as an unnecessary luxury: an afterthought to be added to a room as pure ornamentation. But when properly designed and installed, window treatments not only add beauty; they can solve any number of problems.
Whether you need to create privacy, filter sunlight, trim your heating and cooling bills by insulating drafty windows, or make your windows seem larger and your ceiling feel higher, the right type of window treatment will provide a pretty solution – all while adding softness, color, and texture to a room.
Need privacy, but still want natural light? Café curtains or wood shutters installed on the lower half of your window will allow you to see out while let-ting sunlight stream in. Though the top half of your window remains open, having a curtain or shutter on the lower half will shield all but your head and shoulders when you’re standing, and will block all the interior action when you’re sitting down. This type of treatment creates a nice sense of privacy when watching TV or chatting on the sofa, without having to completely close off your windows. I typically suggest this type of treatment for public rooms facing a busy street, sidewalk, or a very-close neigh-boring home. You retain natural light and the ability to see what’s happening outside, but there’s no need to change out of your jammies just to fix your morning coffee.
Lined and interlined drapery panels will provide complete privacy for more intimate spaces, like a bedroom, and blackout drapery keeps out all light as well. You’ve already experienced blackout drapery if you’ve ever stayed in an up-scale hotel; it’s incredibly effective at keeping a room dark, despite a glaring sun or blinking outside lights, as anyone who’s slept past checkout knows all too well. Blackout drapery is a great solution for anyone working a late-night shift who needs to sleep during daylight hours (I’m thinking of all those dedicated night-shift nurses and ER doctors out there), as well as for any parents who want their baby to sleep past sunrise!
If you live in an older house with original windows (or a newer house with not-so-great windows), you may do well to invest in thermal drapery panels. Test your windows by standing in front of them on a cold day; do you feel the cold seeping in around them or even catch a bit of a drafty breeze? Not only is the cold invading come winter, your expensive air conditioning is leaking out during the summer. Any lined and interlined drapery panel will help your home retain its heat and air conditioning, and thermal panels will be even more effective. Just make sure you’ve installed the panels so they extend well beyond the window frame and can amply cover the entire window when drawn.
The right window treatment can also visually trick the eye into thinking a window larger and a ceiling higher than they actually are – traits any home can benefit from. The best way to accomplish this is with classic drapery panels or drapery panels combined with a woven wood or roman shade. Hang the drapery rod above the window frame, just an inch or two be-low the crown molding (or ceiling line if you don’t have crown molding). The panels should be long enough to just skim the floor; this often means you have to purchase the longest option of store-bought curtains, and have them hemmed to just the right length. Hanging panels high like this draws the eye up to the ceiling, and the long vertical line of the panel creates an illusion of height.
The drapery rod should ex-tend several inches past the window frame on both sides, so the majority of your drapery panel will be hanging against the wall, not the window it-self. When the panels are open, they should only cover 1” – 2” of the glass; the rest will cover the window frame and several inches of wall on either side of the window. By leaving almost all of the glass window exposed, and having ample drapery on either side of it, you’ve created an impression of a much larger window. This is also a great way to create symmetry if you have windows of different sizes; hang the drapery on the larger window to fit closer to the window frame while hanging the drapery wider on the smaller window.
If you want to add a roman shade to your classic drapery treatment, install the outside mount shade so the top of it lines up with the drapery rod – not above or below it. When the shade is open, it should only cover the window frame and the top 2-3” inches of the window. This will add to your sense of high ceilings and big windows – traits every realtor will tell you are at the top of clients’ wish lists.
Window treatments are expensive investments, so when choosing yours, be sure to stick with the classics. Elegant pinch pleat drapery panels, natural hued woven wood shades, and tailored roman shades are all easy-to-find choices that won’t look dated anytime soon. Steer clear of big, swoopy swags, elaborate embellishments, and trendy prints if you want to avoid replacing them every few years.
When using drapery panels, you’ll also need to select drapery hardware. A simple rod and rings with unobtrusive finials – like a ball – is always a great look that works with any style decor. To ensure your panels will easily open and close, make sure the inside diameter of your drapery rings is at least ¼”– ½” larger than the diameter of your drapery rod. If you’re using metal hardware, the safest bet is to match it to the rest of the predominant hardware in the room. Not sure what that is? What’s your door handle? Do you have any wall-mounted lighting, like sconces or swing arm lamps? Do you have metal floor lamps? Try matching your hardware to these metals; polished chrome, antique brass, or bronze are all common house-hold finishes that most drapery hardware sources carry. If you don’t want to use metal, a stained or painted wood finish is an attractive option as well.
When choosing your window treatments, don’t just think of them as just pretty “extras” – think about what you need them to do, and put them to work for you!