Window Treatments


Shadows and Light on a Window Curtain

Photo: Getty Images

As important as windows are to any home, so are window treatments to the windows. Window treatments are fashion for your windows and as important to a room as hair to a head or glasses to a face. Does “the carpet have to match the drapes”?

No, but they better be darn well working together

A note to men on window treatments …

A lot of men treat window treatments like they do all interior decor decisions—in a decidedly dismissive and sexist way. Don’t abandon your partner or your house just because words like fabric, pleat and ruffle make you emotionally uncomfortable. Window treatments are clothes for your windows and you wear clothes, yes?

I get it, we weren’t raised to embrace make-up and eye liner and layers of soft flowy fabrics that “drape” around us. But the truth is REAL MEN care about how things look regardless of what materials are involved.

So let me state for the record … This 6’3” guy—with more than his share of callouses and scars from a lifetime of crafting civilization from chaos with his bare hands—would be delighted to help you pick out a set of drapes.

Window Treatments

Any layer of hard or soft material we add to a finished window which either adds to its aesthetic and/or helps it manage light.

Step 1 - Window treatments should accentuate trim work, not cover it or fight against it.

Window casings, sills, aprons, cornice, filets and other permanent pieces of mounding and trim are not technically window treatments but they are a critical factor in the window treatment design process because permanent trim is the starting point.

So the first step toward the right window treatments is deciding how to trim your windows.

Will drywall simply return in to the window without any trim?

  • Will there be a wood jamb and then casing?
  • Casings on four sides - picture frame?
  • Top and sides sitting on sill or “stool”?
  • Just sides with sill below and cornice above - ie. Craftsman
  • Will casings miter at the corners or end at a plinth block - Colonial
  • Will plaster roll into window opening with simple rustic sill and partially exposed header beam?

Step 2 - Window treatments are about controlling light and privacy.

Light is everything in architecture. If the human race were blind, or just if we perceived light in a different range, like infrared or ultraviolet, then all architecture would be different. So never underestimate the importance of light in your design. It’s not everything, but it’s nearly everything.

Sofa and blinds in living room

Photo: Getty Images

Step 3 - Choose blinds or shades.

Blinds — wood blinds, metal blinds, mini-blinds, vertical blinds (ick), shutters — have louvered slats or baffles which can be opened and closed to varying degrees and which can be used to direct light into a space at different angles.

Shades — woven wood shades, roller shades, pleated or honeycomb shades, or curtains and drapes — are usually a single material with a fixed level of light transmission, whether they’re mostly transparent like a fine sheer or completely opaque like a heavy light blocking drape.

Some window treatments do more than just control light

  • honeycomb shades insulate
  • some curtains can be sound deadening

Drapes and curtains

  • Often used interchangeably
  • Drapes are usually heavier material, pleated and lined.
  • Curtains are typically a single lighter fabric.
  • Shades hang vertically like curtains or horizontally like roman shades and rolling shades.

Rules and tips

  • Curtains just barely brush the floor or “break” 2”-3” onto the floor
  • “In window” curtains should lightly brush the sill.
  • Valances - band of fabric, upholstered, even wood trim. Flat or pleated.
  • Rods - hidden or exposed. Don’t forget finials!
  • It’s not a foregone conclusion that if you have blinds you should get shutters.
  • Curtain stacks should clear the window and be ⅓ window width.
  • For curtain fullness you need 2½ - 3 times the window width in fabric.
  • If you’re not planning on closing them then 1½ times is ok.
  • To give height to a room set curtains at the ceiling line.
  • For Tall windows you may want to break curtains into two tiers.
  • Colors and fabrics: compliment and coordinate furniture. Don’t match.
  • If furniture has patterning go solid. If furniture is solid, go patterned.
  • Kids: many honeycomb and pleated shades are cordless
  • If you DIY your own blinds - remove the extra slats!!!
  • High tech window treatments: motorized by switch or start phone app.
  • UV filtering sheers to protect floors and furniture from fading.
  • Inexpensive privacy: roller shades cheap, easy to customize, blackout or diffused, disappear. Use layers to achieve different effects.
  • Sliding doors - curtains, vertical blinds (ick) and sliding panel blinds
  • Kitchens - consider moisture, heat, smoke and grease

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