Baffled By Window Coverings?
By Sandra Meineke
Window coverings can make or break a home improvement project. Should you go with outside shutters? Indoor drapes or shades? Long draperies or just a valance? Decorative or plain rods? Tiebacks or straight panels? Sheers or room-darkeners? And what about material, fabric, color and size? Window treatments can baffle even experienced home decorators, so where do you start?
First, you need to be merciless in your assessment of what the room really needs. Is your yard private and away from the prying eyes of neighbors? If so, you can go with sheers or just window toppers as decoration. Does the room face the afternoon sun, or is there a day-sleeper or an invalid in the home? Then, you will want something opaque and sturdy-enough to shut out heat and light.
Don’t succumb to the temptation to buy something — anything — just to be done with it. There are ways to go about choosing window coverings wisely.
Although shades, blinds and shutters have become extremely popular over the past few years, there is still nothing that can be designed to perfectly suit the mood and style of almost any room like curtains. Curtains can be formal, perky, artistic or utilitarian. They are available in all types of fabrics from simple cottons to textured weaves to weather-resistant canvases to “fabrics” made from wire mesh. Each type of fabric serves its own purpose, and each fabric pattern creates its own ambience.
“Find a fabric you love. It’s a great place to begin. Choose a signature fabric with enough design elements so that you can pull out colors, coordinate textures and have lots of options,” says Calico Corners designer John Locke.
Begin with the Basics
Before you start, educate yourself about the basics of window coverings: privacy, light control, function and
style. Paying attention to these four elements can give your project a sense of direction, and combining window treatments in intelligent ways can accomplish the necessary functional aspects as well as contribute to a room’s style. Prioritize your needs for each window. Layer treatments for the most versatility. For instance, put mini-blinds next to the glass to control light and hang fabric panels for style and color.
What about the view?
If you are seeing sun damage to floors and furniture in a room with a great view, is your only choice to cover the windows and block out the view? Not necessarily. Mini blinds could be installed and tilted so that direct sun is blocked. However, this will also cut down on your view. To preserve the open expanse of glass, consider having your windows tinted. If done properly, you won’t notice much of a difference in light and view, but the tinting film cuts out nearly all of the damaging UV rays that fade fabrics and break them down.
“Window treatments can complement and frame a beautiful view — or obscure a less desirable one,” says interior designer Glenna Morton. “To enhance a great view, consider treatments that stack off the window and don’t compete with the landscape. This also gives the illusion of a larger window — an added bonus.”
Do your neighbors have a great view of your bedroom from their kitchen window? A café curtain for the bottom of the window could provide the perfect solution. It allows light in from the top, but maintains privacy from neighborly eyes. Another option might be to replace the existing window with a pretty stained glass window that will add beauty as well as privacy.
Unless you live in the woods or on a mountain top, privacy can be a major issue. One option is to choose window treatments that offer complete opaque covering. Here are some good choices for privacy:
•Fabric or roller shades generally offer complete window coverage.
•Curtains and draperies, when closed, will also close off the view. Linings will add to opacity and durability
•Pleated and cellular shades in non-sheer materials have full glass coverage for privacy. Many styles can be ordered with a “top down” feature, so a portion of the glass can be visible at the top of the window to let in light and have a view.
•Sheer curtains and draperies may afford a bit of daytime privacy, however at night most turn transparent with indoor lighting. If you love sheers, use shades underneath for privacy after dark. If you don’t want to see your home lit up like a cruise ship, choose window treatments that can be drawn or closed in the evening.
This factor has two elements: first, keeping glare down, and second, UV rays from bright sunlight will adversely affect fabrics, furnishings and artwork. Full sun can quickly fade expensive upholstery and rugs, eventually causing some fibers to break down and rot.
To control light, consider these possibilities. Any of the opaque window treatments listed above can also help with light control. However, since sunlight will eventually break down many fabrics, it can be helpful to use a non-fabric shade next to the glass, behind draperies or valances. Special linings and fabric treatments can also reduce UV damage.
Natural blinds such as bamboo and matchstick will filter the light and cut down on much of the glare, and can be ordered with an exterior privacy lining.
There are window treatment solutions for almost any problem. Eliminate cord controls to avoid dangling near a baby crib. For small windows, mount treatments outside of the window frame. For draperies that open, choose appropriate hardware that opens and closes easily. For instance, tab top panels are most often used as a stationary treatment over another light and privacy-controlling covering because tab tops can be cumbersome to open and close on a daily basis.
Stationary treatments such as non-closing drapery side panels, cornices and valances are installed to be permanently in place. Under-treatments of sheers, blinds or shades add function to these types of window decorations.
Through the use of lining and interlining, soft window treatments can absorb sound and buffer street noise, making a significant difference in how your home feels to your family and guests. Draperies that are interlined offer the maximum noise absorption.
Style is the fun part of window treatments. Style lets you choose fabrics, colors and types that will add to the beauty and enjoyment of your room. Draperies have options in rod styles with tab tops, tie tops, many types of pleats, grommets, rod pockets, flouncy tops or plain rings.
Valances can be gathered, pleated, shirred, swagged, bundled, formal, casual, scalloped, lace or flat.
Fabric shades are found in flat Roman style, balloon, Austrian, bottom arched, pleated and flat panels — in sheers or coordinating fabrics.
Natural blinds, also called matchstick or bamboo blinds, are available in matchsticks, sewn slats and other options that have a natural fabric-like appearance and often include valances, roll or fold up operation, edge binding and privacy liners.
Interest can be added to windows by repeating fabrics and colors used in other parts of the room. Or, add a dash of style with contrasting borders, cordings or fringe. The unique touches you add to your window treatments are a reflection of your personal style. Whatever your preference for window treatments, you’re sure to find many options to meet your home’s requirements for privacy, light control, function and style.