If covering your windows is something you’re contemplating in the near future, here’s a primer to help you make a decision that’s right for you and your own set of circumstances. Among the many considerations in planning new window treatments are exposure to sunlight and cold, outdoor views, the home’s style, window size and style, cost, upkeep, and nearby obstacles. There are many things to consider so let’s get started!
I’ve done a fair share of custom designed window treatments since starting my own design firm in 1999 and believe me it’s a broad subject. My own preferences lean toward custom draperies on high quality rods with rings and finials, sheers, custom box pleated board mounted valances, roman shades, wood shutters, wooden blinds, and woven shades. Highly branded window treatments (such as the mass produced vertical shades often used on glass sliding doors) have high price mark ups and a non-descript impersonal appearance. There are a few questions you will need to ask yourself before making any decisions, then I will offer tips to prioritizing the budget and planning the styles.
Do you want to plan in stages? If so, I recommend doing the formal living room, dining room, entry, and master bedroom first, with family room, kitchen, guest rooms and baths as second priorities. Are your windows attractive and are the views pleasing? If yes, you probably are not going to want them covered up with wooden blinds or shutters. Are the clearances tight? In other words is there minimal room for treatments and hardware? If yes, an interior mounted treatment might be in order. Are there French doors or glass sliding doors? If yes, the best treatments for those two situations are draperies.
There are many variables with window treatments. Often times there are more than one style of window in a room requiring continuity within different functions. I often suggest box pleated valances or drapery panels for such contingencies because they allow for varying heights of windows. Layering treatments isn’t always the most cost efficient choice but for small windows like those found in most bedrooms a valance over drapery panels visually increases the window size, softens noise, and creates a restful and attractive appearance.
Where beautiful views are involved a “less is more” approach is often used, mounting the treatments as far off the glass as possible. While this exposes more glass, the farther you move the drapery panel off the glass, the wider the panel “stack” becomes. So while you expose as much glass as possible, you still end up with more of a “stack”.
For homes with unattractive windows and views, wooden shutters are a lovely solution. Shutters are always a good investment for resale provided they are maintained. Vinyl shutters are an option that many people overlook. They are very nice looking, very clean, and easy to maintain.
For rooms that are naturally dark I have found sheers on custom iron rods and rings to be beautiful and functional. The custom iron keeps them from screaming “budget”. Iron rods are a lifetime investment and should reflect the architectural style of the home.
Economical choices: draperies on traverse rods; board mounted valances; some brands of woven shades.
Moderately priced: draperies on rods and rings over sheers; valances over drapery panels; roman shades; wooden blinds; valances over wooden blinds.
Luxury: triple layered treatments such as valances over draperies over sheers; or wooden shutters.
To help lower window treatment prices on shutters and blinds wait for annual sales or choose small firms without large overhead costs. For fabric treatments like draperies, shades, and valances aim for fabrics in the $45 per yard range. Trims such as welts, ties, banding, and fringe add to the overall cost. Most designers won’t work with fabric you have purchased at discount stores preferring instead to provide you with the fabric themselves. There is a lot of extra foot work using the client’s own fabric such as driving or taking the time to ship it to the seamstress: when we order fabrics from our own sources they automatically ship it directly to our workrooms; frequently the fabric has flaws; and often times there isn’t enough fabric to complete the job. Window treatments are time consuming and technically challenging. For that reason the mark-up we receive from purchasing fabric at wholesale and selling at retail is important to cover our time. However there are fabric store chains in most major cities that will sell you the fabric and fabricate the product saving you considerable money. The draw backs are that workmanship isn’t always great and the styles tend to date quickly. If you know what you want and wish to be the designer yourself, hiring an experienced seamstress is a great option. They are usually willing to work with your own material too. Choose seamstresses that have at least 15 years of experience otherwise you won’t be happy with the end result.
When choosing shutters, blinds, or shades pay attention to the colors. In large amounts whites can be so white they make everything else in the room dingy. With fabric treatments if you are going to play it safe, go all the way by choosing a nice neutral colored fabric like warm white or light taupe. Otherwise, be brave and choose a subtle print that will coordinate well with existing furnishings. Avoid the in-between’s.
If you found this helpful, my free download Shiree’s Interior Design and Lifestyle Tips might be of help to you too.
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