Guide to Window Treatments

Need to Cover Your Home’s Windows?

Designing your own window treatments will save money and let you show off your own creativity!

There are many factors to consider when planning a window treatment. First of all, what effect do you want to achieve? Do you want the treatment to make a statement or quietly meld into the room, leaving the spotlight for another element of the décor? Is the room formal or casual? Do you want full-length drapery panels or only a cornice or shade? What is the sun exposure? Do you need to block light or drafts?

After you weigh all these factors, let your creativity soar and watch your beautiful window take shape because whether inherently beautiful or simply practical, a window’s shape, size and position adds a definite character to the internal architecture of a room.

Treatments for Standard Windows

Whether you live in a modern home with double-glazing, a Victorian terrace with small sash windows or a country cottage, you will probably have at least one standard or smaller window. Unlike other more dramatic window shapes, it is probably more important standard windows to have some form of window treatment, particularly with the more modern types, as they do not have a lot of character of their own.

A sense of scale is important when dealing with these modest windows, although if a window is out of proportion it can be adjusted using a wider track or longer length curtains, as long as the contrast is not too excessive. Quite often these windows are positioned with radiators underneath; making blinds the best solution both practically and proportionally. Other practical elements, such as whether the windows opens inwards or outwards, also need to be taken into consideration.

Be sure to measure for the type of window blinds or shades you plan to purchase. Inside or outside mount blinds, for example, require different measurements.

Some cottages have windows set into deep alcoves, while other houses have windows set very high; in these cases it may not be necessary to curtain them at all. If you have a beautiful view, and do not need privacy, the window can be turned into a decorative feature by painting the frame in a striking color. Of all the standard windows, sashes are perhaps the best proportioned, and they easily accept most forms of curtaining, blinds and shutters.

When deciding on window treatments for standard windows, remember that simple styles produce best results. Choose from Roman blinds, roller blinds or shutters or, if you prefer curtains, opt for smaller diameter poles, rather than tracks and pelmets, with headings that are not too deep. Keep fabrics light in color and weight to maximize the amount of light that comes in the room. A single curtain caught back to one side can make a prettier alternative to a pair of curtains.

Treatments for Tall Windows

Tall windows are highly desirable. They are particularly associated with Georgian architecture, a period which is remembered for its elegant proportions and interior decoration. Many modern homes also have tall windows, running from floor to ceiling or on stairwells.

In Georgian houses, tall windows are usually found on the first floor, where the formal reception rooms were situated, and they offer superb opportunities for window treatments, ranging from classical formal arrangements to simpler, more contemporary styles. One of the great charms of tall windows is that they let in a lot of light. Curtain designs should therefore concentrate their light-giving properties and not go for over-complicated styles that cover up the beauty of the windows.

If using curtains, don’t skimp on fabric; make sure they are generous, and scoop them back with tiebacks or Italian stringing, to allow plenty of light into the room. If you live in an older property which still has the original shutters, use a simple sheer drape, or top the shutters with a single pull-up blind. If using blinds with tall windows, set them within the recess to reveal the frame.

Tall windows present special challenges. Blinds or shades with remote control can help.

Unfortunately, not all tall windows conform to the Georgian proportions, and in such cases curtaining can be problematic. For rooms with low ceilings, curtains need to be designed so that they bring the eye down and away from the top of the window. Do this by using a deep pelmet, a valance, or curtains with tiebacks set down low.

Not all tall windows are floor-length as some have radiators set against the wall beneath them. However, these windows should still be dressed with full-length curtains for the best decorative effect.

Treatments for Extra Wide Windows

Wide windows need a different approach to window dressing. If placed in a good location, picture windows can be a striking feature that needs little embellishment. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and some form of screening is often required for privacy during the day. Even if the view is beautiful, at night this will turn into a large black hole, so some form of window covering is desirable.

Another practical consideration is insulation. Vast areas of single sheet glass are not effective in retaining heat; double glazing can help, but curtaining offers an easy solution.

Wood shutters or window blinds can create an interesting play of light and shadow in your room.

Simplicity is the key to curtaining picture windows; avoid anything fussy like swags and tails which detract from the view. A single curtain hung simply from a plain pole or pelmet and stacked back to one side avoids the look of a pair of stage curtains. Alternatively, the clean lines of Roman or roller blinds make a good option; practically, however, picture windows often incorporate hinged or sliding doors, so blinds must be able to clear the window fully.

Wide windows made from several panes of glass can be dressed successfully with a series of blinds. These add interest to the window as they can be lowered to varying levels, breaking up the monotony of a continuous horizontal line. Sill-length curtains can be used on windows that are wider than they are high, although floor-length ones tend to work better by balancing proportions.

Plain fabrics work best on wide windows. Avoid small fussy prints which simply do not work over a large area. Instead, try something bolder and more flamboyant, whether an abstract or natural design, a geometric pattern or even stripes. If your view is unpleasant and daytime screening is required, keep it simple. Use a plain voile or muslin that diffuses the light and reduces the outlook to softened blur; lace fabrics here would be just too much.

Treatments for Awkward Windows

Many houses possess at least one unusually shaped or oddly positioned window. When it comes to deciding on a treatment for these windows there are no general rules to follow as each window needs to be looked at individually. These awkward windows add character to a home, so they need to be enhanced and not just covered up with a standard solution.

Awkward-shaped windows such as bay windows require extra thought. Here a set of roman shades allows flexible light control for a large bay window.

Bow and bay windows can vary greatly in size from simple alcoves to room-sized projections embracing a whole wall. Today there are tracks available that curve to fit directly into the bay, enabling you to treat the whole window as one unit, although deep bays may need individual blinds or curtains.

Arched or Palladian windows are often beautiful features in their own right. Luckily, circular windows are often small and do not necessarily need any covering at all. The best approach for arched windows is to use a fixed heading on curtains or blinds, shaped to fit the curve of the arch.

Casement windows are found in old cottages, recessed into thick walls. They tend to be small, and often open inwards. The most practical solution in this case may be curtains set outside the recess, so as not to obstruct the opening or restrict the light.

Dormer windows project from a roof line and have sloping sides. Roman or roller blinds work best for these windows, although special hinged rods can be bought for curtains to swing clear of the glass.

Skylights re often set on an angle in the rood. Roller blinds are the best solution for these. Any curtains and blinds used will have to be adapted to fit close to the slope, using poles, cords, rings or clips.

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