Window Treatments

- Friday, April 17, 2009

I have been looking at windows a lot lately, partially because I am hoping to see a sign of spring, but mostly because I am currently designing window treatments for many of my projects. This is one aspect of my job that I particularly enjoy because of the vast array of options and styles available to custom tailor each window to the client’s needs and desires. What many of my clients see as a daunting task I see as a chance to be creative and have some fun.

Ideally a window opening in a room serves as a picture frame for beautiful views of the outdoors. And, as a big fan of good interior architecture, there is nothing better than a well-detailed, properly proportioned window overlooking a fantastic garden or waterway. A source of natural light to brighten your interiors and your soul, no further embellishment is needed.

But let’s face it, that’s not always the case. Sometimes the interior architecture is not that great, or even non-existent. Sometimes that view is less than fabulous, like the one of your neighbor’s service yard. Sometimes the natural light is too much when trying to watch television.

Most people today think of window dressing as purely decorative, but in fact, window treatments can serve a variety of purposes. When a pair of draperies adds color or texture or pattern to a room, it is indeed decorative. But how about controlling the glare or limiting heat loss or gain? Creating privacy for the inhabitants inside? Helping with acoustics? Getting rid of that vast expanse of cold, black glass at night. These are tasks that drapery and a whole host of specialized products can address such as shutters, blinds, and shades.

Window treatments can be bold and make a statement or be subtle and create a quiet backdrop for a space. Whichever the case, they should not dominate or overpower the room. I am happy to report that the heavily structured, over-the-top, swags and jabot valances, trimmed in yards of bullion fringe, popular in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, have given way to less fussy, classic drapery panels more in keeping with our lifestyle in the Lowcountry.

As with so many other facets of interior design, there are guidelines to consider rather than rules when designing window dressings:

Don’t be skimpy. Even a simple and tailored drapery panel needs to be proportioned correctly so the end result looks full and luxurious. A casual swag should be gracefully draped, not stretched and taut.

Think about the pattern. The folds and construction may distort the design or hide it completely. Your favorite flower in a fabric design may disappear on a roman shade. If you have a vertical stripe on pleated drapery, depending on the size of the stripes, one color may dominate.
Busy prints will compete with any art on the walls and may take your eye away from the view as well.

Generally, heavier fabrics should be used on the upholstery, not on the windows. Leave that woven brocade on the sofa.
Plain or inexpensive fabric can be enlivened by trim details like a contrast welt or band, nailhead trim, or fringe.

Please be sure your drapery panels come to the floor, breaking or even puddling slightly. Nobody wants to see a fabric amputated at the window ledge or suspended above the floor.

Get a memo (sample or small cutting) of the fabric you are considering and live with it for a few days. Pin it up by the window and look at it in different light, on sunny days as well as cloudy ones to see how it changes.

The right drapery hardware can make all the difference. It does not have to be expensive, just well proportioned and appropriate for the window treatment. It is like the jewelry that makes the dress.

Take these things into consideration when planning your window treatments and soon you will be looking at your windows in a whole new way.

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