Window Treatments: Sally’s Secrets
Are window treatment decisions based upon esthetics alone, or should there be other considerations? My approach to window treatments is that first, they must function for what they are intended to do, and second, they should be beautiful and add to the feeling you want to create. So how do I go about achieving that?
The Function of Window Treatments
To ascertain the function you must ask yourself these questions:
- What do I need my window treatments to do? possible answers are: control light, provide privacy, regulate the temperature in the room, keep the window from being a black mirror at night, add warmth and beauty, provide complete black out so you can sleep.
- Do I have notions about how I want my window treatments to interact with the room’s architecture? for instance, do you mind if the moulding are covered, or not?
- Do I have certain treatments that I particularly like, and want to see if they will work in this room? for instance, shutters, roman shades, swag and jabots, etc?
Once you have the above information, you can begin to study the room’s look and decide upon a style that will augment the furniture plan, the architecture, the intended decorating style of the room, and solve your functionality issues.
Symmetrical WIndow treatments
Windows that are symmetrical, and have wall space to either side, and are in a room with a high ceiling, are the easiest to design for, because there are more possibilities, and very few problems. Wall space to each side allows you to stack the drapery so that more light can come into the room. High ceilings mean that you can have long drapery that accentuates the height of the room, or swag and jabot, or large valences that will add form and beauty without making the room appear too short.
Here are 2 examples of such windows, with 2 very different solutions:
First: a formal room, with formal silk drapery panels.
This room has great architecture going for it, all created by my talented husband, John. The french doors had arched transoms above them, (part of the original carriage house, dating from 1909) and one always wonders how to treat an arched window. There was plenty of wall space around the windows.
My solution was to have a very simple and small iron rod mounted just below the crown moldings, accentuating this horizontal line. Behind the drapery we let the arch soar, without trying to follow the arch with the drapery itself. The double french doors have 2 drapery panels that draw from the center. To the far left (and also to the far right, unseen) there is a single french door. For those doors I decided to do the same drapery panel design, but have a single draw, pulling the panel over to one side. The fabric is a rich silk damask, adding lustre to this formal French inspired living room.
Second: a transitional room with simple, but elegant window treatments, done with 2 layers, The first layer controls the privacy and light, and is a woven grass roman shade. The folds glide up easily with this woven grass, and have a light look. The decorative fabric, from Lee Jofa, provides a hint of formality, but is also restrained. We fabricated it as a valence that looks like an operating roman shade. It provides more softness than simply the woven grass shade alone.
Our client loved their moulding and asked that they not be covered up. Both treatments were done as “inside mounts”, so that the lovely and large window casings would not be covered up, but would act to frame the window.
ASYMMETRICAL WIndow Treatments
Small windows, asymmetrical layouts, low ceilings, problematic placements of mouldings, and other elements, such as window seats, can limit the possible solutions. There will be a solution, but you no longer have everything to choose from. Some solutions will be better than others.
I am working now on a room with some difficult problems. Functionality desires were to have some privacy during the day, but not black out, and have black out function at night. Design style was “English Country House” look.
The ceiling height is low, about 7’-7”. There are 2 sets of windows along one wall, and they are different configurations. One set has a bow window with one fixed glass pane, and 2 casement windows, a soffit (ceiling) above with no upper window casing, and a window seat. The other is a pair of double hung windows with a low soffit (ceiling) above it, and casing all around the window.
You can see that you could do long drapery for the double hung windows, but the bow window has a window seat below it, so drapery to the floor is not possible. There is also unequal wall space to each side of either set of windows.
What to do? We considered 6 solutions…
1. I thought first to have draw drapery, with a traditional floral fabric, across both windows, but that would have to be outside the bow window, outside the window seat. And for the double hung windows it would need to be inside the alcove, and thus at a lower height, mounted to the ceiling perhaps, which would be lower than the bow window set.
2. Mounting at the ceiling proved difficult, as my talented drapery workroom pointed out after their measure, as part of the interior architecture was to put a ceiling moulding out beyond the crown moulding, all to be painted as if part of a larger “crown”, which would make the ceiling look higher, as though it had a larger moulding. This moulding along the ceiling would push the drapery track too far out in the room. Ceiling mounted hardware was not an option.
3. We thought of roman shades, but worried that they would make the ceiling look even lower, as they both had to be mounted inside the soffit, which automatically made them lower than the 7’-7” ceiling.
4. We thought of roller shades in a fabric type material for daytime privacy, motorized so you don’t have to reach into the bow, which can be awkward. Then draw drapery across the bow window and window seat, with a matching fabric as a roman shade at the double hung windows. But we found out that the client doesn’t like roman shades, as they had in the past had a problem with them not “folding” correctly every time they are raised or lowered, as can often happen with romans. So romans were out.
The client also pointed out that there were 2 downlight inside the bow window, in the soffit, and if we had draw drapery those lights would be obstructed when the drapery was closed, just when the downlight would be needed! So draw drapery across the bow was out! Another possibility closed to us.
5. The client suggested short drapery that would skirt above the window seat cushion, but short drapery would make that room appear very horizontal, whereas we really wanted to emphasize the vertical in this room. Also we needed to think about something that would augment the beautiful wainscot that the architect designed for this room.
So, we needed light transmission but privacy during the day, black out at night, no roman shades, and no obstructing the bow window and its window seat!
6. The final solution was arrived at by brainstorming with my talented drapery workroom. We found that we could get 2 inside mount motorized shades at each window, with one shade a black out fabric, and the other a light transmitting fabric. Then we could control the functionality with a double motorized shade! For beauty and softness and to create that English Country House look, we would hang floating panels (no hardware visible) to each side of each window seat, and have a beautiful tie back, giving the illusion that the drapery do draw, if only you wanted them to! The drapery panels act as pilasters in the room, accentuating the vertical and augmenting the architecture. A beautiful solution that tackled a difficult set of problems.
The room is being painted today, and we look forward to the final drapery and window shade installation in the near future!
WIndow Treatments: The Take aways
- Functionality: Control light, provide privacy, temperature regulation, keep the window from being a black mirror at night, add warmth and beauty, black out so you can sleep.
- Relationship to the room’s architecture: Cover mouldings and trim – yes or no? Blend with or be a focal point?
- Esthetics: What do you want your window treatment to look like? (Sometimes your choices may be limited by the rooms existing conditions.) Shutters, roman shades, swag and jabots, etc.
- Rooms with symmetrical windows and wall space offer you the most flexibility.
- If you re dealing with asymmetrical windows, determine the limitations and be prepared to think outside the box.
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