Window Treatments for Your Home

Window treatments are the key to beautiful design.

These simple, understated drapery panels by designer Julie Fergus allow the windows to take center stage. The mullioned windows, doors and transoms flood the room with light during the day but provide light control and privacy when needed. Julie Fergus, American Home Gallery.

Photo by Julie Fergus

As you go through the process of decorating your home, it can be confusing to figure out what should happen first. Oftentimes color is one of the first go-to design elements people focus on, but it's really the textiles - those fabrics, cushions and other soft furnishings - that become the inspiration for the overall design of a room. In fact, fabric color and pattern combinations are what ultimately determines which paint color will work best for your walls. That's where window treatments come in.

Windows are a natural focal point in any room so paying too much attention, or not enough, can make a room look stylishly pulled together or completely consumed. Of course, as with all design decisions, you have to think about function first. Do the treatments you select need to provide privacy, control the light or muffle sound? Or do you want them to just soften the room with a little color, texture and pattern? Once you've answered these questions it's time to get to the good stuff - the decoration.

Window treatments can certainly blend into the background allowing other design elements to take center stage or they can really grab your attention from the start.

The style of your room will determine how formal or informal your window treatments need to be, so start there. Do you prefer dressy, something more casual or a mix of the two?

Hardware choices are almost as dizzying. If you choose a simple treatment, have fun selecting hardware that stands at attention. However, if the treatment is the star of the show, then it's best to use simple styles and finishes to complement complex designs. Woven shades or blinds can be layered underneath drapes or curtains, leaving you with an abundance of choices to suit every need and a design for every taste.

Dressing your windows correctly can also solve a multitude of sins, including problem windows that don't match in size or shape. If your room feels out of balance because you have too much glass, then choosing a treatment that allows you to hide some of that glass is key.

If the room seems too wide or too short, adding simple panels to the window will elongate the look of the window and visually raise the ceiling. The same is true for a room that has very high ceilings or very tall windows.

Treat a bank of individual windows as one and you will give the illusion that the room is wider than it actually is. Ask yourself if you have too much of a good thing happening and bring in the opposite to correct it. You can merely highlight the architecture of the window or the view beyond or completely change it depending on how much of the window you actually cover.

Paying attention to the lines in the room - both horizontal and vertical - will give you clues as to which style would best suit the style of the window and the room itself.

As you select fabric be mindful of the details. A larger pattern may get lost in the mix if the style of drape or curtain you're drawn to has many folds and gathers, so plan accordingly. If your goal is to keep your room as light-filled as possible, stay away from heavy, dark drapery fabrics that will absorb and block light from the room. Instead, choose fabrics that will either diffuse the light or allow you to open and close them completely to allow as much light into the room as possible.

Intricate designs require fabrics that can stand up to construction. The weight, pattern and texture of a fabric will determine how well a soft window treatment will drape and if it coordinates with the other design elements in the room.

Select fabrics that get along happily together but vary their scale to draw your eye around the room. Coordinate colors and patterns instead of trying to match them. If you have a strong-patterned rug or lots of art in your room, lean towards neutral colors or subtle patterns so they don't compete with one another. Match style with style and choose a fabric that enhances the look of the room. And if you're handy with a sewing machine or glue gun, you can customize ready-made treatments with contrasting cording, fringe, buttons and other dressmaker details.

Not every room needs to be treated the same way either. Select styles that work for the room you're decorating and throw away the notion that all of the window treatments in your home need to match. If your rooms open up to one another yet still require specific applications, coordinate each space through pattern and color instead of design.

Treat your windows well and you'll be treated to a stylish home that looks beautiful for years to come.

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