CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As a designer with more than 30 years in the design business, I have found window treatments to be one of the most exciting parts of a design project — and one of the most challenging!
I often compare decorating a window to decorating a layer cake: Once you take that cake and add the icing and decorative adornments to it, it becomes a beautiful work of art.
The same applies to window treatments. You can take a simple, unadorned window and apply shades or sheers, perhaps add a valance or cornice styled appropriately with decorative trim, and it becomes a work of art and a focal point for any room or office.
But just like decorating a cake, you have to know what you’re doing to get the results you want in the end. There are several key elements you need to consider when choosing your window treatments.
The first is purpose: Besides looking nice, what else do you want them to do?
By selecting the right window treatments, you can increase the amount of privacy you have, control the amount of light coming in, frame a beautiful view, cut down on noise, provide insulation from heat and cold and keep valuable furniture and rugs from fading. Some can perform multiple functions.
“Hard” treatments, such as wood or metal blinds and shutters, offer flexibility with louvers that tilt to allow varying amounts of light to come into a room. They also provide privacy and insulation and can reduce some noise factors.
“Soft” treatments, such as draperies, sheers and soft shades and various top treatments such as valances and cornices, also provide privacy, control light, frame your window and insulate from the heat and cold. That’s why, as designers, we can help you decide which treatments work best for your specific situation.
If you are looking for energy-efficient solutions, honeycomb duette shades work well to trap heat and cold cells — and keep rooms either cooler or warmer.
Silhouettes can also achieve better energy efficiency by the layers they provide. They also add an immediate softness to the room through which light can permeate. They are made of layers of sheer fabric with a slat of the same fabric that opens and closes as you pull the blind up or down. They are in the upper-middle price range.
Fabric roman shades give both privacy and a softness to rooms, and help to absorb sound. One advantage to using these is that they can be made with an attached valance, and once mounted inside the window, finish the project with one treatment. They can also be coordinated with bedspreads or other pieces in a room to achieve a well-defined look.
If you have an existing drapery treatment in a bedroom, and the amount of light coming in is a factor, you can simply add a blackout liner to your drapery and create a room-darkening effect that works better for your sleeping habits.
Another solution would be to add a wood or faux wood blind to the window. Of course, it depends on your particular window if this can be done or not.
Measuring properly for any blind or window treatment is critical, as even an eighth-inch difference might cause it to not fit properly, especially on inside mountings.
Often, contractors miss the importance of providing the proper space around windows to hang treatments as well as providing the proper supports with wood behind the walls to make the installation of a treatment go smoothly.
Odd window shapes, like arches or skylights, can be a challenge for the average homeowner. If you take your own measurements, double- and triple-check the results, call in an installment professional, or seek the expertise of a designer who can measure properly and guide you in making the right decisions for your space.
When to replace
How do you know when to replace your window treatments? Well, a good sign might be when you see sun-rotten holes or tears in your lining or even the drapery.
Another sign might be when cords break on blinds or when vanes are broken, bent or missing. It might even be when the seal on the glass of the window is broken and you want to cover that up. Any of these would indicate a need to replace the present covering with something new and exciting.
We all know the saying, “You get what you pay for.” Well, this is very true with window treatments. But, as I tell my clients, most window treatments are an investment, since many come with lifetime warranties.
As a design firm, we stand behind all of our work, as do all credible and professional firms. Since we have our own workrooms and installers, we can control the labor costs involved in making many of the window treatments.
What truly varies greatly is the cost of the fabrics and trimmings, and the styles you choose to complete your window design. More elaborate top treatments — such as swags and cascades — require more fabric and more intense labor. If such costs take you out of your budget, as a designer, I can show you various styles that can simplify the look, lessen the fabric and labor, without sacrificing your overall goals.
Designing in style
I never design a valance style until I know which fabric we are using. The fabric needs to suit the design, and not all fabrics can be used best in every style of treatment.
Repeats of the fabric design, weight of the fabric and the body of how it hangs determine a great deal in how we design the treatment. Details of your likes and dislikes and a clear budget are some of the most important aides you can give a designer. This saves them — and you — endless hours of looking for fabrics that might be out of your price range or showing things in colors and styles you don’t like. If you aren’t familiar with how much things cost, then indicate that to the designer and they will work with you to achieve your goals.
The world of fashioning a window is vast and growing each day. Your best option in solving your particular window challenges is to consult with a professional designer who can help you determine the best choices for your particular situation. This will save you money and time in the long run and keep you from making costly mistakes.
Pat Butner is a Charleston-based interior designer who owns Pat Butner Interiors, 4112 MacCorkle Ave. SE. You can follow Pat Butner Interiors on Facebook or reach her at 304-746-6090 or firstname.lastname@example.org.