Q& A With an Expert on Window Treatments

By Terri Sapienza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Q&A with Claire Schwab, a designer and certified window treatment consultant based in Alexandria

Besides picking paint colors, the one topic that consistently seems to stump Home section readers is window treatments. Based on the questions we get asked each week, homeowners are looking for guidance on everything from where to buy them, how best to hang them and what in the world to do with a bay window. To get to the bottom of these questions (and many more), we consulted a local expert. Claire Schwab is an Alexandria-based designer and a certified window treatment consultant with more than 20 years of experience. We spoke with her last week by phone and asked for her advice.

What's the best way to inexpensively dress a window?

If privacy isn't an issue, start with the basics: panels and a pole. They are so readily available now at places like Ikea, Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn, and they make it so easy. If you can go beyond that step, add a grass or woven shade underneath. The next layer would be adding decorative trim on the inside edges of each panel. You can add the trim yourself with a glue gun or have a dry cleaner do it for you.

What are the most common window treatment mistakes you see?

The one I see most often is not hanging [curtain] panels high or wide enough. Other mistakes I see are: bad measuring, buying retail curtains and not pressing them before they are hung, and not having drapes that are long enough. They should at least touch the ground.

Why should homeowners resist the urge to mount drapery hardware on the window molding?

When it comes to hanging panels, we need to go up and out. If you have room to install hardware closer to the ceiling, you should. It has much more impact and gives the room a taller, loftier feel. It also makes the windowsill look bigger, the ceiling look taller, and you're not covering your light or your view. If you are installing hardware yourself, make sure you're using the proper support screws that can carry the entire weight of your treatment. Consider contacting your neighborhood hardware store to see if they have someone who could come out and help you with the installation.

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