A MOD HOMESTEADER might hear the word “curtains” and flash back to the Victorian brothel-esque velvet panels Aunt Ida put in her dour den. But framing, covering or simply adding decorative punch to your unsheathed windows needn’t mean hiding your sense of style. Interior designers say all rooms deserve — really, need — window treatments. They add both functionality (blocking the sun, keeping Mr. Creepy’s prying eyes out of your condo) and flair. And the pros also know that the curtain has closed on fluffy, too-sweet window frosting — and opened on low-key lines, punchy patterns and haute hues.
“Many people think window treatments are purely functional, but they’re one of the more important parts of the decor, and one of the first things people notice,” says Esther Steinfeld, trends blogger for Blinds.com.
Likewise, an undressed window looks just that: naked. “A clean, tailored drapery panel finishes a room and warms up the windows,” says Liz Levin, a D.C. designer who just launched online design resource Liz Levin Nesting (Lizlevinnesting.com).
Whether you shell out for a swank custom job (locally, try Fairfax County’s Cachetfurnishings.com) or go for ready-made coverings, first consider which type of treatment works best for your nest. “Curtains aren’t always the right choice,” says Wendy Baker, author of “The Complete Book of Curtains, Drapes, and Blinds” ($25, St. Martin’s Griffin). “Sometimes there’s a wonderful view, and it wouldn’t be fair to cover the windows.” (The same goes for ultra-snug spaces, and teensy kitchen and bathroom windows.) In cases where you want less flounce or less coverage — or even less fabric (which isn’t good friends with bathroom moisture or kitchen grease) — consider alternative options: shades, blinds, shutters and window films.
To pick your style, take a cue from the rest of your decor, be it subdued (neutral linens, soft sheers) or bold (zigzagging chevrons, playful paisleys). And, um, expect some curtain calls.
» Grandma’s way: Ruffled balloon shades that resemble a Parisian can-can dancer’s skirt and — sigh — recall the 1980s in a non-cool way.
» New way: Clean-cut Roman, roller and solar shades.
» Details: Shades pair well with smaller windows, offering a tailored alternative for the drapery-shy that has a cozy but streamlined look. “Because a Roman shade is a smaller amount of fabric, you can get a little wild with patterns,” D.C. designer Liz Levin says. Not to mention, they’re practical for homes with kids and pets (think Fluffy sharpening her claws on taffeta curtains). Browse online for shade varieties in solids (jewel- to neutral-toned) and patterns (glam to serene) at Theshadestore.com and Blinds.com.
» Tip: If you opt for woven shades, have a liner attached if you need a total blackout effect, such as in a bedroom, recommends Esther Steinfeld of Blinds.com. Also, consider models that pull down from the top for more light and privacy
» Roman shades (above), like these mid-century modern-inspired ones from the Shade Store (Theshadestore.com), shield windows sans old-fashioned flounce.
» Grandma’s way: Schmaltzy details — such as stuffy swags and jabots — that gussy up window tops.
» New way: Chic hardware, from recycled glass finials to Lucite rods.
» Details: “Hardware is the window’s jewelry,” says Robin Prior of Gilded Manor design studio (9675-D Main St., Fairfax; 703-266-5658). “It can go from subtle to outrageous.” Restoration Hardware’s gold leaf and heavy wooden rods and brackets look formal; chrome or Lucite hardware, such as the pieces by Aaron R. Thomas Design (Aaronrthomas.com), match contempo decor. Anthropologie’s colored glass Capricious finials (right, $48, Anthropologie.com) add carnival-ish whimsy.
» Tip: For a tony treatment, splurge on custom-fit rods rather than expandable ones, says Shanon Munn of Ambi Design Studio (Ambidesignstudio.com) in McLean.
» Grandma’s way: Rusty old metal blinds full of dust and — ew! — a bug or two.
» New way: Eco-hip bamboo shades and plantation blinds.
» Details: Layered under draperies or solo, blinds can be inexpensive and versatile. But whatever you do, step away from the clunky, ugly plastic ones that sheath rental windows. “A cheap plastic blind is the easiest and fastest way to make your place look outdated,” warns Michelle Adams, a former Domino magazine staffer who co-founded the new digital magazine Lonny (Lonnymag.com). Instead, Prior suggests faking posh built-in plantation shutters with plantation blinds. Or inject a natural touch with woven shades made from sustainable materials such as bamboo, sisal and grass.
» Tip: Matchstick blinds, such as these (left) grass ones from Blinds.com, smack of eco-chic and can work solo or underneath a punchy, printed drapery panel.
» Grandma’s way: Frumpy cafe curtains (half-window jobs) in kitchens and bathrooms to keep leering eyes out and sunlight filtering in.
» New way: Window films that frost glass with mod designs.
» Details: Your icky vista of Mr. Pudgy sunning himself — or the trash bin — will vanish via opaque window film coverings, available in both sticky and (renter-friendly) clingy varieties. Once smoothed on, soft light spills through the window.
» Scandinaviandesigncenter.com offers a plant silhouette design (above, $19).
» Grandma’s way: Fussy, bunched silk curtains that swoop to tiebacks, then puddle on the floor like a Scarlett O’Hara dress.
» New way: Sleek drapery panels that hang tall and lanky, ceiling to floorboards.
» Details: Forget fancy pleats; stick to mod panels topped with grommets, ripple-fold tracks and simple pole pocket tops. For a classic look, try luxe local home trove Random Harvest (locations in Georgetown, Bethesda, Arlington and Alexandria; Randomharvesthome.com) for ready-made draperies in silk taffeta ($325 per pair). Or score subdued cotton, linen and sheer designs at Pottery Barn, Ballard Designs or West Elm. “Panels make the ceilings seem higher, almost like they’re columns holding up the ceilings,” Prior says.
» Tip: Do a custom look with funky pullbacks. Local designer Charlotte Palmer Lekakos even used deer antlers at the CharityWorks Designer Showhouse (through today; Charityworksgreenhouse.com).
» Tip: Customize simple curtain panels, such as these from Ballard Designs, with designer details by stitching a band of contrasting fabric to the bottom or fusing a strip of pretty trim to the leading edge of the curtain for a fuller look.
Written by Express contributor Katie Knorovsky
Photos courtesy The Shade Store, Blinds.com, Scandinaviadesigncenter.com, Ballard Designs