Unless you live at the House of Sweden, with its floor-to-ceiling glass walls, leaving your windows uncovered could make them look, well, naked. The perched-on-the-Potomac embassy building can get away with it. But your place? Probably not so much.
“Almost any window deserves some sort of dressing,” says Sandra Meyers, the owner of Sandra Meyers Design Studio in Rockville (301-929-9788). “Sometimes they add this wonderful coziness to a room; sometimes they just finish off the space.”
And “dressing” is a great way to refer to the subject, Meyers adds. “A window treatment is basically clothing for windows. Anywhere from simple to outrageous, window treatments can make a room or break a room.”
Appearances aside, they’re also functional, helping to block sunlight and unwanted peepers — such as those belonging to overly curious neighbors.
Like clothes, window treatments come in (or can be tailored to) all shapes and sizes. Drapes, curtains, blinds, shutters, shades and sheers — or any combination thereof — are the most common coverings, and each creates a different look. The combination of drapery and sheers (translucent fabric panels that can stand alone or with heavier drapes) are often found in living rooms, while draperies and shades make better mates in bedrooms because the shades provide more privacy, Meyers says.
High-traffic and stain-prone areas such as kitchens and bathrooms are more likely to have shutters, shades or blinds because they’re easier to clean.
The first step in outfitting your windows is picking a color scheme and deciding on the room’s overall look, since the window treatment makes a major contribution. “Everything needs to work seamlessly together,” Meyers says.
Whether you want to minimize width or fake height, you can rely on casement couture. We asked Meyers to help us design the perfect ensemble.
Undergarments: Sheers, Shades, Blinds
“It’s wonderful to layer treatments with texture or color,” Meyers says. “It’s like putting a camisole or tee under a wonderful jacket or blouse.” In a layered look, sheers, shades or blinds serve as the first layer closest to the window. Although each can stand alone as a dressing, the pieces add interest when paired with other items. Meyers turns to Ellen Goodman at Blinds for Less in Vienna (703-938-8304) for her selection of Hunter Douglas Fiji woven shades ($185-$316) and Rockville Interiors (301-424-1900) for customizable motorized Roman shades, which stack on themselves when raised, rather than rolling smoothly. Motorized shades are hard-wired into your electrical system and can be controlled with a remote or a switch.
“People are using a lot of linen and patterned linen lately,” Meyers says. Examples include the orange and white Climbing Vines Curtain at Anthropologie ($108-$168). Sheers, such as West Elm’s Silk Paisley Window Panel ($49-$79), are less expensive similar options.
Window treatments can make small windows or rooms look bigger, Meyers says. Mounting a shade or other treatment five inches above the window frame can elongate the appearance of the window, and adding drapery panels can make a window look wider. “It creates an additional layer, and it lifts the whole room,” she says. “Instead of being this little something on the wall, the window becomes this architectural detail.” To help the material hang evenly, attach drapery pins to the back of the panels and then attach the pins to the rings, Meyers recommends. She likes to use Wamsutta Heavy-Duty Hooks for Traverse Rods ($4 for a set of 14, Bed Bath and Beyond), left, and Linden Street Clip Rings ($32 for 14, JCPenney).
Pants: Drapery Panels
“I like all of my draperies to break, not puddle; puddling means they pool up on the bottom and there’s a big mound of drapery” on the floor, Meyers says. “Drapery panels need to touch the floor or have a quarter- to a half-inch break, which means they will pool slightly. … It’s basically like having your slacks ever so slightly break at your shoe.” Silks and linens, such as the Slubby Linen Drapery Panels at Gore Dean ($105 per yard), have a natural wrinkle to them. For something crisper, Meyers recommends the Mystique Grommet Panels by Chris Madden ($50 to $80, JCPenney).
Accessories: Rods, Tiebacks
To keep draperies and sheers in place, you need the right accessories. A rod holds up the panels, while tiebacks flanking the material keep it off the glass. “A great tip for hanging and manipulating draperies is to use rings,” Meyers says. “The rings dress up store-bought draperies and make them look custom.” For the “best rod styles in the chain retail world,” she hits Restoration Hardware. Try the Dakota Handle Tiebacks ($45) and the Dakota Handle Finials Soft Iron ($40 to $50 for a set of two).
Window Treatment Basics
Who knew there was actually a difference between curtains and draperies? Here’s a quick primer on the various types of window dressing options, in layman’s terms.
Blinds: Vertical or horizontal slats that stack on top of themselves when opened with a pulley.
Curtains: Commercially made fabric panels available at retail stores in premeasured sizes.
Drapery: Custom-made fabric panels.
Exterior shutters: Often immobile and decorative but can be installed as movable flaps that open and close.
Interior shutters: Similar to blinds but more solid and less movable because they’re not on rollers.
Shade: A continuous piece of fabric or plastic that rolls or stacks when pulled.
Sheer: Lightweight, translucent fabric panels that stand alone or go between draperies and windows.